How to Take Stunning Black and White Photos

written by Georgia Schumacher 14 October 2014

In today's digital world, taking a photograph may seem easier than ever. For the more advanced photographers, there’s Photoshop, but, even for the novice, there are countless apps that can add colors, tints, and filters to photos to give photos a unique, colorful flair. In reality, however, there's nothing more classic than the traditional black & white photo -- the original two-tone photo that made photography a classic art form in the first place.

Want to know more about taking black and white photos? Check out these simple tips below. For more in-depth information and guidance from our experienced instructors, consider enrolling in our photography classes and earning your degree or certificate.

1. Learn to look for lines

In a color photograph, color can guide a person's eye. The same isn't so with black and white photographs. Thus, to capture an impressive image, you should observe lines, shapes and shadows -- not color. A great way to practice is to watch black and white movies and see what images in the movie are visually pleasing.

2. Take advantage of texture

Because you won't have color to give your photos dimension, photographing a subject with texture helps make your photo stand out. Consider antique objects that are worn, brick walls and other objects with contrasting textures.

3. Contrast helps

Color photos with tons of high contrast are often unpleasant to look at. The opposite occurs for black and white photos, where high contrast can create staggering differences between blacks and whites and give the photo extra dimension. You can also bump up the contrast in your photo through the editing process if you're not happy with the original image's contrast.

4. Photograph patterns

Items with patterns are great subjects for black and white photos. Color is an extra dimension in a photo of a pattern, and it often distracts the human eye from fully processing the beautiful symmetry of the pattern. In black and white, patterns tend to be extremely eye-catching and dramatic.

5. Go for gloomy days

Of course it's possible to take good black and white photos on sunny days, but the best days for black and white photography are often gloomy, gray days when the light is flat or soft. This is the opposite of color photography, which often benefits from bright sunlight.

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6 Photography Projects to Try This Weekend

written by Georgia Schumacher 20 August 2014

Ah, the upcoming weekend -- a time to relax, unwind, and indulge in extracurricular pursuits. For those of you in photography classes (or if you’re just a photography enthusiast), the weekend presents an excellent opportunity to hone those camera skills with some creative photography projects. Here are 6 unique projects to take on this weekend with your camera.

1. Street candid

Carnivals, fairs, and general outdoor activities all provide ample opportunities to snap candid photographs of people in interesting environments. Candid shots are not only unexpected and intriguing, but they also allow the photographer to experiment with creativity, composition, and themes.

Tip: Acclaimed photojournalist Robert Capa said, "If your photos aren't good enough, then you're not close enough." Don't be afraid to get close to your subjects.

2. Abandoned building

Abdandoned building photo At the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes the absence of humans can enhance a photograph. Abandoned buildings make excellent settings for times when you want to capture a spooky or mysterious mood.

Tip: A flashlight makes an excellent accessory for both navigating throughout the building and adding lighting effects. A wide-angle lens is also helpful for capturing larger rooms in their entirety.

3. Silhouette shot

Silhouette photography is a simple, yet stunning way to capture a scene. With this method, the subject of the shot is underexposed to the point of appearing black against a lit background. While silhouettes are often associated with human subjects, don't hesitate to capture flowers, buildings, or animals with this technique.

Tip: Dress your model in sheer clothing for an experiment in textural layers, and make sure to get the exposure right to enhance the silhouette.

Leaves - Macro

4. Macro shot

A macro shot involves taking a detailed, close-up image of an object, such as an insect, flower, or circuitry. Generally, you'll want to get within a foot of your subject to capture its intricacies.

Tip: Make sure to use a lens that's equipped for macro focus. Most digital cameras have macro modes built in, while professional cameras require a separate macro lens.

5. Light writing

Another innovative way to play with lighting is light writing, which involves capturing moving light against a darker background. Use a long exposure and either a self-timer or remote shutter if you're working alone. Move a singular-point light source (such as a laser pointer, flashlight, sparkler, or glow stick) through the space to write words, make a halo, or outline a silhouette.

Tip: Your background doesn't have to be completely black, and it can often help to make the photograph more intricate. Use your creativity to incorporate the background into the overall content of the picture.

6. Astrophotography

Nothing is more beautiful than the night sky, but a heavy concentration of city lights blocks stars from view. In order to photograph the stars, seek out a location with as little light pollution as possible. A long exposure with a fast lens will help to capture the image, and, considering that the planet is constantly moving, a wider field of view is helpful for beginners.

Tip: Follow the "Rule of 600," which says that in order to avoid blurry star trails, you can calculate your exposure time in seconds by dividing 600 by the focal length of the lens used.

Interested in photography? Find out what you could learn and what photography classes you could take as a student in one of our programs!

How to Capture Mouth-Watering Food Photographs

written by Georgia Schumacher 20 June 2014

Do you delight in creating new appetizing masterpieces in the kitchen? Do you take pride in the color and appearance of your culinary accomplishments? If you want to remember more than the lingering flavors after a meal, perhaps you might consider trying your hand at food photography. With some guidance, the proper technology and techniques, and a bit of practice, you too can produce fabulous images that let you document the gastronomical miracles occurring within your kitchen, or someone else’s.

Get started with these tips, consider taking photography classes to expand your skill set, and practice with other enthusiasts.

Choose a camera with a good macro setting.

