Why and How: Creating Wildlife Photographs in Black and White – Part 2

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Photograph in black and white of a waterbuck in Kenya. Photograph by Amar Guillen, photographer artist.
This photograph of a waterbuck in Kenya is well for a black and white photo.

Why Creating Animal Photographs in Black and White ?

Creating animal photos in black and white has many advantages. I will list some of them for you. These are the most important. I invite you to memorize them to use when you are in the field

  • Black and white allows you to create unique photos that convey emotions that cannot be found in color. This technique evokes more the mystery, the interrogation.

    As reality is always in color, black and white becomes an interpretation of what you see. It is an artistic form. As the color is removed, the viewer is forced to add his own emotions to the photographs.
  • Using color in photography is like writing a novel. You describe each element, each detail precisely.

    Black and white is like poetry : its strength does not come from what it is said but from everything that is suggested.
  • In black and white, the impact of wildlife photos is increased tenfold. The animal truly becomes the master of the game. The black and white technique places animal at the center of all the attention of the viewer: we only see him.

    On the contrary, color is very distracting for a viewer. Natural environments like foliage or blue skies will catch his look. They have more saturated and more intense colors than the ones of the animal. In the absence of color, look will be attracted to the essential: the animal.
  • Black and white is a perception and an interpretation of reality. On the contrary, the color is adapted to the descriptive scenes.

    As it is an interpretation of what you see, you can more easily express your emotions, send messages. Of course, black and white can be descriptive. Art photography in general may be descriptive. You can show exceptional animal behavior. But you must always have a good reason. You must justify it with your photographic vision.
  • Black and white makes it possible to highlight the animal which is the main photographic element. The space around him is less important.
  • Black and white emphasizes details and light. This is what you are looking to do in wildlife photography. Do not forget that in black and white you must favor lines, shapes, textures and contrasts.
  • Black and white is timeless. It is always difficult to date a black and white photograph unless external elements suggest the time. Color is often linked to a time or an era.
  • It is always possible to create black and white photos throughout the day even if the sun is at its zenith. For the best color, the beginning of the morning or the end of the day unless the skies are covered. Color does not like highlights.
  • It is always possible to create black and white photos throughout the day even if the sun is at its zenith. For the best color, the beginning of the morning or the end of the day unless the skies are covered. Color does not like highlights.
  • The cloudy and dark skies can produce beautiful black and white photos. These atmospheres enhance the textures and details of the plumage or coat.

    This is not the case in color because you need a grazing light to highlight these elements.
  • Today most cameras allow you to view black and white photos either before shooting or after. All it takes is a simple setting.

    Certainly, the result is not up to what you will get with your photo on the computer, but you will have an excellent idea of the final result. Do not forget to check if you have that feature when you buy a new camera body.

How Creating Wildlife Photographs in Black and White?

Whether in the field or in post-production, you should always think in black and white. I will give you a small, non-exhaustive list of tips for getting the most out of creative black and white wildlife photography.

  • Photographing in RAW mode. In the early post processing, you will always accurately adjust the white balance and the exposure of your images. If your photo is in JPEG format, you will always adjust on these two parameters, but you will not have the precision you have in RAW format.

    The RAW format is a format which exploits all the possibilities of your camera's sensor. JPEG is a compressed format. He loses details.

    The RAW format will always give more depth to your wildlife photographs.
  • You always must have a plan before your photo project or your photo session. You must know what you want to do and what you are going to do. Never forget that if you do not know where you want to go, you will have no chance of getting there. Mental preparation is essential.
  • Your compositions should be as simple as possible. They must highlight the animal. Remember that black and white is made to showcase the subjects (main photographic elements). It is a technique that does not distract the eyes. I advise you to use in addition the bokeh technique which will allow you to isolate the main subject even more from the background.
  • When possible, use either the high key or low-key technique to create special atmospheres and mood.

    The two techniques can be used when shooting by overexposing the highlights for the high key and under-exposing low lights for low-key.

    The development on your computer will allow to accentuate each of the two effects. The high key and the low-key photographic are processes which intervene throughout all the creation of an animal photograph in black and white.
  • When choosing ay decor to create a wildlife photographs in black and white, use green background and put the wild animal in the good light.

    During the post-processing, you will lower the brightness of the green layer: the background will become dark . This is one of the techniques I use for the low-key. Then, you have to bring out details in the dark areas to give depth to your photographs
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Article published on Friday, March 27, 2020 . Written by
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