46 Creative Black And White Photography Ideas For Your Next Photoshoot

Black and white photography holds a special place within the wider world of photography. For starters, much of the history of photography consists of monochrome images taken before color film was invented. This means that most photographers have been influenced by some of the many brilliant works that were created in their field in black and white. 

Black and white images also have a unique power to convey mood and feeling. Color demands a lot of attention, and by stripping it away, the essence of an image can become even clearer.


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As a photographer, challenging yourself to create images in black and white can be a very effective way to improve at your craft. Since you can’t rely on color to help make your image stronger, shooting in monochrome forces you to master other key elements of photography such as contrast, the rules of composition, exposure, and even your ability to recognize opportunities to shoot when you encounter them. 

Many photographers working in broader niches like family photography or portrait photography work some black and white photography into their portfolios. Whether you want a whole portfolio focused on the magic of black and white photography, or you want to round out your work with some beautiful monochrome shots, these ideas will inspire you to pick up your camera and start shooting.  


12 Black And White Photoshoot Ideas

Just about anything you might be interested in shooting in color can also be captured in black and white. The choice to shoot in monochrome can make a big difference in what your final image conveys. Here are some black and white photoshoot ideas that illustrate the power of this artistic choice. 


1. Level Up Your Sports Portraits

Portraits of athletes, particularly after they’ve just gotten off the court, field, or ring, are always a captivating choice. That’s because we can see the exertion on their faces, reminding us of the challenge and glory that sport can conjure. Shooting portraits of athletes in black and white amps up this effect. Here, the lack of color emphasizes the subject's look of defiance, and the sweat on his brow immediately draws the eye. 

Photo Credit:  Helene Macaulay

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2. Film Is Always In

No matter how many years pass since the advent of digital photography, film will never die. There’s a certain quality that just can’t be reproduced with digital tools, no matter how many grain, noise and texture filters we throw on our digital files. Black and white film stock creates rich, deep images that you really can’t go wrong with. Even a basic camera can produce stunning images. 

Photo Credit:  Sara Leigh Lewis

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3. Create Black And White Collages

If you like to use your photos to create new kinds of art through collage techniques, try doing so using only black and white images. In this example, the use of black and white makes the final piece evoke the look of punk zines. By avoiding the use of color, the shapes and textures of the collage become even more central to the finished work. 

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Photo Credit:  Joanne Dorothea Smith


4. Play With Exposure Times

A slightly longer-than-usual exposure time here blurs the water in the scene into a beautiful, soft field, distinct from the sharply defined and contrasty rest of the scene. If you have components of your image that are in motion while others aren’t, you can recreate this kind of effect by playing around with different exposure times to create different effects. 

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Photo Credit:  Mark Burley 


5. Head Outside For Black And White Portraits

Nature is full of gorgeous portrait locations that don’t require backdrops or special equipment. Black and white portraits are a timeless type of portraiture, so heading outside and looking for a compelling location is an easy way to add this kind of image to your portfolio. Here, what could have been a simple leafy background is made more interesting by having the subject stand where some of the leaves appear in the foreground of the frame in front of her. 

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Photo Credit: Robin Detilleux


6. Use A Tripod

If there’s one piece of equipment that can help you take your black and white urban photography to the next level, it’s a tripod. You don’t need something super high end, as long as it’s stable enough to prevent your camera from shaking when things go by. Here, a zooming vehicle turns a nice photo of London into something otherworldly. 

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Photo Credit:  Mark Burley


7. Loving Portraits

Family photographers will know how much their clients like to receive artful, beautifully composed portraits of themselves and their loved ones. By shooting some couple photos in black and white, you can give them a chance to see themselves in a way that they likely haven’t before. The use of black and white in this portrait of an elderly couple gives it a classic quality that emphasizes the long lasting nature of their relationship.

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Photo Credit:  Austin Quintana


8. Bold Commercial Portraiture  

Your commercial portraits don’t have to be restricted to color photography either. Usually when we encounter this type of image on a company website or in a magazine, it appears in color. By making it black and white, it makes the image look more artful and cinematic, reminding us that this chef is engaged in a kind of art of their own. 

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Photo Credit:  Alfredo Gomez


9. Play With Different Tones

Most black and white photos you come across have a neutral palette. This image is very warm by comparison, leaning more toward sepia. This is a rarer approach that makes the image look like it might be from a different era. It is also flattering for the model, since it is softer and less aggressively contrasty than some other approaches to black and white portraiture. With darkroom printing this effect can be achieved by selenium toning your prints.

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Photo Credit:  Nicholas Efimtsev


10. Memorable Maternity Shots

Pregnancy is a special time, and expecting mothers often want to commemorate it with a photo shoot. While there are lots of great maternity shoot ideas out there, one theme that comes up a lot is photography that makes the mom-to-be look ethereal and dreamy, like the life-giving goddess she is. Black and white photography lends itself very well to this kind of maternity photography.

