DG Wildlife by Dalia Kvedaraite and Giedrius Stakauskas | Black and White Photography with a Dash of Colour

Black and White Photography with a Dash of Colour

February, 2017


I have become increasingly interested in black and white images. When colour is stripped away, it leaves a true character of an animal.

Black and white images let me show wildlife in an artistic, different way. I really like photography by David Yarrow, David Lloyd, James Warwick and the way they use light and shadows, lines and shapes to show an animal or nature scene. Black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams and architecture by Julia Anna Gospodarou are wonderful.

Black and white photography works very well with portraits. In addition to black and white, I love adding a dash of colour for specific areas for more artistic, authentic look.

King Penguin Feeding a Chick in the Falkland IslandsKing Penguin Feeding a Chick in the Falkland IslandsFine art image of a King penguin feeding a chick in Falkland islands. Close-Up of Rockhopper PenguinClose-Up of Rockhopper PenguinBlack and white image with a dash of colour of a Rockhopper Penguin was taken in Saunders island, Falklands Portrait of a King PenguinPortrait of a King PenguinBlack and white image of a close-up king penguin with a yellow-orange coloured beak By combining these elements I try to create a memorable image.

How to photogrpah

Not all images look good in black and white. It is important to look for the subject or scene that looks better in black and white than in colour. If an image does not have interesting light, contrasts, interesting textures or lines it could be quite a challenge to create a good black and white. The best moment to capture an image that will cover a large tonal distribution after converting it to black and white, is when there is not too many contrasts in the scene. It could be a cloudy day, or semi-cloudy, when the sun is showing through the clouds.

I always shoot in RAW and convert images to black and white in Photoshop later.

Musk Ox Running in the Mountains in NorwayMusk Ox Running in the Mountains in NorwayBlack and White Musk Ox image taken in Norway during the winter in mountains.

How to convert to Black and White

There are lots of ways how to convert image to black and white. It could be done by using plug-ins, playing with the channels, by changing Saturation bar, or by using the 'Black and White' adjustment.

Desaturating and converting images to Greyscale are the worst methods which give a flat and washed out looking image; the entire photo is transferred to middle grey. 

Channel mixer is a good way to change image to black and white. By ticking the box “Monochrome” in the channel mixer dialog box and adjusting sliders labelled Red, Green and Blue quite good results can be achieved. Black and White adjustment layer gives  the same controls as the Channel mixer and also gives an option of presets, and allows to add a tint to an image.

My favourite method is to use NIK Silver Efex Pro plug-in as a starting point. NIK provides 29 presets and gives ideas how the image can be transformed. Then I use a mix of filters by using masks and selections to hide or reveal certain areas of the image. For final touches, I use Curves or Levels, Dodge and Burn.

Close-Up of King Cormorant, Falkland IslandsClose-Up of King Cormorant, Falkland IslandsBlack and white photo of King Cormorant taken in the Saunders island, Falkland islands. White Tailed Eagle Catching FishWhite Tailed Eagle Catching FishBlack and White image of a white-tailed eagle with some colour for artistic look. Barn Owl in Flight Catching PreyBarn Owl in Flight Catching PreyFine art Barn owl image showing owl catching prey.