Shooting Landscapes in Black and White – does it work?

So I dipped my toe in the B&W end of the pool about a year or so ago after seeing what really good stuff could be done with Nik Silver Efex, and when Google acquired Nik and rereleased at a much more affordable price I was in.

Glenorchy Jetty

Colour seduces us with its brightness and excitement.  We see a riot of colours and our brains get all excited about it .  Its easy for us to view an image quickly and go on to the next, getting high on yet more contrasting exciting colour!


Flooded trees at Glenorchy

However when you want to present your images in black and white something really interesting happens.  First as a photographer you have to *think* about your image creation differently.

How will this look without all the exciting colour?
What interest is there to the viewer in BW?
What draws the viewer in?
What catches their attention with BW?

Bearing in mind I am a total noob at this, what I think the answer is to most of these questions is two things – Texture and Composition.

Anyone will tell you a good image needs good composition, but a B&W needs it more.  Why?  Because I think someone viewing B&W actually takes more time, their brain is less saturated so they need to look at the image more to absorb it – let it speak to them I guess.  So a good composition is necessary to engage that attention and hold it.

Then its about texture – contrast of tones, different levels of detail.  I notice this more when I am playing with the image in Silver Efex – it has a lot of handy presets to get you started, who would have thought that something as limited as B&W could have SO MANY interesting variations 🙂  Processing these is so much fun!

Anyway enough waffle from me, I have two pix above I have shot and processed in colour but I intended for them to end up as B&W images, so here they are:

Click to embiggen


Click to embiggen

Which do you prefer – the colour version of the B&W version?

How do you feel about B&W landscapes, can it work or is it pretending to be arty?

Im still feeling my way with this so love to hear thoughts or feedback 🙂



About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
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9 Responses to Shooting Landscapes in Black and White – does it work?

  1. Had to go back and forth several times to decide which I prefer and while these work well both ways, I think the answer is the B&W versions. The color is not contributing anything out of the ordinary here. B&W is suitable for landscape work but not all landscape images translate well to B&W. B&W makes any image more graphic by changing how we normally see the world. I love all the Nik filters and Silver Efex is great! Nice post!

    • lensaddiction says:

      Hey Denise, thanks for your thoughtful post and for the time you took viewing the images 🙂 I agree, not everything is suitable for BW but I hope that I can learn to identify and maximise the opportunity to find good images that will suit it. Love Silver Efex too!

  2. Sherri Stone says:

    I also love the b&w. I was shocked that I didn’t really “see” the shadows on the pier in the color version but I was looking at the overall view. Once I got to the b&w version, I noticed all of the shadows and textures. Same for the 2nd shot. Great post – I think having your writing in between these makes the mind more open to the changes!

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks Sherri, yes its those subtle textural elements that really get uncovered when you change to BW, thats why I like it so much, totally changes the feel of an image.

  3. While, I do like both the color and the black and white versions, I do have to say in this case I do prefer the black and white. It is interesting to me that I do prefer B&W because generally speaking I do prefer color. I think the second of the two photos is really strong in terms of composition.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks, I really appreciate the composition comment cos I specifically shot and processed that image with that composition in mind to be viewed in BW.

      I never considered myself a fan of BW much either but I had a couple of images about a year ago that I processed in Silver Efex as an experiment and they turned out really well, and then I realised I was on to something 🙂

  4. Interesting how to me the b’nw produce a ‘moody’ temperament to the scenes … those clouds, the water … wind whispers, and the ethereal elements we don’t pick up in colour? Lovely compositions.

Love to hear your thoughts on my post!

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