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Photo Credit:  Johanna Blond 


11. Use Different Perspectives

Sometimes all it takes to make an image stick in the viewer’s mind is taking an interesting approach to perspective. When this is combined with black and white photography, it makes the unconventional perspective more central to the image. Here, if we could see all the different colors in the picture, the gorgeous composition and interesting distortion caused by the lens would probably go unnoticed. 

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Photo Credit:  Pierre Vanneste


12. Double Exposure Portraits

Double exposures can be taken by shooting on real film twice without winding the film in between, or created digitally in Photoshop by superimposing two images. While there are tons of different creative effects that can be realized through double exposures, using this technique for black and white portraiture makes for an unforgettable final result. 

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Photo Credit:  Austin Quintana

12 Black And White Photography Ideas

You don’t have to have a fancy studio setup or tons of high end photography equipment to take black and white photos that stand out and make people want to see more of your work. When you’re low on inspiration, try recreating one of these black and white photography ideas. 


1. Shoot The Plant World In Macro

The world of small things around us doesn’t get very much attention, but it can be a great subject for black and white photography. By stripping the color, our attention is drawn to the fascinating, almost alien shapes that make up the world of the very small. If you don’t have a macro lens, there are inexpensive lens attachments you can find that fit most major brands’ lenses. 

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Photo Credit:  Joanne Dorothea Smith


2. Paint With Light

This is a classic black and white photo for good reason. Sparklers or flashlights are both perfect tools for light painting, and by shooting in black and white, the contrast between the light streaks and the rest of the image is stronger. You can have your subject write something, draw something, or even just twirl around creating a chaotic mess of light. You can also paint the scene with light from outside of the frame to illuminate your subject or bring attention to specific areas of the image.

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Photo Credit: James Moreton


3. Black And White Party Photography

Bring your black and white photography skills to the next party or event you’re invited to, and your images are guaranteed to be a hit. There’s something about black and white event photography that imbues the images with a nostalgic quality. It’s also flattering for most people, which is good news if you want your photos to be shared widely. 

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Photo Credit:  Helene Macaulay


4. Go Back In Time

Color can often help us date an image. Whether it’s hints from the colors of clothing or even just the general tones of the image, you can usually tell if an image was taken recently or if it’s a few decades old. If you love the idea of creating images that would fit just as well in the past, black and white is the way to go. This image from the 80’s almost looks like it could belong a hundred years prior. 

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Photo Credit:  Sara Leigh Lewis


5. It’s All In The Details

This image illustrates the extent to which stripping a photo of its color makes other elements of the image more emphasized. The sharp shadows, time-worn grain, and balanced composition in this photo all draw the gaze in. Taking this kind of image is all about learning to really see the world like a photographer, so that you can spot these little vignettes that make for strong photographs.

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Photo Credit:  Mark Burley


6. Always Be Ready To Shoot

Keeping your camera on you is a great tip for any photographer who wants to beef up their portfolio. Simply by taking photos frequently, you’ll flex your photography muscles and wind up with some amazing images. This is just as true for black and white photography. Here, an everyday playful moment is captured in an image that is made better by the contrast provided by black and white.

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Photo Credit:  Austin Quintana


7. Capture Water Sparkle

Water has always been an intriguing subject to the photographic eye. It’s never still, and conveys a wide range of feelings depending on the conditions and how it’s shot. Since it’s usually shot in color to capture the blues, greens and whites that it's made up of, this black and white shot is unexpected. The glittering effect makes us feel the rays of the sun, and the monochrome treatment makes it feel almost glamorous. 

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Photo Credit:  Diego Canini


8. Get Up Close 

Getting super up close and personal with your subject can make your photography a bit more abstract, since viewers may not immediately know what exactly it is that you’re capturing. Shooting in black and white further obscures your subject. Here, it takes a moment to realize a horse’s eye is being photographed, and once you notice, the black and white treatment seems to emphasize the nobility of the animal. 

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Photo Credit:  Shulan Wang


9. A Black And White Approach To Beach Photography

Beach scenes are often shot in color to emphasize the exuberance and joy of a day at the beach. Here, a totally different feeling is conveyed by shooting a busy day at the watering hole in monochrome. The image has an artistic and cinematic quality, and the motion happening in the photo is emphasized.

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Photo Credit:  Helene Macaulay


10. Scroll Stopping Portraits

Any portrait photographer worth their salt should practice taking black and white portraits. Here, the subject's dark outfit stands out against the light-colored building, and the structure behind her provides an aesthetically pleasing frame that draws our eye to her. In color, the various objects on the balconies might be distracting, but here, it’s a nice balanced backdrop for the person being photographed. 

