landscape black and whiteA golden field of rice ready to be harvested, contrasted with the lush green leaves of the surrounding trees, will look very lively against deep blue sky with wispy cloud formations, when it is photographed in full color. But the drama of the landscape is usually lost in black and white photography, as the lively colors all dissolve into dull shades of gray. Of course, many good photographers are able to reflect in their black and white works the drama of landscapes. But this comes with time and practice.

Shooting landscapes in mono

So why do many photographers, amateurs and professionals alike, shoot landscapes in black and white when many people appreciate them in color? True, a landscape presented in color is a visual feast. But there is something about an amazing black and white landscape that draws us in, in many ways that color is not capable of doing.

Great colored landscapes evoke immediate and momentary emotional impact. On the other hand, an outstanding black and white landscape can be so captivating that you want to look at the print again and again, each time discovering different details and perspective. Compared to colored prints, black and white landscapes have stronger emotional and aesthetic impact in the long run.

You can capture color in shooting landscapes in color, but you get gradation and texture if you shoot them in black and white. What is more, black and white photography also captures how light plays with the river, field, sand, rocks, vegetation, etc. It shifts the attention on pattern, shading, form, and many other graphic concepts, giving the photo a unique quality with hue and tone.

Tips for a perfect monochrome landscape

Here are some quick easy tips on what to consider to come up with a perfect monochrome landscape:

Light is perhaps the most important element of a black and white landscape. Make sure that the landscape has well defined shadows that greatly contrast with bright highlight.

Make sure that clouds are not covering the sun, which is the source of light that makes the different levels of brightness and darkness.

Pay attention to foreground details as this makes an excellent composition. You can direct the eyes of the viewers to your main subject by making the foreground interesting.

It may be helpful to view a landscape not as a series of colors, but tones. You need a lot of practice to learn this. But it is not difficult to learn that a clear blue sky will become a lifeless one toned gray area in black and white photography.

Camera settings

Many photographers recommend shooting landscapes in RAW format and then change the photo later to monochrome using RAW file editor. Then tweak in graphics programs. Few professional landscape photographers shoot their subjects with a monochrome camera setting to begin with. You can also underexpose your photos by 1 or 2 stops to prevent blowing out highlights.


Filters are very important in black and white landscape photography as sky can sometimes appear boring and lifeless. Filters help in separating colors that look the same once translated into black and white. For instance green and red look have similar tone once they are changed to monochrome. Graduated filters are also helpful to keep detail in the clouds and in the sky.

Red filters darken the blue sky, producing intense mood and the most dramatic atmosphere. You can use blue filters for hazy or misty conditions. Yellow filters have the most natural and least dramatic. You will have to experiment with filters to achieve desired effects.