Summertime is full of color, so it’s natural that our photos of summer are bright and colorful, too. But, sometimes black and white photos can be the perfect way to bring out all the little details of your summer story — like skinned knees, rippling waves in the pool, dark shadows on the sidewalk and that gorgeous summertime light.
Because, when color is stripped away, our eye is able to focus on the fine details of textures in a photo and the stories within shadows. Black and white amplifies elements like water (think sprinklers, pools, hoses and lakes) within the frame, and also allows rim light to really pop. This can give black and white photos a nostalgic feel, like summer childhood memories.
Here are five reasons black and white photos are perfect for summer, plus an editing video where I show you exactly how I convert a photo to black and white in Lightroom.
1. Converting a photo to black and white enhances textures.
Without color, our eyes are drawn to the textures in a photo. When a summer scene has a lot of texture, or when there are certain textures you want to bring out in a story, convert your photo to black and white to allow those elements to be a larger part of the story.
Seek out summertime textures like the towel your child is using to dry off, the chalk left behind on hands or feet, dirty hands and faces from digging in the garden, sand stuck to tiny toes, or wisps of hair blowing across your child’s face. Converting your photo to black and white will help bring out these storytelling elements.
2. High contrast black and white photos bring out the mood of a story.
The bright sunshine of summer produces high contrast scenes and dark shadows. Enhance the shadows in a photo by converting the image to black and white to help tell more of the story, or to add to the mood of the image.
Think of a curious toddler noticing his shadow on the sidewalk or the bright sun creating a dark shadow of your child swimming on the bottom of the pool.
3. Water elements are amplified in black and white photos.
Many of us spend a lot of time around water during the summer months, whether it’s a beach or a backyard sprinkler. Black and white photos really bring out the texture, contrast and movement of water in an image.
If your camera allows, set it to shoot in black and white and turn your camera on live view. Watch how the water is enhanced in different ways throughout the scene. Darker backgrounds tend to give more contrast against water. By shooting or editing in black and white, you can amplify that contrast even more.
4. Golden hour rim light looks magical in black and white.
The gorgeous golden hour light of summer evenings is perfect for creating rim light, which looks stunning in black and white. Rim light is that outline of light around your subject that can be created when your subject is between the camera and the sun. It’s most pronounced against a darker background and can be easier to create when the sun is lower in the sky.
Next time you’re out at the lake or playing in the yard, savoring that last bit of sunshine on a summer evening, look for rim light. Trust me when I say there’s just a magical feeling you get in your photos when you can see that outline of light gently brushing across the top of your child’s head, on the edges of bubbles, or whatever subject you are capturing.
5. Black and white photos provide a nostalgic feeling.
Black and white photography produces such a beautiful, timeless feel. For me that nostalgic feel in black and white photos of my children brings back a flood of memories of my own childhood summers spent doing cartwheels in the grass, staying up way past bedtime on those late summer evenings and endless hours spent playing in water to cool off on hot days.
One of my favorite presets that really brings out that timeless feeling is the black and white film preset called TriX that I received in Cami Turpin’s Slow Your Roll breakout. You’ll see me edit with this in the video below.
Two ways to convert a photo to black and white in Lightroom (video):
In this video, I’ll show you how to convert a summer photo to black and white two different ways. First, I’ll be using my favorite film-like preset, TriX. Second, I’ll show you a black and white conversion without a preset, using the tools in Lightroom. Through this demonstration, you’ll see how to enhance story elements like the texture of a scraped knee and the movement of water.
3. Old film camera: Nikon N75 with AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G (because film loves sunlight)
Photos by Missy Knight