Black and white photography


Jonathan and Angela Scott

In a black and white image, composition, contrast, shape, texture and form play the leading roles. Follow the steps below to achieve the timeless quality of monochrome photography.


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Helen Bartlett – Canon Ambassador

Scenes which rely on colour for impact, such as sunsets, are usually best left as colour images, but a black and white treatment can suit a myriad of other subjects. It can be hard to gauge what will work well as a monochrome image, but you can use the Live View display to preview the effect.

Monochrome Picture Style

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There are three ways you can create a black and white image: set your camera to shoot in monochrome, or take a colour photo and either create a black and white copy in the camera or by using external software. Converting to black and white later allows you to change your mind, although shooting in monochrome does save time.

For cameras with Creative Auto (CA) mode, you can choose the Monochrome Ambience option. For more control over the look of your images, select one of the Creative Zone modes: Program (P), Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), Manual (M) or Bulb (B), and choose Monochrome in the Picture Style menu. You can access the Picture Style menu via your camera's main menu or make changes on the Quick Control screen.

Customising the Picture Style

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As with the other Picture Style options, you can customise Monochrome to achieve a range of different looks. To do this, highlight it in the Picture Style menu and press the INFO button.

Filter effect

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There are a couple of options that are unique to the Monochrome setting: Filter effect and Toning effect. Many colours look similar when they’re turned into shades of grey, but the filter effect enables you to emphasise specific colours by making them brighter or darker. Your camera includes four filter effects: yellow, orange, red and green. Each brightens its own colour and darkens other colours by varying amounts.

Yellow filter

Original colourful image of three yellow flowers.
The same image of three flowers but in monochrome with no filter applied.
The same image of three flowers but in monochrome with yellow filter applied.


Yellow filter

This produces the most subtle effect, so it’s well suited to many types of photography. For instance, it can increase the contrast between blue skies and white clouds for more interesting landscape photos, as well as gently lightening pale skin tones.

Orange filter

Original colourful portrait of a young man.
The same portrait but in monochrome with no filter applied.
The same portrait but in monochrome with orange filter applied.


Orange filter

The orange filter can be a good choice for architecture and cityscapes, as it gives a boost to brickwork. It will also lighten pale skin tones and blemishes in a portrait to a greater degree than the yellow filter.

Red filter

Original colourful image of a landscape.
The same image of a landscape but in monochrome with no filter applied.
The same image of a landscape but in monochrome with red filter applied.


Red filter

This produces a strong degree of contrast that often works well for photos taken on summer days, making blue skies darker and emphasising clouds. Increasing the contrast parameter of the Monochrome Picture Style can make the effect more pronounced.

Green filter

Original colourful image of a red leaf.
The same image of a leaf but in monochrome with no filter applied.
The same image of a leaf but in monochrome with green filter applied.


Green filter

Try using the green filter when you’re photographing plants, as it can create contrast between green foliage and flowers or autumn leaves. It will also lighten trees and grass in outdoor scenes, but it will make blue skies look brighter and less dramatic at the same time.

Toning effect

Black and white image of sunrays peaking through clouds with no toning effect.
The same image with sepia toning.
The same image with blue toning.
The same image with purple toning.
The same image with green toning.



Applying a toning effect allows you to add a wash of colour to your monochrome picture. There are four options to choose from: sepia, blue, purple or green. You can combine both filter and toning effects to create striking images.

Remember to return the Picture Style to one of the colour options after you have finished taking black and white photos, otherwise all subsequent pictures will be recorded in mono.

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