Top quality black and white digital photography

It should be easy to get good black and white digital photography from a modern digital camera.

After all, most come with a black and white mode to enable instant black and white photography.

But my advice – steer clear of any of those special camera modes!

I'll show you why . . . roll your mouse over the photographs below (one was converted by the greyscale method, the other by using the "channel mixer").

If you would like your black and white digital photography to look more like the second photo, rather than the lifeless greyscale of the first photo, then read on.

Show us YOUR black and white pictures!
Submit your black and white photos, and share them with the world!

Submit your photo and we (and other visitors to the site) will be able to admire your original photography.

It will also give some 'black and white' ideas to others - and you'll be able to pick up some ideas from those who have already contributed too!

NB: any comments your photo(s) receive are screened before being posted on this site

Click to submit your photo!
Click to see submissions to date
Click to browse the submission archive

Before you get stuck into your black and white digital photography you might want to have a look at my black and white photography tip #1 which goes through a few basics on what sort of scenes work best for black and white digital photography, and what might be best avoided!

Greyscale vs true black and white digital photography

The photographs above are of Hong Kong at night (great place to visit by the way, highly recommended!).

The first image is in greyscale. It looks lifeless compared to the punchy black and white of the second image.

To create top quality black and white digital photos like this I have used the channel mixer function in Photoshop.

Your camera software

To start with your camera though. It probably came with some photo editing software. You might have your own software – perhaps Photoshop, Photo Impact, Photo Studio – or any one of a dozen or so programs that have "photo" somewhere in the title!

Any of these will do a better job at black and white digital photography than your camera will.

black and white digital photography top tip Think of it this way – your camera is specially designed to capture photographs. Your software is specially designed to edit photographs. Don't ask your camera to do a job that your software is designed to do – it's not what it was made for!

And now for the science bit!

To explain in a little more detail:

Light is made up of many colours - think back to rainbows, prisms and "Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain" at school.
NB: for the interested, the first letter of each word in the Richard . . . phrase represents the colours of the rainbow in order. R = red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.

When you capture an image with your digital camera the lens focuses light onto the image sensor.

The sensor is made up of millions of light sensitive dots. These are called “photosites” - just think of them as individual dots. Look at my pages on digital photography printing and Digital photography printing - understanding resolution for more on this.

Your sensor records three types of light – red, green and blue (RGB). It records the strength of each of these from a scale of 000-255.
So, a photosite might have a reading of:
Red – 212
Green – 028
Blue – 056
The strength of each colour is combined to get an overall colour for that dot. In this case, because red is the strongest colour, this will give us a reddish coloured dot.
NB: If all three were 000 that would be pure black, and if they were all 255 the result would be pure white.

And the maths part . . .

Now, think about all the information you have there. Three colours, with 256 possible strengths of colour.

256 x 256 x 256 = 16,777,216

Wow! Each dot can represent any one of over 16 million colours. That's a lot of colours!

So what happens of you set your camera to black and white digital photography mode? It throws away all of those colours and simply records the strength of light at that pixel – on a scale of 000 – 256.

000 = pure black
255 = pure white

anything in the middle is grey.

This is the main reason why I implore you to not set your camera to black and white mode.

If you do you are asking your digital camera, that is capable of recording any one of over 16 million combinations to choose from just 256 of them. You're basically throwing away information that you might just need later on.

Still not convinced?

More reasons? You may well decide later on that, actually, that picture might look better in colour.

If your camera never recorded the colour information when it took the photograph (i.e. it was set to black and white digital photography mode) you can't put the information back later on. It's gone for good.

If you decide to go for a black and white photograph anyway, then your software is more than capable of throwing away that information. At least you'll have the choice.

But wait! There's more. Even if you have taken your full colour snap and decided that it suits black and white digital photography, tread carefully.

There are ways to make your black and white digital photography really stand out, and then there's greyscale again. Go back to the two images at the top of this page to remind yourself why.

To create top quality black and white digital photos like these you need to use your photo editing software with a little care. I have used the channel mixer function in Photoshop.

