Photography Tips » Macro Photography Tutorials » 9 Tips for Beautiful Black and White Macro Photography

9 Tips for Beautiful Black and White Macro Photography

When talking about macro photography most people don’t think of black and white macro photography as the first thing. However, there are a lot of subjects that look amazing in black and white, when captured up close. Furthermore, with a few tips and tricks, you can make a lot of things look great in black and white.

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Tip 1: Look for Tonal Contrast

Tonal Contrast is very important when it comes to converting photos to black and white. This is also true when talking about macro photos. If you can include both shadows and highlights in your shot, using the entire tonal range of the histogram, chances are that it can become a great black and white macro photo. So pay attention to where you have shadows in the frame and how it balances with the highlights. So if you have a dark subject look for a brighter background or environment.

mushroom in black and white with great color contrast

Tip 2: Use Natural Lighting

Using natural soft light in macro photography will help you get an amazing look, even when you remove the colors by converting it to a black and white image. Soft light allows you to use the entire tonal range as mentioned above from bright to dark, without a lack of tones in the middle of the histogram. Use front lighting to get an even and well-lit subject, and use side lighting for a more dramatic look. You get the best natural light by shooting during golden hours with a rising or setting sun creating beautiful soft light for your macro photos.

leaf structure in black and white

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Tip 3: Capture Texture

Black and white macros are ideal for showing the texture of your subject. In macro photography, you are close enough to make that happen. By using side lighting you can enhance the texture because small shadows will appear in the small cracks or pockets in the surface texture.

black and white macro photo of flower

Tip 4: Use a Background with Complementary Colors for Great BW Contrast

Use color theory to your advantage. By choosing a background with a complementary color to your subject, you can create contrast in your black and white macro photography. For example, if you find a red beetle, try to position yourself to get a green-colored background for most contrast in the black and white photo.

macro ebook

Tip 5: Simplify the Composition

Too many elements in the frame will confuse the viewers when they look at your black and white macro shots. Because you remove colors from your images there is a greater chance that you will have elements with the same gray tonality, which might make it more difficult to distinguish. So simplifying the number of elements in your black and white macro photos can really make a difference in the final result.

Tip 6: Focus on the Detail

One way to simplify the composition is by just focusing on a particularly interesting part of your subject. If you decide to go extra close and just focus on a part of your subject, you need to make sure that your composition still includes a wide tonal range or contrast, otherwise, your black and white photo will look flat and uninspiring.

focus on details

Tip 7: Use Negative Space to Your Advantage

If your composition allows it, you can add emphasis on your main subject by allowing the background to blur by using a shallow depth-of-field or including a non-busy background with extra space for your subject.

Tip 8: Post-processing: Dodge & Burn for Extra Tonal Contrast

Once you get your macro photos out of your camera and onto your computer, decide on one to process and convert into a black and white photo. When processing the image, you can enhance how the colors convert into black and white. But your work doesn’t stop with that.

Focus a little more on dodging and burning than usual, to help create depth in the photo. Go beyond just having a light subject on a dark or black background. Instead, make sure to shape the subject with subtle shadow areas and highlights to emphasize a bit how the light wraps around your subject. More contrast isn’t always great and you should aim for the best contrast by looking at where you need it and where you don’t.

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Tip 9: Black and White is Not a Substitute for Taking Great Photos

Think of what makes a great macro photo. The same rules apply to making black and white macro photos. However, the above tips are particularly important for black and white macro photography.

spice close up in BW

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Hopefully, these tips allow you to capture stunning black and white macro shots, no matter whether you prefer to shoot insects or flowers or other macro photography subjects. Many of the tips presented are important for any kind of black and white photography. However, they might require a few more attempts to look amazing in macro photos. However, give it a try and put on your best macro lens, and test these tips in practice.

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