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The Smashing Book #5

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Beautiful Black and White Photography


If you’ve been following Smashing Magazine for a while, you know that almost all posts from the Monday Inspiration series1 are pretty colorful and eye-catching. This post is an exception. Compared to colorful designs where catchy colors help the design to stand out, in black-and-white designs the ability to stand out depends only on its ability to communicate rather than on its appealing visual presentation.

Indeed, beautiful black and white photography doesn’t attract with its play of colors. Here close attention to composition, lighting, perspective and the context it is shot in are important. Hence, before considering the photos presented below please prepare some patience and time. This post presents some truly excellent examples of beautiful black-and-white photography.

Notice: this post isn’t supposed to showcase the best black-and-white-photos of world’s best photographers; please see it as a modest attempt to inspire designers for experimenting with black and white instead of using a variety of vibrant colors all the time. Hopefully, everybody will find something interesting and unusual for herself or himself.

You may want to take a look at our related posts

All photos belong to the respective owners.

Beautiful Black-And-White-Photography Link

Toni Frissell6 Link

In her legendary photos Toni Frissell impresses with a strong trend toward surrealism or realism. The photo presented below, although in black and white, is both extremely sharp and clear. To achieve such level of clarity in black and white is extremely hard.

Black and White Photography7

Alin Ciortea8 Link

Alin Ciortea presents examples of modern street photography. In black and white, of course.

Black and White Photography9
Black and White Photography10

Birds11 Link

Unfortunately, the photographer is unknown. The photo seems to be taken at exact the right moment from exactly the right angle with a perfect lighting. Black and white can be powerful as well.

Black and White Photography12

Sally Mann13 Link

This photo, titled Candy Cigarette, not just displays something, it tells a story. It is both emotional and beautiful. This is what the originality of black-and-white-photography is all about.

Black and White Photography14

Larry Towell15 Link

This shot was taken in El Salvador. Child with star mask during “Day Of The Dead”. Other child in background rolls tire for repair in garage where he works at an adult’s job. The photo is full of tiredness and stubbornness. Simple motif conveying strong emotions.

Black and White Photography16

Aneta Kowalczyk17 Link

Aneta Kowalczyk makes portrait photography. Some of her photos are provoking, some are strange and some are extremely beautiful. The example below displays the beautiful side of black and white photography.

Black and White Photography18

Gary Winogrand19 Link

Taking a shot just at the right moment.

Black and White Photography20

Larry Louie21 Link

Woman Of Tibet. Realism at its best. Awarded with International Photography Awards in 2007.

Black and White Photography22

Gabriele Caretti23 Link

Tour Eiffel: extraordinary contrast and perspective. Strong, clean and very precise shot.

Black and White Photography24

Ghost Town Charm25 Link

Excellent lighting.

Black and White Photography26

Ansel Adams27 Link

One of the most famous contemporary black and white photographers. Classic!

Black and White Photography28

Maurizio Polese29 Link

Polese’s works pay close attention to small, tiny details. The tones are perfects and compositions are beautiful which is why the photos are presented in this post. Notice the sharp contrast and the lighting at the first image below and the sharp pathway leading to the light in the second one.

Black and White Photography30
Black and White Photography31

Top 10 Rh4ader Black-and-White Photos32 Link

Ten extraordinary black and white photographs sent to the editorial by its readers.

Black and White Photography

Black and White Photography

Black and White Photography

Michele Clement Link

Artistic yet beautiful and extremely powerful shot. Michele Clement is the winner of Black & White Spider Awards 2007 in category “Outstanding Achievement”.

Black and White Photography

Snyder Alison33 Link

This photo has been taken in South Crillon Glacier, Washburn.

Black and White Photography34

Abbas35 Link

Iranian film director Abbas Kiarostami on the hills surrounding the capital, where his film “Taste of Cherry”, which was co-awarded the Golden Palm in Cannes 1997, was shot.

Black and White Photography36

Patrick Figaj37 Link


Black and White Photography38

Jack Radcliffe39 Link

Alison’s life in black and white photos. The significance of these pictures emerges in retrospect. “When my daughter Alison was born, in the tradition of a new parent, I began to photograph her, initially in a separate and private body of work. However, in the process of documenting Alison’s growth, I developed a passionate interest in human relationships and capturing intimate moments in the lives of family and friends.”

Black and White Photography40
Black and White Photography41

Arndt Laude42 Link

Alignment. Sometiems all it takes is to be at the right place in the right moment and take a shot under the right angle. That’s what happened here.

Black and White Photography43

Ralph Gibson44 Link

Staircase is an example of Gibson’s high-contrast, minimalist black and white compositions have influenced a generation of photographers. By isolating the essential elements of a scene, his pictures show a style that is unique and immediately recognizable. [via45]

Black and White Photography46

Elliott Erwitt47 Link

Erwitt, an advertising and journalistic photographer known for his black and white candid shots of ironic and absurd situations within everyday settings — the master of the “indecisive moment”.

Black and White Photography48
Black and White Photography49

Roy Mckeown Link

Snowy Sheep.

Black and White Photography

Adam Hinton Link

Black and White Photography

Van Shnooken Raggen50 Link

Two Warehouses.

Black and White Photography51

Rodney Smith52 Link

Rodney Smith has his own understanding of professional black-and-white-photography. Unusual, abstract and surrealistic works.