Click for more on how to use Photoshop to produce the best black and white digital photography.

Further reading . . .

Now you have an understanding of black and white digital photography, you might find the following pages worth a read: is updated regularly. To learn out about the updates as they happen subscribe to the digital photography blog, and this site’s RSS feed.

Got a black and white photo you're proud of?

Do you have a black and white photo lurking on your hard drive that you are particularly proud of?

Share it with the world!

Use the form below to upload your photo, and tell us a little something about it.

Where was the photo taken? Was there any special "look" you were going for? Did you do any image editing? (or is it exactly how it came out of the camera?)

Tell us anything you like, it's your photo, after all!

[ ? ]

Upload your black and white picture[ ? ]


Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

  •  submission guidelines.

(You can preview and edit on the next page)

What Other Visitors Have Submitted

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...

happy goodyear 
It's a shame Graziano didn't tell us anything about this photo - but I had to include it as I just love it! The perspective here is great. Graziano …

Hello everyone, I took that photo a few years ago at my parents house on a sunny summer day. That dove/pigeon was a very good model! It was taken …

Horse Feathers 
I took this shot with my old Petri SLR35 at a parade, not digital or edited but still curious what you think. Personally, I think it's very good! …

Highway Junction 
A junction of two highways that drive along to get to my relatives' house. The deep blue sky and the lone cluster of cumulus clouds, along with the …

just an average pic , run through picasa cropped and sent to B/W

Reflection series 1 
Picture of lady drawn on wall inside shop, reflection of brick wall behind me. I like this submission. The pure blacks and the bright whites are just …

Went to a friends boxing match. Took this shot and loved it. Good strong black and white composition here; and looks like good strong boxers too! …

Self Portrait 
Well, it was shot in the afternoon. I use the standard capture method with the macro approach. And then PS retouches the b/w.

Lonely Sheep 
This is another of my Cutallosa Farm series. I hope you like this as much as you did "The Beauty of Curallosa Farm." I've done many different …

"The Orchid & The Ant" 
This photo was taken on the grounds of the Ola'a First Hawaiian Church in Kurtistown on the big island of Hawaii. I thought the wild Chinese Orchid …

No haven't visited Egypt...yet ! 
Hello all! I am Kaustub, from Mumbai India. The photo which I`ve submitted is a decorative piece used for a party at a friend`s house. I clicked …

I took this photo while taking my dog for a walk... this was my first attempt at photography that wasn't a snap shot... Now who would have thought …

chevrolet 1950 
Classic car exhibition in Mexicali, Baja California, México

Skin Deep 
Was passing and saw.

Violinist In Training 
My Daughter is learning Violin and I wanted some beautiful pictures of her and her new instrument. This photo was taken in color and converted in Photoshop …

Photographing people in black and white 
Photo was taken on Railroad tracks in Georgia, I was not going for a special look, really just playing around with my Canon Rebel, this is exactly how …

It's World Wide Web! 
I was at the Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo & Gardens in Hilo yesterday, and came across this spider with it's web. The morning sun seemed to be hitting it just …

This was a photo taken in my garden of flowers still wet from the rains. I then played with the photo with my photo software and came up with this. …

The Old Eight Bells 
Walking around my local town trying out my new camera I noticed the town contained a lot of old an interesting architecture. I shot this in colour …

Maui Sunrise 
I took this picture in at Haleakala Crater. I did take the picture in color and converted it to B&W, but this is the only editing that I have done. …

Snow Fall Not rated yet
Hi This picture was taken while it was snowing heavily. I wanted to cover the lake flowing and big tress without leaves. Just wanted to show the …

Covered Not rated yet
This was taken at a Natural Resource Center(fancy name for park) in North-eastern Maryland. When I came upon this after a walk on an early fall morning …

Tas Wood Seller Not rated yet
This photo was taken at Kota Kinabalu Crafts Market located in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Tas wood is traditionally used to keep venomous animals …

