Switch off the colour and unleash your creativity by emphasising shape, form, texture and pattern
One of the great things about O black-and-white photography is that it frees you from convention. The absence of colour almost encourages you to break the rules, which could be why there are so many daring monochrome portraits out there. When looking for creative ideas for your black-and-white portraits, it can help to think about the four factors that monochrome accentuates: form, texture, pattern and shape.
Form simply refers to the depth of an object. Directional light is ideal for this: it’s what makes subjects look three-dimensional. There are lots of ways to emphasise form. Try lighting a face from one side and the background from the other side to balance the play of light and shade.
Rendering a scene in grey gives it more of an illustrative quality, so texture stands out. To emphasise texture, you could leave out the face and instead crop in on other parts of the body. Hands can reveal as much about a person as the eyes, and make for great textured subjects. Patterns are also perfect for a punchy black-and-white treatment. There are interesting patterns everywhere. You could even create your own by lighting a face or body through a gobo. This can be anything that creates interesting shadow patterns over your subject. A simple blind is ideal, creating strong graphic lines that transform a portrait into a piece of abstract art.
Turning off the colour also draws attention to shape – and what shape is more celebrated than the human body? Look for interesting poses and try using reflections to create symmetry. Strong shapes work best against a simple backdrop, so make sure you keep the background clean and unadorned, and then experiment with the pose and with tilting camera angles.
“Black-and-white photography frees you from convention. The absence of colour almost encourages you to break the rules”