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Photo Credit:  Lorraine Khamali


11. Romance In Black And White

There’s just something romantic about black and white. Maybe it’s the echo of classic romantic films, but capturing a romantic moment in black and white is sure to make for a timeless, inspiring image. The bit of blur in this image only enhances the effect, and the bright reflection of the bridge in the water gives the photo an eye-pleasing balance and symmetry. 

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Photo Credit:  Diego Canini


12. Capture Architectural Wonders

Architectural photography lends itself very well to black and white. Shooting in monochrome will emphasize the structural and decorative elements of the building you’re capturing. Since buildings can cast aesthetically interesting shadows, the fact that black and white photography emphasizes shadows can make for some particularly strong images. 

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Photo Credit:  Mark Burley


10 Creative Black And White Photoshoot Ideas

Your black and white photography portfolio is the perfect place to explore your creativity. In all creative pursuits, having some sort of limitation can often foster more creative results. That’s why more money and resources don't necessarily lead to a better result. When shooting in black and white, you’re working within a slightly more constrained framework, which is the perfect way to flex your creative muscle.

1. Capture Contrasting Textures

Without color, the texture in an image becomes much more central. This makes scenes with interesting contrasting textures perfect subjects to shoot in black and white. Shores are places of contrast, and this image perfectly captures this theme with the textures of the sand, and the ripples on the surface contrasted with the smooth bright rock. The sand looks deep and rich, and the white stone takes on a sculptural form, making for an intriguing photo. 

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Photo Credit:  Francesco Silvestri


2. Shoot In Motion

In photography, sharper doesn’t necessarily mean better. Sure, much of the time when you’re shooting as a professional photographer you’ll be concerned with making your image as crisp and clear as possible. However, this image is a testament to the fact that blur and motion can be very evocative. This looks like it was taken from the back of a zooming vehicle, and the instinct landscape gives the photo a compelling but creepy quality. 

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Source: Format use James Moreton


3. Use Harsh Shadows In Portraits

Sure, we all know the golden hour is the most perfect, universally flattering time of day to shoot portraits. But let this black and white portrait be a counterpoint. By shooting in monochrome in harsh, mid-day lighting conditions, the end result is an impossibly cool image. The lighting casts a shadow that obscures half the subject's face, making him look mysterious and intriguing.

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Photo Credit:  Sara Leigh Lewis


4. Shoot Black and White When Others Wouldn’t

Sometimes, shooting scenes that are just begging to be captured in color can make for the most interesting image. This portrait of a dramatically decked out reveler was taken at a carnival festival, famous for its bold, bright, celebratory colors. By capturing her in black and white, the focus is more on the incredible structure she is donning. 

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Photo Credit:  Mark Burley


5. Head To The Water

When in doubt, head to the nearest body of water with your camera. If you have someone who can join you, you can play around with the way water refracts light differently from the atmosphere by shooting your subject half in the water, half out, like this subject’s arm. Even if you’re going on a solo shooting mission, the textures you can capture in your black and white water snaps are sure to inspire.

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Photo Credit: Austin Quintana


6. Channel Your Inner Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams’ groundbreaking black and white landscape images still look thoroughly modern despite some of them being nearly a century old now. Channel your inner Ansel Adams by shooting landscapes in sharp, crisp black and white, challenging yourself to capture as much well defined detail as he did in his iconic images of American natural parks. This example evokes Ansel Adams’ work and proves that this subject will never get old. 

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Photo Credit:  Alfredo Gomez


7. Get Creative With Studio Lighting

If you’re most in your element when shooting in a studio setting, black and white photography creates some great opportunities to experiment with your lighting set up. In this study of the human form, lighting is used very strategically so that only the subject’s hand and upper back are illuminated, while the rest of the image is totally dark. If you’re into creating artistic prints that would be at home in a gallery, this approach is for you. 

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Photo Credit:  Johanna Blond


8. Go Aerial

Aerial photography used to be limited to those with very significant budgets, but thanks to advances in drone technology, photographers can explore aerial photography much more affordably. See the world in a new way by shooting from an aerial vantage in black and white, and see what emerges. It can be very visually satisfying to see the world neatly laid out from above. 

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Photo Credit:  Pierre Vanneste


9. Beauty In Monochrome

The beauty icons of yesteryear were all captured in black and white, making this a popular choice for beauty photography and celebrity portraiture to this day. Black and white can lend a seriousness to a portrait, and can make your subjects look particularly elegant compared with color portraiture. 

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Photo Credit:  Marco Bressi


10. Amp Up The Exposure

You can get some really creative effects by pushing your exposure when shooting in black and white. Here, it looks like the image may have been taken against a backlight, with the background totally overexposed and blown out while the hands in the background are underexposed, looking almost entirely black. The finished result looks worthy of a glossy magazine or a high end ad. 

