BLACK AND WHITE HOLLAND – 6 photography tips for dummies

Some things are just meant to be black and white.

After my recent first try at black and white photography, I surfed some photography websites and was given some useful advice for beginners, which I am very happy to pass on.

Illustrating my new-found knowledge required trawling back through my albums and looking for shots that I thought could benefit from getting the black and white treatment.

TIP 1: Shoot in colour first.

This is easy, since it’s what I’ve always done. I even managed to find the icon on my photo editing program that with a single click turns a basic colour snap into an evocative black and white image, thus making me look like an artist who knows his stuff.

Broek in Waterland. I liked this shot in colour too, but the pattern of the clouds reflected in the water made it suitable for this experiment.

TIP 2: Look for patterns and textures.

Fine, I sometimes remember to look for patterns, or things in rows. Textures aren’t quite as apparent when shooting colour; I need to look out more for stone walls and shadows on rough bark.

Kalfjeslaan, Amsterdam. This bike path is on my regular ride out of Amsterdam, and always looks good...and car-free.

TIP 3: Silhouettes work well in black and white.

This one is no problem for me. I’m not good at controlling depth of field, so my eye is often drawn to a strong silhouette. That lonely tree on the horizon is a bit of cliché, but it works time and again.

Early morning near Nes aan de Amstel.

TIP 4: Look for interesting cloud formations.

My brother-in-law and keen cyclist Jaap is fond of saying that ‘Nederland has the most beautiful skies in the world.’ Is this just because in a flat land the sky is more noticeable, or is there another explanation?

Vecht River near Weesp. This was an unremarkable shot in colour, but the clouds, trees and water give it the feel of a classic Flemish landscape painting.

TIP 5: Black and white can make old-fashioned things look older.

Holland is an excellent place for this. I’m usually too shy to shove my camera into the face of a senior citizen saying, ‘Your wrinkles will look wonderful in black and white’, but there is no shortage of old buildings.

Cafe, Edam. I made a mess of the white balance in the colour version of this one, so everything came out yellow. It's a nice old cafe and in black and white it looks even better.

TIP 6: Shoot RAW if your camera will allow this. It gives you more possibilities for reworking shots afterwards.

This assumes I know something about reworking shots in the first place. More surfing of photography websites or reading of handbooks is required.

Dawn on the bridge at Overtoomse Sluis, Amsterdam. I've used this photo before, because it's one of my favourites. It may even be better in the creeping colour of dawn.

There is much I still have to learn about photography, black and white in particular, so feel free to add your own tips below. Maybe someone can save me the trouble of reading all those instructions.


Filed under Holland, travel photography

17 responses to “BLACK AND WHITE HOLLAND – 6 photography tips for dummies

  1. Stan

    After downloading a colour image to their computer,most people will make some adjustments….cropping, changing contrast and colour balance at least.If they then switch the image to black and white,they should revisit the contrast.At the very least, try changing the contrast and see if it improves the photo.It often will..


    Highly recommend Adobe Lightroom if you want to get serious about adjusting your shots. Especially if you take on Tip 6 and shoot RAW more often.

  3. Love your photos. Great tips too. I’ll be keeping them in mind on my next shoot. You have a very creative eye for photography. Good work!

    • Thanks, David. Nice to hear my eye is good, but I fear I lack the patience to learn technique and to spend time fiddling with the camera. I’ll keep doing my best and hope for steady improvement.

  4. These are terrific images, Richard. I too like black-and-white photographs, but haven’t practiced it much, so your tips are a very useful nudge of encouragement.

    • Your encouragement is always welcome to me, too, Reggie. It’s all a learning curve.

      It’s particularly interesting to see shots which were pretty ordinary in colour (the Vecht River and café in Edam above, though I have plenty of average shots to choose from!) look much better in black and white.

  5. I haven’t tried this. I don’t even know how to crop a photo. I guess I should learn to do more than point and shoot?

    • You’re doing very well just pointing and shooting, Debra.

      I suppose the art is in making the shot work when pointing and shooting at something which is not obviously beautiful or interesting.

      This is of course seldom a problem in Italy!

  6. Great pictures – I like them!

  7. Great tips Richard! B&W simplicity is such a beauty!

  8. Great reminder tips… My favorite: early morning near Nes aans de Amstel

  9. I think you’re doing quite well. I like these.

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