black and white portraitMany black and white photographers are into portraits. This is a favorite subject because black and white portraits are elegant and powerful and have timeless quality that is difficult to match in color. Not only this type of photography produces great images, it also brings out what is usually not seen in other photographs – the person and the character behind the face. It lays bare the subject’s soul and exposes all his or her traits and flaws. Looking at the black and white portrait is like looking at the subject’s personality, rather than the physical attributes. Black and white portraiture shows the subjects as they really are.


You do not need an actor to photograph in black and white. Everyone can be a good subject. Whether you are taking a portrait of a housewife, an athlete, or an outlaw, you can capture what is behind their gaze or facial expression in monochrome. But there are some demographics that lend themselves more to the allures of black and white portraits than any other – the old, wrinkly people. The lines and folds in the face make a really captivating black and white photo. Portraits of old people reveal their character and personality. They tell a story.

Other great subjects are young children. Whether you are taking a photo of a child licking ice cream or a hungry street child, black and white photography can reflect their innocence alongside joy/suffering on print. Regardless of your subjects’ age, getting in close when photographing them can be worth your while. Many photographers make an extreme close-up, usually losing the ears and the top of the head out of the frame. They focus only on the facial features of the subjects.

Setting up

The exposure should be set right in order to get the crispest whites and the darkest blacks. Try to bracket your shots. Use the exposure compensation function of your camera to take a picture at the automatic setting, then one at -0.5EV and one at +0.5EV to make sure you get come up with the best results. You can also experiment with this as this can produce excellent silhouettes.


Think very carefully about lighting. If you are taking a picture of an old person, strong daylight can help if you want to highlight the lines and folds of the face and add character. On the other hand, if your objective is to make your subject look younger in photograph, a bright burst of flash can help. In addition, you can also bounce light off a piece of white card for a lovely effect. With proper lighting, black and white portraits can capture the atmosphere and show to the viewer the emotion you are trying to convey.

Painting with light

You can take photos in black and white. But many photographers also shoot in full color, converting the photos later on using RAW file editor. Either way, you have to approach your subjects in an entirely different manner. Piercing green eyes or bright red make-up simply will not have similar impact in a black and white picture. What you should do is focus on texture, shape, and shade.