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Format user Marco Bressi

12 Black And White Photography Theme Ideas

A good way to go about taking more black and white photographs is to choose a theme to explore each time you head out to shoot. This will help you see things in the context of that theme, so that you can create a collection of images that work together. Plus, just like practicing any skill, practicing shooting within a certain theme will help you improve your photographs. 

1. Explore Depth

Shooting landscapes in black and white, provided that the conditions are a little bit hazy or foggy, can create some really beautiful layers of depth in your photo. Here, the mist in the distance makes the different layers of the image look progressively lighter gray. The painterly quality almost evokes a traditional Japanese landscape. Misty days are the perfect condition for exploring depth in photography in this way.

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Photo Credit:  Francesco Silvestri 

2. Use Vintage Tools and Techniques

As much as new photography tools and software are exciting and provide endless possibilities for creation, sometimes it’s gratifying to revisit old techniques. It can be pretty amazing to play around with older cameras and film stocks, or traditional development techniques. If you’re into black and white photography, why not push your interest further and try shooting photos with the tools and techniques that photographers had working in the earlier days of the medium?

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Photo Credit:  Joanne Dorothea Smith

3. City Lights

Night photography in the city can be a lot of fun, because it becomes all about the interesting lights that come on when the sun goes down. Whether you’re shooting the lights of a skyscraper or scouring the city for its most interesting neon signs, there’s a lot to point your camera lens at. Shooting in black and white is perfect for drawing out the contrast between the darkness of night and the light of urban life. 

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Photo credit: James Moreton

4. Look For Reflections

Shooting through a window at just the right angle will produce two superimposed images: one of the scene behind the window, and one of the reflected scene outside the window. In this sense, it’s a bit like shooting a double exposure. When capturing these kinds of reflection scenes in black and white, the distinction between the inside scene and the outside scene becomes a little more blurred, making for interesting compositions that invite you to stick around and make sense of what you’re seeing. 

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Photo Credit:  Helene Macaulay

5. Create A Mood

There’s something about black and white photography that has the power to create a mood or emotion very effectively. In this image, between the grays dominating the frame, the misty, indiscernible background, the weather-worn foreground, and the ominous posts sticking out of the ground with birds on them, a chilly, spooky mood is brilliantly evoked. 

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Photo Credit:  Francesco Silvestri 

6. Use Shallow Depth Of Field 

Playing around with the different depths of field available to you depending on what lens you’re using is always fun, and doing it in black and white is no different. This image would look quite different if everything in the frame were in focus, giving the viewer a better sense of where they are situated. Instead, because of the shallow depth of field, it evokes mystery and the unknown.  

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Photo Credit:  Joanne Dorothea Smith 

7. High Drama Portraits

If you want to lean into the drama with your portrait photography, shooting in black and white is a great way to do it. The dramatic light in this particular portrait emphasizes the monochrome color palette. The light could be natural, coming through or a window, or it could be created using studio lighting. Either way, the final result looks like a classic portrait of a Hollywood star. 

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Photo Credit:  Sara Leigh Lewis

8. Shoot Street Scenes In Black and White

Street photographers can present the cities they’re shooting in a whole new way by shooting in black and white. Havana, Cuba is known for its colorful facades and street scenes, so seeing it rendered in black and white is an unexpected and fresh take on a popular street photography destination. In this case, it mirrors the black and white artistic style of the mural that dominates the photo. 

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Photo Credit:  Mark Burley 

9. Shoot Like A Cinematographer

With the right lighting and composition, any scene can take on a cinematic quality. This gorgeous black and white photo of two horses running in a field feels like it’s right out of a movie, thanks to the dreamy, late afternoon light illuminating them from the front while the rest of the image is in shadow. 

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Photo Credit:  Austin Quintana

10. Fashion In Black And White

Fashion photography is the perfect avenue for experimenting with black and white photography since fashion shoots are often planned around a theme or concept. Black and white photography, through its stripped down visual nature, tends to bring out the conceptual elements of a photograph. Some of the most iconic images in fashion are, for good reason, shot in black and white. 

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Photo Credit:  Nicholas Efimtsev

11. Plan A Conceptual Portrait Session

Portraits can vary from professional to sensual with lots of room for different styles of portraiture in between. We mentioned that the black and white medium can help to bring out the conceptual elements of an image, and that holds true for more conceptual styles of portraiture as well. Your only limit here is your imagination, so feel free to recreate whatever bold idea you have in your mind. 

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Photo Credit:  Shulan Wang

12. Dreamy Boudoir Shoots

It all depends on what look you (or your subject) are going for, but it can be challenging to capture boudoir photos that look truly elegant. One way to go about creating boudoir photos that manage to be both sensual and elegant is to experiment with shooting them in black and white. It gives the images, which can sometimes be racy in content, a timeless look that appeals to just about everyone. 

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Photo Credit:  Johanna Blond


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