Most of your food photography is up close and personal to capture the textures, colors, and shapes of the food. A camera with a good macro lens and feature set allows you to take the focal range within a few inches of the subject you’re photographing. This brings all of those details into crisp, clear relief in the photos.

Master basic lighting skills.

Most photography classes provide extensive information on lighting techniques, the appropriate type of lighting for different situations, and tools you can use to direct the light. White paper and even cheesecloth help out with food photography in the kitchen. Ideally, a kitchen would have a great deal of natural light, but if it doesn’t or you’re working in a professional kitchen, daylight light bulbs provide a similar lighting environment. Consider using a tripod when light conditions aren’t ideal and increasing the shutter speed so you have an appropriate amount of light coming through the aperture.

Work on your plating.

If you want to create exceptional food photography, look at the plating designs that high-end restaurants use to make their food look irresistible. You might not have a food stylist waiting around for your photo shoot, but you can use their techniques to help elevate your home food photography to the next level.

Mix and match serving platters and backdrops.

Some food simply looks better on a plain white plate; others look good with a complex backdrop. It requires a bit of trial and error, but taking a look at some of the popular food photography blogs will give you plenty of composition ideas.

Capture the entire process.

Don’t just snap a picture of the cooking conclusion. Take photos of the ingredients, the preparation, and the cooking process. This helps the viewer get an idea of how the entire cooking process goes, instead of guessing at the way the dish comes together.

Keep it clean.

Wipe away any drips, grease, and smudges that may end up on the edge of your plates when you’re putting the food together. You want every part of the food placement on the plate to be deliberate, so take a second look at your plating before you start snapping pictures.

Explore our photography programs at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh -- Online Division.

Finding a Picture Perfect Place for Your Photo Shoot

written by Georgia Schumacher 22 May 2014

When it comes to finding the perfect spot for a photo shoot, your main consideration is mostly simply what kind of picture you want to take and the emotions and atmosphere you wish to capture. Luckily, as you’ll learn in our photography classes, you can always find ways to capture the imagery you -- and your clients -- so desire by accounting for and adjusting to important factors like those discussed below.

Light it Up

In every photography class you’ve taken or blog you’ve encountered, you've heard it hundreds of times: lighting is everything when it comes to photography. George Eastman is quoted as saying that, "Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light... and you will know the key to photography." Eastman certainly knew a thing or two about photography: he founded the Eastman Kodak Company, after all.

Artificial Intelligence

As a photographer, you'll want to pay close attention to your lighting sources. First, decide if your location will require you to rely on sunlight or an artificial glow via overhead spotlights or lamps. If your daytime shoot is blinding you and your subject, you can use a polarizing filter or lens hood to reduce the light. The polarizing filter will reduce sun glare reflecting off of shiny objects, and the lens hood cuts down on lens flare (also known as those strange orbs that show up in photos taken under bright sunlight).

Flash Forward

When shooting outdoors, you'll want to avoid backlighting your subject, or placing him or her in front of the sun (which often happens in those difficult to capture sunset photo shoots). As a general rule, if you wish to have the sunset or light in the background, you'll have to rely on your flash.

Time is of the Essence

Photography is a fun artistic escape, but that doesn't mean you can sleep in! When determining the right location, you'll have to consider timing.

The Golden Rule

When shooting outdoors, aim for scheduling your photo shoots around what’s sometimes called the golden hour. This perfect lighting -- found during the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset -- isn't described as magical for nothing. You have two opportunities each day to capture its flattery, which is especially lovely in portrait work. Plus, this also means that you actually can sleep in, night owls.

Private Eyes

Timing also plays a crucial role when conducting photo shoots at public spots. Your schedule will change drastically depending on whether you wish to capture a quiet landscape or one filled with commuters. When doing portrait shoots, make sure to keep your subject's comfort in mind, as busy backgrounds can intimidate models and interfere with getting a great shot. Make sure to check the weather forecast, also. Nothing can ruin a great set-up like a downpour, but if you do get caught in the elements, remember that spontaneity has its photographic perks.

Core Content

In order to best capture your ideal scene, take the time to get to know and understand your subject or desired mood beforehand. What feelings do you hope to conjure in the image? The atmosphere of your location is key to producing the visual you seek.

Flattery Gets You Everywhere

When photographing people, consider what colors would look best around them or what parts of their personality your images should showcase. Brainstorm what colors, mood, and contrast you hope to present in a landscape shot. This will help you narrow down your location based strictly on aesthetics.

Plan for Some Surprises

The more prepared you are artistically, the easier your shoot will prove. Again, that doesn't mean spontaneity isn't encouraged! Go with your instincts, and don't get stressed over bad moments or imperfect conditions. Learning to handle the unexpected moments and challenges only make you wiser and more experienced.

Interested in taking photography classes? Learn more about the certificate and degree programs in the area of photography offered by The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division.

Student Work Featured for National Photo Month

written by Georgia Schumacher 6 May 2014

In honor of May being National Photo Month, we're featuring three artwork submissions from students who are taking photography classes in one of the programs offered at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh -- Online Division.

April Carlson photo
Photo by April Carlson
Student, Associate of Science in Photography

Chris Rogers photo
Photo by Christopher Rogers
Student, Bachelor of Science in Photography

Nick Chill photo
Photo by Nicholas Chill
Student, Associate of Science in Photograhy

Want to see your work on our site?

For the chance to have your artwork featured on our blog, website, or social media pages, submit your work at and complete the required release form.

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