When to convert to Black and White

I consider black and white nature photography to be a very emotional interpretation of a scene. There are no vibrant colors to distract. It almost feels like a form of sensory deprivation. When the color is removed, the other senses kick in stronger and you become aware of tones, textures, shapes, and patterns. Some images convert to black and white much stronger than others. Below are some tips of what to look for in a RAW file to successfully convert it into B/W.

Black & White Nature Photography: Textures and Contrast

Black & White Nature Photography: Textures and Contrast

Muted Tones

When you think sunset is going to be amazing but it ends up being flat with no color, this is where you can salvage your time and switch to your “black and white brain”. I start looking at my environment in black and white tones. I look for the darkest blacks and the brightest whites and try to find a scene that has strong contrast in the tones. These images convert well to black and white.


Take some time to observe the textures in your location. Is there smooth sand with curves? Are there rough, jagged rocks in your foreground and wispy clouds in the sky? Look around the environment and notice the differences in the objects you can physically touch. These little variances create interest in a black and white image.

Black and White Nature Photography to bring out textures in the clouds

Black and White Nature Photography to bring out textures in the clouds.


Look for anything that visually repeats itself. Lines carved into the sand at a beach, stripes in layered rocks, leaves that have fallen on the ground, etc. Simple nature patterns can make very dynamic intimate B/W nature photos.


Leading lines, curves, triangles, etc. … look for these shapes because they make strong anchors in landscape photography. Look for anything that draws your eye out into a scene to visually explore it. This applies to both color and black and white images. It is a crucial element for any photograph to be successful.

Black and White Nature Photography to enhance shapes.

Black and White Nature Photography to enhance shapes.

When the Scene is Iconic or Timeless

Some nature photography locations just scream to be in B/W. One of my favorite places for this is Yosemite. It is such an iconic location that is just stunning converted into black and white. Those granite monoliths are nostalgic classics. A strong black and white image is classically timeless and rich locations like Yosemite fall into this genre.

Black and White Nature Photography to create moody photos.

Black and White Nature Photography to create moody photos.

When You Want to Convey a Particular Mood

When I’m out shooting,a dark and stormy day makes me feel heavy and moody. This is the feeling I want my viewers to experience as well. Some feelings are better conveyed in B/W vs. color. The dark and stormy picture screams for black and white. A sad dreary mood also looks stronger in black and white conversion. So you just have to determine how a scene makes you feel, as it also dictates your post-processing choices.

These are some of my tips for when to convert to black and white. My main suggestion is to just be very observant of the roll color plays in a scene. If it distracts or doesn’t add anything, usually black and white is the way to go!

About Author Lace Andersen

Lace Andersen is a Kauai-based landscape photographer. She grew up in the farm town of Templeton, California and majored in Graphic Communications. She started taking basic photography classes in 2008, and discovered her passion to create and be outdoors. The major turning point in her life was April 2012 during a family vacation to Kauai. She decided to rent her own car and spend the entire week photographing the island from sunrise to sunset. It was a life changing experience. Kauai either accepts you or spits you back out. Lace was lucky to be accepted by the island and relocated immediately. She has built an award winning portfolio over the past four years and has been published numerous times. When she doesn’t have a camera in hand, you can find her hiking with friends, camping, and playing ultimate frisbee.