Wildlife Photography in Black and White to Create Unique Photos

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-suited for the use of black and white.

Why: Creating Animal Photographs in Black and White

Creating animal photos in black and white has many advantages. I will list some of the most important reasons, and I invite you to memorize them so that you can recall them 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 mystery and contemplation.

    Since 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.
  • Using color in photography is like writing a novel. You describe each element and each detail precisely.

    Black and white is like poetry: its strength does not come from what is said but from that which 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 solely notice him. The black and white technique places the animal at the center of the attention of the viewer: we solely notice him.

    On the contrary, color is very distracting for a viewer. Natural environments like foliage or blue skies will attract the gaze of the audience, since it is more saturated and has more intense colors than the animal. In the absence of color, the gaze will be attracted to what is essential: the animal.
  • Black and white is a perception, an interpretation of reality. Color, on the contrary, is adapted to the descriptive scenes.

    Since it is an interpretation of what you see, you can more easily express your emotions and send messages. Of course, black and white can be descriptive. Art photography in general may be descriptive. You can display 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 reveal the decade. Color is often linked to a time or an era.
  • Black and white photographs can be captured at any time of day, even if the sun is at its peak. To capture the best color photographs, the early morning or twilight is ideal, unless the skies are covered. Color does not favor strong 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 for color photographs, 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 change.

    Although it is true that this preview image has a lower quality than the image you can see on your computer, it still certainly provides you with 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 you are on 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 stage, you will always accurately adjust the white balance and the exposure of your images. If your photo is in JPEG format, you will still need to adjust 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, causing some of the details to be lost.

    The RAW format will always give more depth to your wildlife photographs.
  • You should always have a plan before you begin your photo project or your photo session. You must know what you want to do and how you are going to do it. Never forget that if you do not know where you want to go, it will be nearly impossible to reach a satisfactory product. 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, which are the main photographic elements. It is a technique that does not distract the eyes. I advise you to also utilize 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 in shooting by overexposing the highlights for the high key and under-exposing low lights for low-key.

    The development on your computer will allow you to accentuate each of the two effects. The high key and the low-key photography are processes which intervene throughout the creation of an animal photograph in black and white.
  • When selecting decor for the background of black and white wildlife photographs, use green background, and be sure to capture the wild animal in good lighting.

    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 bring out the details in the dark areas to give depth to your photographs.
I Want to Help You to Create Interesting Photos