Black and white travel photos are probably your go-to style if you’re into the documentary side of travel photography
Black and white travel photos help convey a different message to that of colour photos.
They help create mood and convey human stories better.
Why is that?
Maybe it’s because travel photography in black and white was the original form of travel photography. Way before everyone had a smartphone in their pockets and a low-cost airfare just a few clicks away.
One where we were genuinely learning about new cultures and the people who lived in these far away countries.
In the early days, each black and white photo brought back from trips abroad was an educational experience and a rare glimpse into the lives of others.
Whatever the reason is, shooting travel photography in black and white is a great technique for capturing documentary style snapshots of daily life.
Especially if you learn a few simple tricks to step things up a gear…
Low light? No worries…
There’s no need to worry about cranking the ISO up when shooting in black and white.
Like I said before, black and white photography takes people back to the way things used to be in the days of film.
Most people know that higher ISO = more graining.
Well, graining isn’t such a big deal when shooting black and white images since it’s reminiscent of old film photography which was quite grainy itself in normal conditions. It just seems to work.
Convert to black and white AFTER taking the photo
By shooting in RAW mode and then converting the image to black and white in post processing you get much more flexibility when it comes to editing.
If you shoot a JPEG in black and white straight out of the camera you won’t be recording as many different spectrums of light as you would shooting in RAW.
In RAW you capture a lot of colour information including greens, blues and reds.
By being able to manipulate these spectrums, even when a photo is in black and white, it will give you the ability to really play around with tones and shades a lot more and ultimately give you more freedom while you’re editing.
You’ll learn a lot about light
Shooting photography in black and white can really teach you a lot about light.
You won’t be able to capture the beautiful golden light during the golden hour but that forces you to focus more on the contrast between dark and light, the direction of light and the amount of light on a subject.
Learning to shoot in black and white will help you expand your skills in using light and contrast to aid in composition.
It puts the emphasis on other elements of composition
Without colour, other elements such as patterns, textures and shapes become more obvious and important.
When composing a photo you can put this technique of using textures and patterns into effect to create bold images that have an abstract feel to them.
In these cases, colour would distract the viewer from the patterns and textures and they wouldn’t have such an impact as they do.
Using naturally occurring textures as elements of your composition in black and white travel photography is one way to get your creative juices flowing.
I tend to find that when editing colour photos I try to represent the scene as accurately as I can. I don’t go overboard on the saturation, contrast, or clarity.
But when you are editing in black and white, you can really bump up things like the contrast to levels that would look unnatural and, in my opinion, awful on a colour photo.
It allows you to be more creative and alter the scene much more.
From an artistic perspective, black and white photos are more forgiving in the editing suite.
Shooting travel photography in black and white is a creative challenge every photographer should try their hand at
If you don’t photograph in black and white much then you should give it a go.
I personally love the challenge of focusing on the different elements of composition that make a great monochrome image.
You have to be in a totally different mindset, which helps you to see scenes in a different way. Instead of relying on colour to get the viewer’s imagination going.
Since 2016 I’ve travelled full-time working as a travel photographer and writer remotely. I move around at my own pace (I hate fast-paced travel) and like to spend a few months getting to know each place I base myself in. Currently in the north of España 🇪🇸 and loving it.