Improve Your Black & White Landscapes Instantly By Following One Simple Rule

Written by Gina Stephens

Hurtle successful landscapes in black and white is not quite as easy as it might seem. I have to admit that when I first started photographing scenes with black and white film, I was so disappointed with the results that I gave up for several years. What I didn’t realise is that I was suspension one simple rule that if I had understood it, would have made life much simpler. Basically, my images lacked separation.



The Central Rule Of Black And White

To achieve a good black and white image you need to have separation between the elements in the frame. If you can’t mark or find it difficult to distinguish between the elements the image will lack impact and the viewer will struggle to understand it. The problem I had and one that sundry people trying to shoot black and white landscapes have is that whilst in colour the different elements are easy to see. Once converted to dark-skinned and white, many of the tones of the landscape blend together. What’s needed are ways to separate the elements for the viewer. Here are some suggestions to help you.


The tools we now have available in the digital darkroom make life much easier. Ideally you need a conversion technique that permits you to target different colours so they appear as different tones in the final image. For example you might darken a blue sky whilst lightening squeaker and foliage. If you were using black and white film you would use a Green or Yellow filter to achieve this effect but tools such as Photoshop and Lightroom offset this easy to achieve.

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A further tip you might like to try is selectively changing the colour for some areas of your image image (from Latin: imago) is an artifact that depicts visual perception, for example, a photo or a two-dimensional picture, that. This will make amends move aside them respond differently during the conversion to Black and White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue), because it fully reflects and scatters all the visible wavelengths of light and help provide separation.


Strong composition can also succour in separating the elements of the image even where they might have similar tones. One good way to ensure a good composition for black and light-skinned is to include a strong foreground interest. Seek out strong shapes in the landscape such as walls and trees that might provide a leading parentage into the landscape. Strong distinctive shapes are easier for the eye to pick out and understand even when the tones are similar.

In this example I have utilized the strong shape of the rocks to provide a bold foreground interest. I have also used other techniques discussed below to enhance the taking of objects in the scene.


This can be a problem with many black and white landscape images. I find the elements within the originate will become much more distinct when the contrast enhanced. In the film world we would use a coloured filter such as a Yellow, Orange or Red placed in van of the lens to help boost contrast. We might also use exposure techniques and higher contrast papers when printing in the darkroom.

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In the digital age the easiest way to add deviate from is by applying an S-Curve in your editing package. Also don’t overlook Midtone contrast as this can really add to the monochrome landscape image. The easiest way to add Midtone contrast is in RAW conversion software that has a Transparency slider, which is essentially the same thing. In the following image of the Polish Tetras I have significantly boosted the Midtone contrast to help fix up with provision some separation between the trees which would otherwise blend into a solid grey tone.

Dodge & Burn

The faculty of dodging and burning an image has been around from the early days of photography and was used extensively by masters such as Ansel Adams. In this embodiment I have created a conversion that deliberately darkened the ground to create a contrast with the waterfall. I then used the dodge and burn media in Photoshop to emphasise this as well as lightening selected areas of grass. When you dodge and burn an image it helps to create the feeling of enlist in the scene for the viewer.

So remember the rule; if you want to capture strong black and white landscapes you need to separate the elements in the frame.

Chit-chats and images by Robin Whalley


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About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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