8 Tips for Stunning Black and White Travel Photography

When we travel to new places, our soul is restless. We have feelings that don’t normally arise – and black and white travel photography can be used to express those emotions.

However, there is more to creating compelling black and white travel images than just lowering the Saturation slider. In this article, I share some tips on how to approach black and white shooting so you can take impactful photos that will stun your friends and family.

1. Think black and white

Thanks to the power of digital photography, creating a black and white image is easy: just open a file in your favorite post-processing program, then drop the Saturation slider to zero.

Unfortunately, while this method is Easy, it will rarely give you great results. Instead, you must learn to imagine black-and-white scenes before pressing the shutter; that way, when you finally take your image into post-processing software, the results look seamless and natural.

So spend time watching scenes ignoring the color. See tonal values ​​instead. The light and contrast of a scene affect how the image renders in monochrome.

Watch how light reflects off surfaces. See the contrast between two objects. Think about lines and shapes and how they fit into your compositions.

If you can learn to think in black and white, you’ll start to notice great scenes for black and white travel photography. And as you start to think black and white more regularly, you’ll notice a huge improvement in your files!

2. Commit to making black and white travel photos in advance

When shooting a new destination, it’s easy to consistently shoot in color – after all, color is natural and obvious.

But if you want to become excellent at black and white travel images, you have to put in the extra effort to work in black and white.

My recommendation? Before taking a single photo, have a plan in mind. Promise yourself to take a number of black and white photos. Otherwise, aim for a certain percentage of B&W photos.

And when you shoot your black and white photos, don’t half shoot. Practice thinking in black and white and shoot people, landscapes, architecture and anything that lends itself to monochrome.

That way, when you get home, you’ll have at least a handful of B&W photos to be proud of!

3. Use black and white to express yourself

Black and white is very sensitive, expressive kind of photography.

So if you want to create great B&W photos, why not use your photos to express your feelings about each place?

Every time you pull out your camera, ask yourself: How am I feeling? And how do I communicate that feeling to anyone who might view my photos? Share the emotions you feel when you are in a temple, at the airport or when you see a child begging in the streets.

Pro tip: Look for people who reflect how you feel in the moment and include them in your compositions. You might find a busker singing a happy song and another singing the blues. Which one matches your emotions?

ancient ruins black and white travel photography
Nikon D700 | 20mm | f/8 | 1/160s | ISO200

4. Include people in your travel photos

In the previous tip, I mentioned how you can enhance your black and white travel photos by capturing people who reflect your mood.

But don’t stop there! Whenever you see an interesting person, photograph them.

In fact, people look different when photographed in black and white. People also make a place. Including people, even if they are other tourists, will provide a real perspective on the places you are visiting.

Close up of a shoeshine man in Turkey
Nikon D700 | 35mm | f/5 | 1/320s | ISO 400

You can shoot wider landscapes that include people, but sometimes a travel portrait, in which you isolate your subject, makes for a great image. I like to go for very bright subjects and dark backgrounds; this way I can create a dramatic effect:

portrait of a market seller with fish
Nikon D800 | 50mm | f/2 | 1/250s | ISO100

5. Photograph iconic locations with a unique perspective

We’ve all seen the clichéd travel photos – the snaps everyone takes at the most famous places. Go ahead and take a snapshot too. Be sure to include these photos in your collection. But don’t stop there.

Start by thinking in black and white. Photographing iconic travel locations in black and white will make them look different, and by planning to shoot black and white images, you’ll already be one step ahead.

Then, before taking pictures, take the time to examine the shapes, lines, light and contrast of a scene. Think about how you can use light, camera angle, and composition to create something new. You’ll be surprised how often you can take unique photos at the most popular travel locations!

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/8 | 1/320s | ISO200

6. Confidently adjust your camera settings

Before pressing the shutter, imagine the image you want to create. Then adjust your settings accordingly.

In some locations you will want to isolate a subject with a shallow depth of field, so you will need to select a wide aperture setting. In other areas, you’ll want to keep the whole scene in focus, so a narrow aperture will be key.

If you’re looking for long exposure blur effects, you’ll need to mount your camera on a tripod and slow down your shutter way down. And if you’re interested in capturing fast action, you’ll need to increase your shutter speed to ensure you get plenty of detail.

I recommend switching your camera to manual mode. Then just experiment with different settings. After a little practice, you’ll start to master the manual settings. Soon you’ll be taking well-exposed photos like a pro.

Asian longtail boat black and white travel photography
Nikon D800 | 85mm | f/13 | 1/1000s | ISO100

7. Have fun with long exposure travel photos

Long exposures are beautiful in black and white. Therefore, you should always be on the lookout for situations and scenes that have moving parts!

For example, you might notice interesting movement by the sea, by a river, or on a busy street. You can then place your camera on a tripod or firm surface, determine your composition, and reduce your shutter speed to 1/25s or beyond.

(To prevent camera shake, you’ll need to use your camera’s self-timer or a remote shutter release. And be sure to turn off any image stabilization cameras or lenses.)

Experiment with a variety of shutter speeds. Sometimes you may want to use a faster shutter speed to keep moving elements recognizable. Other times you may want to use an extra long exposure to completely blur your subject.

black and white beach with slow shutter speed
Nikon D700 | 35mm | f/22 | 6s | ISO100

8. Shoot in RAW and do enough post-processing

Most cameras allow you to shoot both RAW and JPEG – and if you’re shooting RAW files, you can apply much more powerful edits. (JPEG files contain less information and are therefore less adjustable.)

That’s why I highly recommend shooting in RAW! Yes, it will take some work to learn how to process your black and white photos, but in the end, it will be worth it.

Then, when you return home from a photographic adventure, be sure to spend plenty of time processing your RAW files. You’ll need to convert your shots to black and white, and you’ll also need to experiment with different exposure and color settings.

Over time, you’ll develop a distinctive editing style – and you’ll have lots of fun along the way!

black and white dragon temple travel photography
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/7.1 | 1/200s | ISO200

Black and White Travel Photography: Final Words

Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to go and capture some great black and white travel photos!

So remember the tips I shared. Practice thinking in black and white. And good travel !

What travel photography destination are you planning to shoot next? Share your opinion in the comments below!

Beach scene with two people walking in the distance
Nikon D800 | 35mm | f/9 | 1/1600 | ISO200

Leave a Comment