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B&W Winter by alexey ,  Dec 10, 2017
Winter is a wondrous season for photographers, with its own unique challenges and triumphs. For many of us, the landscape changes shape and character entirely, covered in a blanket of Mother Nature’s finest frozen concoction. While there are certainly fleeting moments of inspiring color, winter, it seems, is a season well suited to monochrome imagery.

Most digital SLRs and point and shoot cameras can capture black and white images. Winter is a good time to experiment with this feature because of the general lack of color.

Find and enable this feature on your camera and then head out looking for suitable subjects.

This early morning scene shows the mystery of the branches lit by a streetlight against the dark predawn sky.

Because you will not be capturing any color from your images, look for a scene that shows the contrast between light and dark elements. You may also find that foggy scenes where everything is not only by nature monochromatic but also biased towards mid tones is a great option for black and white photography.

Another topic which can be rendered interestingly rendered in black and white is texture and repeating elements – the lack of color will enhance the texture and draw attention to the repeating elements.

What If I Don’t Have a Light Meter?

If your camera does not have a light meter, or if it is not working, you have a few options. Perhaps the easiest solution is to simply purchase a handheld light meter. You can also follow what is known as the Sunny 16 rule. This rule states that on a sunny day you simply set your aperture to f/16 and your shutter speed to the speed of your film (ISO) or next shutter speed over. So if you have ISO 100 film you would set your shutter speed to 125. The Sunny 16 rule can still be used if it is not a sunny day, please refer to the below cart as an example:

SunnyDistinct Shadows

Hazy SunSoft Shadows

CloudyBarely Visible Shadows

OvercastNo Shadows


f / 16

f / 11

f / 8

f / 5.6

ISO 100





ISO 200





ISO 400





ISO 800





Some modern cameras have automatic exposure settings known as shutter speed priority and aperture priority. With shutter speed priority you can select the shutter speed you would like to use and it will automatically select the appropriate aperture. With aperture priority you select the aperture and the camera automatically selects the shutter speed. In tricky lighting conditions, such as the previously mentioned beach or winter photography, these automatic settings should not be used as you will need to overexpose or underexpose which can only be done through manual settings.

With this basic understanding of exposure you can shoot your first roll of film. When complete you’ll begin the process of developing the film and printing your black and white photography.

Black and White Winter Photography

The bright whites and heavy blacks of winter lends itself to black and white photography nicely. Don’t fight with trying to get a good color photo if is not possible. You’ll be surprised how well some scenes that look crummy in color, look incredible in black & white. Most of today’s higher end cameras shoot only in color only. You convert the photograph to Black & White using image editing software. To help you get an idea of what the color photograph is going to look like in black and white, most cameras a live view option that can be set to monochrome. Make sure to use this option if your camera has it, as it can greatly help setting up your B&W shots.

A quick tip to help your Black/White photos is to remember that most good B&W pictures include at least some PURE Black and White. What I mean by this, is just don’t take shots consisting only grey scale elements, make sure to include the high contrast pure blacks and whites.

Winter Photography Tips

1.) Open up. Heavy snow scenes can cause you camera to meter too dark. Open your camera up 1-2 stops (+1 or +2 EV) to correctly expose images.

2.) Keep your camera at outside temperatures. You may be tempted place your camera in your jacket or inside you warm car while it’s not in use. This will only cause condensation on the lens and mirror when you take it back into the cold. In real humid climates, it could cause heavy condensation internally which could damage your camera. Most cameras will operate under all but the most extreme winter temperatures just fine.

3.) Take your batteries out. Batteries don’t like cold weather and will quickly stop producing a charge when exposed freezing tempartures. Simply take you batteries out and place them in your pocket, when your camera is not in use. If you need to quickly warm-up your batteries, place them inside your jacket and under your arm-pits … it may sound silly, but your body concentrates a lot of heat in that area.

4.) Hold your breath … when you mouth is close to your camera. Breathing on your camera will cause lens, the viewfinder and LCD screens to fog up. In really cold weather, the fog will quickly freeze.

5.) Use a good, water resistant camera case. You want a case that will seal your camera away from snow and rain while protecting it in case you take a fall on icy surfaces.

6.) Move your tripod. Try not to keep your tripod in one spot for too long. The legs may end up freezing there. Also try to keep you tripod as dry and free of snow as possible as you don’t want ice build-up to prevent you from retracting or extending it.

7.) Dress Warmly. Remember that photography will keep you standing in one place not doing much activity for extended periods of time. This will cause you to get cold quickly if you’re not dressed for it. It’s always a good idea to bring extra warm clothing in a pack, just in case the temperature drops.

8.) Use functional gloves. Bulky gloves will cause you to go insane when trying you operate your cameras functions, while taking you gloves off will make for frozen fingers. Find a pair of gloves that are both warm and thin fitting enough to let you freely use your camera. I personally use a pair of cross country skiing gloves for winter photo work.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that shadows are there for a reason! There seems to be a bit of a trend in this digital age to pull detail out of every last dark area of an image, resulting in an unnatural image that’s over the top in detail and utterly void of defining contrast. Monochrome images rely on shadows to separate significant compositional elements, as well as give them substance and depth. Resist the temptation to overuse that Shadow/Highlight tool in Photoshop and embrace this natural compositional tool.
Explore contrast Contrast-the difference between the light and dark areas in a photo-is an essential part of black and white photography. There are three levels of contrast that you can experiment with when you shoot:High contrast, which means striking white and black tones, heightens tension and adds drama to photos.Normal contrast provides the most "realistic" image, with a balanced range of black, gray to white tones.Low contrast keeps tones mostly in the mid-range, so there are lots of grays.
If your scene is primarily snow then the general rule of thumb is to over expose by 2 stops.  Remember the three elements that determine exposure: ISO, aperture, shutter speed.  In order to offset the logic of your meter in your camera or of your hand-held light meter you will need to compensate with one or more of the above based on your meter reading. 

Above is an example of a before-and-after desaturated image. While the color photograph is striking, black-and-white conversion brings an almost otherworldly, timeless feel to the overall aesthetic of the image.

Winter naturally reduces the color palette to the essentials, and by learning to “see in black-and-white,” you’ll be able to properly judge a scene. The digital age also has provided photographers with so many options for black-and-white imagery that it’s hard to even define what a black-and-white image is. Channel mixers provide extended control over hue and saturation, and any number of tones can be added to conversion for subtly or overtly adding to the look of an image.
Useful Filters For Added Contrast
Tiffen Polarizer B+W Gray Graduated FilterSingh-Ray ND Graduated Filter