Black and white shoots are a whole genre of photography that many tend to leave unexplored. Learning to see and think in Black and White can be a daunting task, especially since we are all so accustomed to looking at the world in colour. Since colour is pretty much removed when thinking about black and white photography, photographers have to focus on contrasts, textures, and tones instead. This can take a little getting used to and will involve working on training your mind into the process of black and white photography, but the outcomes are decidedly worth it.
Most fashion photography is primarily focused on making the model and their costume look good. A shoot done well will see exactly the right things highlighted. Since black and white photography loses the element of colour, it becomes imperative to communicate the entire shoot primarily through body language, stature, expressions, and emotion. Models who are capable of doing this are ideal. Photographers also tend to focus on models who can communicate emotions through their eyes and their prominent features.
Since black and white photography tends to bring out more of the blemishes and “flaws” that may exist on the skin, it involves a lot more makeup skill and thicker layers of the makeup itself. Because a lot of light and shadow comes into play.
Inexperienced makeup artists may struggle a little initially to understand the right applications. Moreover, models with good skin are preferred for these shoots, especially when there is a lot of high contrast to be expected since this will lead to optimum photographs.
The choice of outfits and accessories is key when talking about any fashion shoot, but you will have to pay even closer attention when you are planning an entire shoot in black and white. Clothing that has high contrast is the easiest to work with, but this may not always be possible.
The other option is to find clothing that has interesting silhouettes, patterns, cuts, and flow since there can be captured nicely during black and white photos. If you are unsure about how to go about choosing these clothes, begin by practicing on the cloth of different material and in varying combinations.
This will give you a sound idea of how you can use contrasts and shapes to your advantage. With a little practice, experience, and understanding, you will be quite surprised at how quickly these shoots improve.
While the lighting for black and white photography follows a lot of the same rules as colour photography, there needs to be a greater amount of attention to the shadows and how they affect the subject. You will also have to focus specifically on the drop-off, and all the ones that are formed since they are the primary source of communication in the picture. Don’t get intimidated, for it is fairly simple once you have your basic setup in place.
Fine tuning and adjustments will have to happen throughout the shoot, and there will always be a certain amount of post-production to depend upon. When you’re just beginning, a simple two or three light setup, paired with a beauty dish, and reflectors should do the job. Feel free to experiment with these and review your pictures constantly to search for improvements.
The entire concept of black and white photography revolves around communicating thought, emotions, and stories, without actually using colour for the cause. A number of the best black and white photographers today also started out as amateurs. Remember that your improvements will always hinge on the amount of effort, research, and experimentation you are willing to put in. Specific attention to detail, and focusing on preparation and planning before the shoot is crucial.
Hopefully, this is good enough to get you started with your journey into the world of fashion photography in black and white. Feel free to share your best work with us, and let us know if there are any more crucial aspects to keep in mind. Good luck, and happy shooting!