Think about the non-color visual design elements of your image. Without color the components of visual design become that much more important. Look at the lines in the image. Are they horizontal? Vertical? Diagonal? Do they form a pattern? Rhythm or repeating elements in a photo are interesting, with a break in the repetition being even more interesting. Also look at the texture, shapes, and forms in the image. Concentrating on these will take your mind off the color and enhance your ability to “see” and think in monochrome.
Train your brain for black and white by comparing the same images in both black and white and color. Most photo software lets you go back and forth between images or look at them side-by-side. A good way to teach yourself how to visualize in black and white is to look at the same image both ways. Do this with as many images as you can. I would include images that you initially intended to be black and white as well as those that were not intended that way. Sometimes you will discover great black and white images that weren’t shot with that purpose. More importantly it will ultimately help you be able to look at a color scene in the world and visualize it as a black and white image.
~Ashley Robinson from her article Digital Black and White Photography Tips and Techniques
Prolific writer of photography tips Jim Harmer shares some guides in his article 15 Tips for Stunning Black and White Photography. I will just list some of them and urge you to go over his very enlightening write-up.
Here is a partial listing:
- Shoot in RAW.
- To visualize in black and white, only pay attention to lines, shadows, and shapes.
- Pay special attention to noise.
- Look for contrast.
- Find a wide range of grays.
- Watch for texture.
- Look for patterns.
- Long exposures love black and white.
- B&W isn’t a replacement for bad lighting, but it can soften the blow.
With today’s digital cameras and powerful image editing programs, it is very easy to experiment in black and white. Some photographers find their “voice”, vision and style through this classic medium. It forces photographers to “see” more and look deeper for fine nuances and interesting characteristics in subjects, as opposed to shooting haphazardly in color, and letting the color element speak for the whole image. You have the tools of discernment and insight in black and white photography. Use them skillfully.