I watched a video titled From Color to Back & White. Very quickly into this ten minute video, I realized that it was more about promoting a product used to aid in converting digital color photos to black & white. It was less about what makes a good black & white photo. I was disappointed with what I thought was a misleading the headline so I decided to that I would research it for myself and share it with you.
Not every digital color image is going to look amazing once you convert it to black and white. If you think you may want to convert images to black and white, use the monochrome setting on your camera so you can get an idea of what it might look like. There are several factors that affect the quality of a black and white image and as we go through them, you can begin to train your eye to see what may or may not look great once transformed.
Contrast, texture, shape and for are your friends.
Contrast - the difference between black and white in your images. If you didn’t have contrast, your image wouldn’t exist because you would not be able to tell the difference between light and dark. Everything in your image would be black, white, or a single shade of grey somewhere in between.
Texture - this is where the details live. It is what draws the viewers eye into the image. Texture is affected by the lighting conditions. Texture lives all around you in patterns, leaves, clouds, colors, to name a few. Knowing how to harness these various types of textures helps your details stand out.
Shape & Form - two very important visual elements. Every object has both shape and form. Shape is how the subject looks in two dimensions. Form is how the subject looks in three dimensions. Once you understand how to use your light to manipulate that shape and form of your image, you can make a two dimensional image look three dimensional. You can give the image added depth. Light from the side of your image accentuates the form by casting shadows. Light room the front or the back of your subject obscures it.
In the age of digital media, programs like Lightroom and Photoshop can aid you in fine tuning the details of your image.
Remember that B&W images tend to be fairly simple with the main subject being easy to identify.