Black & White Macro Photographs

Hello everyone,

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving….I did  🙂

Today I would like to talk about how to photograph Macro in Black and White.  I really enjoy printing my B & W (black & white) photographs, they have an elegant quality to them; but there are several factors you must pay attention to while photographing macro.  Let’s talk about these factors so you can produce a beautiful & elegant photograph.

When I was taught to shoot B & W, we didn’t have digital cameras.  The requirement was that we must have full tonal zones and shoot corner to corner in focus with no over or underexposed areas.   Well, if you have read my blog posts and seen the photographs I produce now, you will see that I have changed a bit on my educated style of photography, but, and I stress the “But”….I do believe that you must learn how to photograph correctly and then play around and be more creative.  Back in the day, we used to dodge and burn areas of the photo in the darkroom to fix the photo, but today most of us shoot digital and use the computer to fix pictures.  I must say that software has improved so much and I’m happy for that.  When I was researching for this post, I went back to some of my info on how-to-photograph digital B & W.  I couldn’t believe how outdated the info was!  So always, always, research and see what’s out there…the photo field is changing constantly now that we are in the digital age.

So I’ll stop talking about the past and now talk about today’s info and what I do to create that spectacular, awesome B & W photo 🙂

First, I want you to read up on the Zone System.  It’s important to this post that you understand the tonal range of a photograph in B & W.

Remember, to look at the photos click on them and to get back to the blog use your back arrow key.

Second, when you photograph digitally you must pay attention to noise, especially when you want a black and white print and it’s a macro shot.  We have a double whammy when it comes to noise!! (Long exposures and the look of the close up print.) So please pay attention to this and take the time to add light to your subject, if needed and change your camera settings. My camera has a noise control for long exposures; if you have this on your camera, enable it. If your camera has the capability to shoot B & W and you’re not sure how the picture will look then go ahead and change it to photograph B & W. I don’t recommend this…only do this if needed because you can change a color photo to B & W but you can’t change a B & W to color!

Third, when photographing macro, pay attention to the balance of the photograph. The photo below is a standard shot of a family (my family), nothing spectacular about the photo but you do notice that my husband’s color is red compared to the rest of us. I could fix his face but I decided to make this a black & white photo for our Christmas card and to tell you the truth…I’d rather have this in B & W :0)



Because you will be photographing macro…I want to stress that when you print you will notice imperfections more than a photograph that is like the example above and that I gave you this example of my family portrait because I want you to understand as we shoot closer and closer to a subject, the more going on in the photo, the more distracting it can be.  Unless you have some balance to your form, shapes, lines, textures & patterns, your photo can just be a picture with no meaning to it, just a blob of visual junk.  What’s nice about black and white photography is if you have that wonderful textured photo or any of the above styles I mentioned, B & W will enhance those styles. Color can be more distracting in a macro shot…when you’re in doubt change it to B & W, you may be surprised with the results.

Fourth, I recommend you take the time and photograph in RAW format.  This way you will have more control in adjusting your contrast and can achieve a full range of zones.

Of course to achieve a great macro you will be using a sturdy tripod and a cable release, correct….read my previous posts on How to Photograph Close-Up if you didn’t know this. Just be careful to take your time shooting your macro.  If you want all of your picture in focus you may need extra lighting or you can shoot a variety of pictures and merge them together (I’ll have an article on this at a later time).  If your exposures are underexposed you’re going to have problems, so even if you overexpose a bit that’s ok…. I feel it’s better to overexpose (not blown out) than to underexpose.   Check your histograms on your camera.    I found a couple of sites if you want to read up on Histograms (GOOGLE) to make sure you haven’t under or over exposed your subject.

When you shoot RAW you can adjust your white balance and exposure easier. I use Adobe Lightroom to develop my photographs. I absolutely LOVE Lightroom!!!! My post production is fast and fun 🙂

If you want to try this program for a month click here, it’s worth it!!

If you would like more information on Adobe Lightroom check out this link.

I decided to work with this shot…I like the soft feel of the candlelight. So I went to my Lightroom program and developed this picture to Grayscale:

I liked the lines of the pine so I played with the various tools Lightroom offers. The key is to play and learn from mistakes. Lightroom will not damage your photo, so play! You will acquire an eye for your own style of work and definitely understand what you’re doing. I read this great book on Lightroom by Scott Kelby, “The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Book for Digital Photographers”. Check out Amazon or your local library and read up on the program.

Once I adjusted this in Lightroom I opened it up in Photoshop:

I wanted more contrast to the photo and I like the curves setting to work with this in more detail.  Next, I flatten the image and the last thing I do is sharpen the photo.  In photoshop I went to filter/sharpen/unsharp mask and made my adjustments:

This is the finished product… cropped a bit off the top. I like this in B & W, the lines of the pine draw your eyes up to the candle light.

Sullivan J Photography

This last example shows you how color can sometimes be distracting.   Unless you’re an interior designer and want the colors to match the floor plan, this could be a nice pic, but personally I like this photo in B & W.

Sullivan J Photography

My adjustments to this final photo were done exactly like the photo of the candle-light.

Sullivan J Photography

Today I discussed some important things to remember while photographing Macro B & W’s.  Remember, that a macro photograph/print will show more problem areas.


  • Learn about the zone system.
  • Pay attention to Noise.
  • Pay attention to balance; your textures, lines, shapes & form of the subject(s).
  • Photograph in RAW format.
  • Sharpen image.

I also would like you to try Lightroom for a month…  I promise you will absolutely love this Adobe product!  Of course if you have any questions or other info to add to this post, please feel free to comment.

Hope you all  have a wonderful holiday season this year!!




7 Comments on “Black & White Macro Photographs”

  1. Heather says:

    I really blog too and I am creating a little something similar
    to this excellent blog post, “Black &
    White Macro Photographs | SJP – Tips & Lessons”. Do you really mind if I
    personallyincorporate several of your suggestions?
    Thanks for the post ,Daniele

  2. Kiri says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I am constantly learning new tips & tricks and this article was jam-packed!

  3. […] Black & White Macro Photogaphs […]

  4. iPhoto | Digital Definition for Photographers… is launched! Free web photo album online for my photos sharing. Tutorials of light and large format photography on the net….

    • My Aunt uses IPhoto and I highly recommend it! She has so much fun producing calendars, Christmas cards and other goodies. Definitely check out iPhoto if you use an Apple computer, it’s really easy to use.

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