Amsterdam Not rated yet
I was on a trip with my best friends after exhausting exams. I've always been fascinated by Amsterdam's beautiful architecture and took this possibility …

Click here to write your own.

walking the path Not rated yet
I have worked with these kids in a number of shoots. This shot is one of the first ones that I ever took of them and to date is still my favorite. …

Peoples Calvary Not rated yet
"Kalbaryo ng Sambayanan" through Juan dela Cruz as the modern Christ carrying a crucifix of price hikes, unemployment, privatization and deregulation. …

The witness Not rated yet
This is a picture I have taken over the hill top on the bank of river Karnaphuli situated in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The building was built by the …

Bryanne Not rated yet
Model photography is something new to me but when the opportunity arose I gave it a bash. I never used the conventional umbrella flashes and stuff as I …

Nature's Dark Side Not rated yet
This photo was shot on a warm November day. The actual picture has some nice red, brown, and green color to it, but the cloudy sky just didn't do it for …

cricket Not rated yet
I was wandering in the neighbourhood park when I saw these lads enjoying a game of tennis ball cricket in the soft sun heralding the onset of winters. …

Birds Not rated yet
Learn powerful photography techniques! Occasionally, I like to go to a local garden with ponds and ducks and find the white ducks ideal for black …

Church of St. Emillion, France Not rated yet
I decided to share this photograph with the other users of the site because it's my first effort at producing a "black & white" image from a colour original, …

Morning Fern Not rated yet
I love it when the sun back lights subjects, especially plants and flowers. I took this shot of a back lit fern when the morning dew was at its best …

Girlfriend's sister Not rated yet
Taken at an old abandoned shack on River Road outside of Baton Rouge in the mid 1970s. All natural light, late in the afternoon. Hasselblad camera with …

Summer Not rated yet
Took this by the beach the other day. Curious to what you guys might think of it... Personally, I rather like it! In black and white photography …

Newborn Not rated yet
Learn powerful photography techniques! I am obsessed with black and white pictures and tried to make this photo black and white by using adobe photo …

A Bridge too Far? Not rated yet
I initially took this in colour with the intention of converting it to black and white later. I used PSE 7 with Elements+ for this with selective levels, …

Highway Not rated yet
A junction of two highways that drive along to get to my relatives' house. The deep blue sky and the lone cluster of cumulus clouds, along with the …

The Kitten is having trouble climbing down. Not rated yet
I took a shot of my kitten having trouble getting down after climbing very high in that tree! Then I used black and white effects as I read the tips …

Old Henry's Farmstead Not rated yet
Beautiful Farmstead in Victoria BC When I first saw this submission I thought there's a touch of Ansel Adams here. The things that gives it that …

360 Flip Down 3 Set Not rated yet
Went out all day shooting with my mate and my new camara. Didn't have my Opteka fish eye so I had to stay quite distanced from the subject to maintain …

Villa Capri Not rated yet
My daughter on mothers day! You know what I like about this photo? The blend of quiet angelic calm (your daughter) and what seems to be a raging storm! …

time Not rated yet
Things can be faded with time but knowledge is timeless!

Profile of a daisy Not rated yet
This shot was taken in macro setting one afternoon when I was sitting in my car... I had just bought the very small plant of miniature daisies. I …

The Silent Scream Not rated yet
Photo of a cool looking sculpture called "The Ferryman" which was on public display here in Dublin City Centre. It was made of about 80% steel and …

retired Not rated yet
I found this barn while travelling the back roads of the county in which I live. Looking at the photo, I wonder - what has this barn seen in its lifespan? …

Are you crazy? Not rated yet
This photo taken in color and converted to black and white through corel paint shop pro X2. Three year old looking down at a bug when I asked her to …

Water Street Not rated yet
This picture was taken on a VERY cold day in Peterborough, Ontario. As I was running back to the car before I permanently lost my fingertips, I took …

"I am a swan!" Not rated yet
This autumn photo of swans was originally in colour and taken with my new Pentax K100D Super Digital SLR, set on Program Automatic Exposure mode at 1536 …

Click here to write your own.