While the art of photography continues to develop with new technologies and colour capture, the classic aesthetic of black and white photos continues to be a major current of the form. Monochrome images tend to have a distinctive atmosphere, with the emphasis on light and dark, composition and mood.
This post brings together 30 examples of the amazing possibilities of black and white photography, beautiful images to amaze and inspire.
1. Canyon de Chelly, View of Valley from Mountain, 1941 (Ansel Adams)
Ansel Adams was a master of black and white photography, best known for his landscape images of the American West, which reflected his environmentalist sensibilities. This dramatic scene shows a view of Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, taken by Adams in 1941.
2. Elephant with Exploding Dust (Nick Brandt)
Nick Brandt’s photography concentrates on the animals and land of Africa, an attempt to record the wildlife before it disappears completely. In his black and white images of elephants he captures the weight and power of the animals as they interact with their natural habitat.
3. Single Teared Emotion (Megyarsh)
This black and white shot reveals the complexion of the model’s skin in amazing detail, and the crisp shine of the tear about roll down her cheek. The photographer made the image using an Olympus SP350 digital camera.
4. Commuters in Train Station, Chicago, 1949 (Stanley Kubrick)
In addition to his work in film, American director Stanley Kubrick was also a notable photographer, working for Look magazine in the late 1940s. This evocative image of commuters at a train station formed part of an assignment to record the city of Chicago for the magazine, which Kubrick carried out in 1949.
5. A Portrait in Darkness (Sean McGrath)
Photographer Sean McGrath took this moody portrait using his Nikon D80 digital camera.
6. Fashion Model Underwater in Dolphin Tank, Marineland, Florida, 1939 (Toni Frissell)
Fashion and portrait photographer Toni Frissell conducted a long-running series of images of models underwater, such as this exquisite picture of a woman in a dolphin tank at Marineland in Florida, taken in 1939.
7. Leeds Corn Exchange (Paul Stevenson)
Paul Stevenson’s magnificent architectural shot captures the restored Victorian interior of Leeds Corn Exchange with its vast domed ceiling.
8. Whirl and Reach Out (Procsilas)
This image shows another amazing piece of 19th Century architecture, the spiral staircase of the Phare des Baleines Lighthouse on France’s west coast. The coiling perspective was captured by pointing the camera from the floor below the 257 steps that lead to the tower’s viewing gallery and light at the top.
9. Tree in Mist (Per Ola Wiberg)
Per Ola Wiberg’s atmospheric monochromatic shot shows a landscape on the Swedish island of Ekero, the scene shrouded in autumnal morning mist.
10. Yoyogi National Stadium (Guwashi999)
This image shows Japan’s Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo, rendered with the high dynamic range (HDR) process. HDR emphasises the differences in tonality between areas of light and dark, and is particularly effective with black and white images, as we see in this picture with its brooding sky and luminous highlights.
11. Old Man’s Sheep (Kris Haamer)
Photographer Kris Haamer’s captured this shot at Ihasalu, a small coastal village in northern Estonia. The black and white tonality adds to the timeless, rustic quality of the scene.
12. Running through the Gate of Golkonda Fort, Hyderabad (Sukanto Debnath)
This image by Sukanto Debnath shows children dashing through the gates of an Indian fortress, with their blurred movement contrasting nicely with the stillness and detail of the citadel’s gates.
13. Statue at Pere Lachaise Graveyard in Paris (Shadowgate)
There’s a haunting beauty to this statue, found in Paris’s Pere Lachaise graveyard and captured in stark black and white tones.
14. A Change of Scenery (Kevin Dooley)
Photographer Kevin Dooley used his Canon PowerShot G7 camera to capture in fine detail the billowing forms of clouds high above Arizona in this amazing aerial shot.
15. Kids (Esyckr)
There’s a curious quality of light, heightened by the monochrome tonality, in this image of the church of Saint-Etienne-du-Mont in Paris.
16. Heaton Hall Heaton Park Manchester Folly (Waka Jawaka)
This is another local landmark building shot from an unusual angle, in this case the temple in Manchester’s Heaton Park. The sweep of the gravel bathed in light, the detail of the rotunda’s Tuscan columns combine with the dark drama of the stormy sky to striking effect.
17. Recession (Mugley)
In this image, the sharp angles of the Eureka Tower in Melbourne are nicely contrasted against the streaks and fluffs of the clouds above.
18. Barcelona (Bert K)
This image of a Barcelona cloisters has an elegant geometry in the perspective of the arches, shadows and sharp areas of sunlight.
19. Silver Print 14 (Mr Gilles)
This stylish black and white picture carries a suggestion of narrative in the interaction of its simple elements.
20. Tall and Short (Ben Sonkua)
Ben Sonkua’s shot, taken using a Canon EOS 40D in a park in Toronto, features a beautiful pairing of a solitary bench and symmetrically shaped tree.
21. Wings (Frielp)
This action shot captures the detail of the gull in flight with remarkable detail, the sunlight picking out highlights across the bird’s wingtips.
22. Lounging at Boo Bradley’s (Avhell)
This bar room interior was taken using an Olympus E-P1 during a beer festival in the US city of Mobile, Alabama.
23. Clevedon Pier (Me’nthedogs)
The sepia-like quality in this long-exposure digital photograph, combined with the elegant Victorian architecture, lends the image a distinctive old-world feel. The structure is Clevedon Pier in the Bristol Channel.
24. Israel / West Bank / Occupied Territories (Antifluor)
The photographer perfectly captured this moment in time, a boy gleefully leaping through the air, recorded in glorious black and white.
25. Power (Krypty ZA)
This amazing image was made using a very long exposure on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with a wide-angle lens and black and white filter, to capture the stillness of the power plant’s chimneys and the wispy movement of the steam and clouds.
26. Atacando a la iglesia (Zyllan)
In this cleverly composed image the photographer has juxtaposed the spire of St Clement Danes Church in London with an adjacent statue on the Gladstone Memorial, with the tonal pattern across the picture adding to the sense of drama.
27. Hey You! (Calmtwood)
A high-aperture setting on a Canon EOS 400D camera allowed the photographer to capture this delicately detailed study of a baby’s foot.
28. Angela (Tiago Ribeiro)
Tiago Ribeiro’s beautiful black and white portrait balances crisply focused detail on the model’s face with brilliantly handled areas of ‘bokeh’ blur across the background.
29. Laughing Horse (Pdam2)
The photographer used an Olympus Zuiko digital camera to capture this charming equine portrait.
30. Curled (Brunkfordbraun)
This superb macro shot of unusually curled petals of a flower’s petals is made all the more effective by its delicate monochrome tonality. This image, along with all those we have seen in this post, demonstrates the stunning possibilities of black and white photography.