Black and white still life photographs are beautiful in their simplicity. Still life photography is all about inanimate subjects. You can photograph food, flowers, ornaments, toys. Anything that doesn’t move.
1. Look for Inspiration from Famous Still Life Photographers
Planning and researching a black and white still life photo shoot is essential. The process requires a bit of brain re-wiring. That way, you’ll ‘think’ in black and white and choose the right objects, lighting, and story for your photo.
Check out work by famous still life photographers to help with this. Grand masters such as Edward Weston and Karl Blossfeldt were pioneers of photography. They created unique works of art in black and white from everyday objects.
Give yourself time and space. Create a rough sketch about the way you want your photo to look.
What are the first features of the object that catch your eye? Make notes of the lines, textures, or tones you want to emphasise.
2. Enhance Texture and Shape With Lighting
Without colour getting in the way, you can play to the great strengths of black and white – texture and shape. Look to see where lines intersect and how light accentuates different textures.
Think about this throughout the black and white still life photography process. From selecting your subject matter and photographing it to post-production and presentation.
I prefer to use low key lighting with either natural light from a window (on a cloudy day), or a soft sidelight. I often experiment with and without a reflector. Then I review the photographs in post-production. That way I can see which version works best for texture and shape.
Move your subject around and see how it catches the light from different angles. Sometimes a subtle move of half a centimetre can make a big difference.
Black and white still life photography can often feel quite. You’re moving back and forth from the camera to the subject matter.
3. Turn Simple Objects into Art by Using B&W Photography
You’re making a photo without people or movement. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t tell a story. Consider shapes of leaves at different stages of their life cycle. And how grey tones can convey emotion into the photograph.
Black and white photos of flowers reveal the true beauty of their lines and shapes. Black and white flower photography is a great starting point for monochromatic still life photography.
The style and texture of a weathered shoe in black and white tell us about their owner. Even without a human in the photograph.
Antique objects look beautiful in black and white photographs. And you can enhance their story by using warm or sepia monochrome tones.
Look around your home or garden. See what subjects you can find that tell a personal story. Even the most mundane object can become a work of art. All it needs is the right texture and shape with careful lighting and post-production.
4. Use Simple Compositions for Impressive B&W Still Life Photos
Black and white photography is all about shapes, lines, and textures. It’s important to use a very clear and simple composition that doesn’t distract from these elements.
With still life photography, I tend to be a stickler for the rules of thirds and odds. And the golden triangle and ratio.
If you’re uncertain of your composition, remove something from the frame. Or take a step back to include more negative space.
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