Tips For Black And White Travel Photography

Last Updated on April 28, 2021

house in middle of lake with wooden dock in black and white

There is nothing I find more exciting than travel photography and flipping to black and white is a great way to make those travel pics really standout. There is also a lot to talk about when it comes to black and white photography and I will cover all the basics of this popular technique.

You may ask; what makes black and white photographs so different from their color counterparts? Well, in color photography the camera’s sensor captures light from around the visible spectrum and records colors as different shades of red, green, or blue. In contrast, when you take a black-and-white photo, you’re taking a photo in which all the colors are removed.

And this will make a much bigger impact with your travel photographs.

Tips For Great Black and White Travel Photography

My first tip is to be smart when taking black and white photos. Travel photographers often use bracketing to create multiple exposures of a scene so that they can choose the best photo when the light changes. This can be done using two different exposure times, or even using three.

With black and white photography this isn’t necessary as you don’t need to worry about creating multiple variations of the scene. Instead, use the bracketing feature to capture multiple exposures of a scene so you can be sure that your black and white photo will have a high dynamic range which will let you show plenty of detail in both the highlights and the shadows.

This is important because if you over or under expose a black and white photo, it will lose its impact.

When it comes to shooting low light scenes I always find that black and white photos turn out better than their color counterparts. For example, I’ve found that low light scenes in a train station don’t have the same impact when in color. In fact, my favorite black and white photos tend to be those taken at night where the only illumination is from streetlights or starlight.

I always recommend shooting in a RAW format or at least shooting your photos with a RAW file as this will allow you to choose the best image when reviewing the shoot. Although I’m a big fan of Adobe Lightroom, don’t write off other image editing software and iphone apps such as Photoshop. They all have their advantages so check out the latest photo editing tips by searching the site for the details.

When it comes to taking black and white travel photos I always recommend shooting in RAW format rather than JPEG as you’ll get better results from the shot by editing later.

Gear For Black and White Travel Photographers

When choosing a lens for your black and white travel photography, make sure that the focal length is at least f/8. This will allow you to shoot wide open and also keep the depth of field shallow allowing you to focus on your subject and not the edges of your frame where details could have resulted in an unusable photo.

Be sure to check out this article on lens focal lengths and their uses to learn more about this.

A wide angle is also a great tool for travel black and white photography as this will allow you to create multiple shots of the same scene without moving your position. This will save you time, as well as giving you the chance to mix things up and try different perspectives.

By the way, on a shoot I did in Italy I took a lot of photos using only a wide angle lens. This allowed me to get lots of shots at various angles. I was able to narrow down the original idea based on different angles so that you would have one photo for each of the scene’s aspects. As soon as I get my camera back on its feet and make it full time once again, I can share more detail about this technique.

You camera should offer the ability to shoot pictures in RAW format, and it is always a good idea to take black and white photos in RAW as this will allow you more flexibility when editing later. This is because RAW images contain more data than their JPEG counterparts. As such, when editing you’ll be able to make much better changes to your black and white photographs without the image looking grainy.

The other important thing is that the camera should let you shoot in low light situations without a flash even though I always recommend avoiding using the flash with travel photography.

Ideas For What to Photograph in Black and White While Traveling

I’ve found that catching the reflection of street lights in white tiles is a great way to show off the drama of a new city. This holds especially true when shooting at night where your lens will not offer much light to work with. And when you have such a low light situation, any place that reflects light is a great choice as it will allow you to see more of the environment.

One of my favorite things to photograph while traveling is architecture – especially when I’m trying to capture the essence of a new city. It’s just another way in which photography serves as a window into the world around us. And it often provides insight into something that we don’t normally see without a frame.

For nature and wildlife photos, I love the look when shooting subjects with a shallow depth of field. This will give some of your best photos a sense of drama and show a focal point with great details.

Other ideas include shooting high key black and white photos which should be at least 50% brighter than the subject you are photographing. Also, take some low key black and white photos that are at least 50% darker than your subject.

Bottom Line

Black and white travel photography is a great way for you to express yourself, but it will take a little practice before you get to the point where you can make it look natural. I’ve certainly spent a lot of time experimenting with various lighting situations before I was willing to post any of my work on the web. But now that I have a little experience under my belt, it’s amazing how much more fun this type of photography can become, and how quickly you will develop your skills in this area.