As the last days of summer wane in New England, I’m thinking less about photographing in color and more about shades of gray. Something about the sweltering days and bright skies drew me to color but as the evenings grow colder, I imagine capturing more grayscale images to express the moody days of our fall and winter months here. No matter what season you’re coming into, I thought I’d share five simple ways to make your black and white photographs stand out.


1. Practice thinking and seeing in black & white before you even pick up a camera.

inside MoMA

2. Study the grayscale and develop an understanding of how specific colors translate into a gray tone. Try to see the fine shades of gray as they range in tonal value on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 represents the blackest blacks and 10 represents the whitest whites, no detail on either extreme. Right in the middle is 5, middle gray.

Sol LeWitt structure (City Hall Park, NYC)

3. Look for fundamental design elements to photograph. Patterns and textures really stand out in monochromatic images. Strong contrasts and shadows render beautifully in black-and-white so do silhouettes on overcast days.

minus the fork

4. Capture the light. Use the grayscale to create different moods and emotions in your images. Shoot high key (white, bright, and “overexposed”) images; shoot low key images (dark, black, and “underexposed”); and shoot shades of gray (with mostly midtone gray values). Light plays a crucial role in all photography. Know where it is at all times.

New York City, view from the train

5. Shoot, shoot, shoot. Whether you’re using a SLR or DSLR, you need to shoot hundreds of frames in order to recognize what makes a good black and white image.

public art in Bryant Park (Manhattan, NY)

What are you capturing more of these days? Color, black and white, or a mix of both?

Nikki | Art & Lemons