Moody Black & White Portraits

How To Shoot Moody Black & White Portraits

How To Shoot Moody Black & White Portraits with Lisa Jones

Until recently, I rarely ever photographed in black & white, but this past year I decided to add a new genre of women’s intimate portraits to my session offerings. When thinking about the aesthetics of my new brand, I started exploring the world in black & white and instantly fell in love. Because I already photograph primarily dark and moody portraits, I immediately discovered that black & white photography lent itself very well to the moody expressions that I already loved to capture in color.

When I stepped back and questioned why I was suddenly so drawn to black & white, I realized that removing color from an image also eliminated all the distractions that color tends to highlight. The marriage of light and shadow, along with how they play off each other to direct the eye, adds a new dimension of emotive energy. I now often find myself changing the picture setting in my camera to monochromatic during a portrait session because shooting in black & white makes it easier for me to see exactly where the light is hitting my subject.

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN, DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD

Eight words that can make me cringe are, “Can you turn that to black & white?” My response to a client asking this question is always the same… “Maybe!” I then explain to my client that not every image renders well to black & white. We explore their chosen image and if I know that the image will not convert well to black & white, I let them know and tell them why.

Thankfully, I don’t get this question often, likely since this is part of the conversation that takes place during the pre-session consultation. Knowing ahead of time that a client wants black & white portraits for their wall allows me to plan for that by helping my client select the appropriate wardrobe. I love working with black or dark clothing against a dark background. Low key photography is what I am known for, so that’s exactly what my clients expect when they hire me, which makes the wardrobe conversation easy. 

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the September 2021 magazine.