Getting great results in black and white from a camera phone takes some skill. The rewards though, seem to be fantastic if you have the patience and time to devote to it. The real challenges in this photography niche lie in both composition and post production due mainly to the limitation of the medium.
In general terms there are a few things you are going to want to think about when you are embarking on a quest to take great black and white photos with a camera phone. These are some of the more obvious ones:
- Abide By the General Rules of Photography – Just because you're planning on turning shots into black and white doesn't mean you can afford to take mediocre shots. Abide by general photography rules such as the rule of thirds and make sure your composition is good. Improving a good shot post-production is much better than saving a bad one. The limitations of a camera phone are large enough without magnifying them with poor initial images.
- Get Closer – I know we repeat this one a lot, but so few people take heed. You usually need to totally fill the frame of your shot with the subject. Don't be afraid to get closer to whatever you are taking a photo of because that is how you fill the shot. Don’t stand back. Walk up to it!
- Consider the Shadows – Black and white shots can often be enhanced if they have incorporated shadow. Consider shooting in the Golden Hours to make sure there is plenty of shadow around for you to shoot.
- Get Good at Post-Production – As most camera phones shoot in colour, you're going to have to learn how to manipulate photos on your computer. For most people, this means investing in Photoshop, or if the wallet doesn't stretch that far, downloading a free copy of GIMP. If you don’t know how to use these programs then a simple search for “Photoshop tutorial” or “GIMP tutorial” in Google will land you with some great starting points. You can also consider buying any one of hundreds of photographic magazines that come with CD-Roms that usually include specific Photoshop tutorials.
- Play with Contrast – Black and white photography allows you to play with the contrast of an image in a way that colour doesn't. Look at the above image – parts of it are almost entirely pitch black (such as the legs). This can sometimes produce a very impressive effect in your images.
Online Resources for Camera Phone Black and White Photography
B&W Camera Phone Photography Flickr Group – Another great Flickr group that produces some sensational shots (like the one above). It shows you exactly what can be achieved using camera phones as well as gives a lot of ideas for subjects and compositions that you can try to replicate.
How to Create High Contrast Black and White Images in Photoshop – A great step by step guide for converting your colour images to black and white. Not specific to camera phone photography, but the post production process in Photoshop can be applied to any digital image – be they from a camera phone or a DSLR.
Let’s not make any mistake – camera phone photography in black and white is going to be tough. But if you eliminate as many random variables as possible by adhering to the general rules of photography and then hone your post production skills, you will still be able to come up with pretty good photos. Don’t be afraid to try!