Monochrome photographs of wildlife not only capture the excitement of the moment but also give the viewer a surreal view of the world in which the animals live.
There is no doubt whatsoever that photographs shot in black and white are both emotive and dramatic. Using this technique to capture images of wildlife allows the viewer to focus on the main features of the photograph because it eliminates the distraction of colour.
The RAW technique
The best way in which to become accustomed to shooting monochromatic images is to use the *RAW setting. Most top-end digital cameras offer RAW and/or JPEG modes. This means that while a preview of the image will be displayed in black and white, the RAW file will retain all colour information. This technique of stripping colour from an image will enable you to view the photograph without any colour distractions. Shooting in RAW is a perfect solution to training your eye to view images in monochrome.
(*RAW translates into the raw image data that is captured by camera sensors).
Using Lens Filters
Neutral density (ND) filters add a layer of intensity to the image. It controls the light entering the lens, resulting in a higher dynamic range.
Using polarizing filters adds contrast to images and reduces reflections such as water surfaces.
Coloured filters manipulate and boost contrast by darkening and lightening different areas of the image.
Advantages of monochrome in wildlife photography
Colour can be distracting. It interferes with textures, contrasts, lines and patterns contained in the image.
For example, wildlife is often surrounded by dense brush or foliage. Shooting in monochrome eliminates the focus from colour and intensifies concentration on the subject itself – in this case, your wildlife image.
Another advantage is that shooting in black and white is suitable for all lighting conditions. From the harsh glare of the midday sun to the gloom of a dark and overcast day, monochrome can produce fantastic results.
Finally, here is a list of suggestions to elevate the depth and contrast of your black and white images: