Best Tips and Ideas to Take Beautiful Black and White Portraits

The best way to take beautiful black and white portraits is to shoot in the RAW format. This allows you to make adjustments to the image in post-processing.

When it comes to shooting a portrait, there are two main ways you can go about it: in color or black and white. Both can be incredibly striking and powerful when done right, but which one do you choose?

While there’s no right answer here, the choices you make depend on what kind of story you’re trying to tell with your image. If your goal is to capture the subject’s personality, then black and white is probably the way to go. But if it’s more about showing off their features or highlighting certain aspects of their appearance, then color might be a better choice for you.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how you can take stunning black and white portraits using either film or digital cameras.

Tips to take great black and white portraits

Get an idea of your subject

Before beginning your shoot, get an idea of how you want your photos to look. Think about whether the image you envision will require a black and white or color photo. You can prepare poses in advance and discuss them with your clients.

Light is key

If you’re planning on taking a black and white shot, you need to use light that is not harsh. Too much contrast or brightness can result in washed out and bland images.

Create a mood

In addition to using different types of lighting, think about the kind of mood you want to capture. Are you looking for something edgy or fun?


Use a variety of settings to capture interesting and compelling shots. This will allow you to experiment with your ideas and learn from your mistakes.

Find the right time of day for your shoot.

If possible, try taking pictures during golden hour or blue hour (just before sunset or just after sunrise). This time of day gives your photos a soft, warm feel that perfectly complements black and white photos.

Background is important

Make sure your background is simple and clean; otherwise it will distract from your subject’s face and ruin your picture. If possible, remove any clutter from behind your subject — like people walking by or cars driving by — so that it doesn’t distract from what you’re trying to showcase in their face.


It can take months of trial and error to perfect a technique, but eventually you will learn the most effective way to achieve the results you desire.

Consider props

Consider including props such as flowers, accessories, glasses, hats, etc. in your photographs to help draw attention to them and create a more attractive composition.

Be flexible

Keep in mind that your clients may not always sit still, or stay still for too long. Have a backup plan if something happens to your subject. If you need to, you can quickly adjust to accommodate your subject’s movements and actions.

Be patient

The more you practice, the better you will become at capturing moments that interest you.

Shoot multiple times

Always shoot in a variety of locations, indoors and outdoors, to help ensure that you are able to capture a range of images.

Shoot your subjects close-up

Be careful not to capture faces in profile or from a distance when you are taking a black and white portrait. Doing so will flatten out the image and make it lose its dramatic impact.

Be creative

Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun. You can’t go wrong with a variety of styles and techniques.

Create a story

Your photos can become more engaging if you consider including a story in the photos you take. Think about if your subject can use his or her image to convey a meaning via the photo or the pose.

Consider adding a caption to your photo that tells a story about what’s happening in the scene. You could say things like: “I love this moment because…”, “This is an example of…” or “This is a photo I took in the past and it reminds me of…”.

Follow some rules

The best way to take stunning black and white portraits is to follow the rules.

The first rule is to put your subject in front of a well-lit background. The light should be soft, but not too soft, which can make your subject look flat. The second rule is to make sure that you have some contrast between your subject and the background — dark hair against light skin, for instance.

The third rule is not to use color for accenting; instead, use it for defining shapes and textures. If you’re taking a portrait of someone with red hair, for example, leave some red in the background so that when we see the portrait from afar it will pop out at us.

The fourth rule is that you should always avoid using harsh shadows on your subject’s face; they should never cross over their eyes or nose. Harsh shadows tend to create wrinkles around the eyes and mouth, which makes them look older than they really are.