Black and white headshots are a nice way to stand out from the crowd on social media. In our recent interview with Yumi Wilson, of LinkedIn, she stated a preference for black and white in some instances. Black and white, ironically, can say you are more creative or that you think outside the box. Here are some tips for Black and White headshots.
– Take the shot with black and white in mind.
– Think contrast rather than color.
– Use a white or black background.
– Use the right conversion techniques in Photoshop
Take the shot with black and white in mind.
Tell your photographer you are thinking about black and white. This may help in selecting backgrounds and clothing. A white background will look better for someone with medium or dark hair, setting off the subject from the background. If you have very light hair, you may want a darker background. Different colors play as grey in a black and white. Some blues can look almost white. Red can become medium grey or even black depending on what filters are used in photoshop to process the image.
Photographer tip: If you know your photos will be used as black and white, shoot with your camera showing you a black and white image on the screen.
Think contrast rather than color.
While a cyan blouse against a red backdrop might be really dramatic, in black and white it may be two identical shades of grey. Make sure there is a difference in the darkness and lightness of items. There is no reason to do black and white if everything is medium grey.
Use the right conversion techniques in Photoshop
This section is for photography geeks. There are countless ways to perform black and white conversion, but here is what I like. In photoshop, after you have performed all your other techniques like retouching, spotting, global adjustments, etc., use the Black & White adjustment layer. Hit the auto button on the adjustment panel. This often does a very good job of balancing the black and white adjustments based on the colors in the spectrum. Play with the color sliders to get the image looking the way you want. If the subject has a blue shirt, for instance, play with the blue to make the shirt as dark or as light as you want.
Next add a curves layer. Increase the contrast in the image to make it pop. I like to set a point in the middle of the curve, then pull the upper half up and the lower down. Move them around until it looks the way you want.
Finally, group these layers into one group. Label it B&W. Then you can shut off all black and white conversion layers at once if you want to save a flat jpg for color and one for black and white. By having the separate contrast layer for Black and White, your original color photo is unaffected by your changes and you only had to save one layered PSD file.
These black and white portraits were created at our San Francisco Headshot Day.