Black and White Photography53

Drole Deciel54 Link


Black and White Photography55

Shazeen Samad56 Link

Simple yet excellent composition. This photo manages not just to show something, but to capture a moment of life in all its beauty and vividness.

Black and White Photography57

Scott Bush58 Link

Berk-plage – France. What a sky! A really strange squadron: octopus, teddy bear and skates.

Black and White Photography59

Pedro Meyer60 Link

Pedro Meyer shows the life of people across the globe. This photo was taken in Rio De Janeiro.

Black and White Photography61
Black and White Photography62

Mitch Dobrowner63 Link

Mitch Dobrowner is famous due to his Earth photos.

Black and White Photography64

Black and White Photography65

Black and White Photography66

Black and White Photography67

Robertino Nikolic68 Link

lighting plays with geometry. Or geometry plays with lighting? The winner of the Black & White Spider Awards 2007.

Black and White Photography69

Unknown70 Link

Capturing the right moment at the right point of time.

Black and White Photography71

Bert (Quasebart)72 Link

Perfect timing, perfect lighting. A dreamy shot.

Black and White Photography73

Hughes Leglise-Bataille74 Link

That’s a quite unusual perspective for a photograph.

Black and White Photography75

Santosh Korthiwada76 Link

“No peeping please!” Very powerful, emotional and somehow sad photo.

Black and White Photography77

Rui Palha78 Link

Rui Palha photographs simple people in simple situations. Result: extraordinary photos of simple things surrounding our life.

Black and White Photography79
Black and White Photography80
Black and White Photography81

Watanabe82 Link


Black and White Photography83

Lauren84 Link

Two Tree Hill. The composition looks very surreal, yet powerful and beautiful.

Black and White Photography85

G. Diaz Deleon86 Link

Ventana XIV. Geometric minimalism at its best.

Black and White Photography87

Maurizio Polese88 Link

Escape. Unusual angle, unusual perspective.

Black and White Photography89

Jana Stolzer90 Link


Black and White Photography91

Vega Omer Link

Struggling to survive.

Black and White Photography92

Ezra Caldwell93 Link

Dog snout. Sometimes the moments from our life are the most valuable moments we should enjoy and keep in mind.

Black and White Photography94

Last Click Link

Crossing Lines95 Link

Black and White Photography96

Classics in Lego97 Link

An illustrative summary of iconic pictures with their pairs of Balakov’s Lego figure pictures98 which are reconstructing famous moments in the history of mankind.

Black and White Photography99
Black and White Photography100

Mark Daniel Owen101 Link

I heart you. Do you see what we see?

Black and White Photography102

Sources and Resources Link

Footnotes Link

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Vitaly Friedman loves beautiful content and doesn’t like to give in easily. Vitaly is writer, speaker, author and editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine. He runs responsive Web design workshops, online workshops and loves solving complex UX, front-end and performance problems in large companies. Get in touch.

  1. 1

    Sally Mann is my favorite photographer.

    I was lucky enough to be able to see some of her prints in person at the Guggenheim, and I can honestly say that was the first time a photograph affected me so much!

  2. 2

    In black and white, I always loved the work of David Doubilet.

  3. 3

    Erik Teichmann

    June 9, 2008 4:22 am

    Some of my favorite black and white photos are from English Russia. My particular favorite on this page is this one of a man and his accordion.

  4. 4

    VERY nice collection of photographs. I will be sharing this one…

    I invite anyone interested in black and white photography to check out my father’s work here:

    He takes some pretty stunning black and white photos.

  5. 5


    Im First ^^

  6. 6

    splendid and i’m the second one to comment ^^

  7. 7

    Simply amazing

  8. 8

    Great article!

  9. 9


  10. 10

    good photos, tobad i dont say any from deviantart. They have great bw photo’s aswell

  11. 11

    Beautiful. i saved em all in my inspiration folder! thanks for such a great post Smashingmagazine

  12. 12

    Berk-plage, France, is spelled Berck. Great article, nice moment to read it.

  13. 13

    Wonderful images.

    The ninth photo: the author is Garry Winogrand

  14. 14
  15. 15

    AWESOME. But the word is LIGHTING not LIGHTNING!!!

  16. 16

    Thibaut Allender

    June 9, 2008 4:00 am

    Nice examples.

    The second photo really makes me think about one of my series. More there if you like them ;-)

  17. 17


    June 9, 2008 4:05 am



  18. 18

    Magnifique :-)

  19. 19

    I love the ‘Crossing Line’ picture!

  20. 20

    Candy Cigarette, beautiful shot. It is a boy disguised in girl?

  21. 21

    great shots!! I love “Birds” and the pictures of Jack Radcliffe most.
    beautiful. To me it seems that most of the pictures have a sad, melancholic touch. I like this, however :)

  22. 22

    Amazing… see my pictures: [link][/link]

  23. 23

    You swine!. I’ve been quite happy with my photography of late and now I’m depressed

  24. 24

    Anthem Creative

    June 9, 2008 5:00 am

    Excellent post and stunning photography. I must say though, the most compelling element of black and white photography, in addition to the reasons listed, is the capturing and displaying of the brutally honest emotional value in its subjects. B&W photography can inspire laughter, tears, or any variety of emotional response in a way that no other medium seems to be able to accomplish.

  25. 25

    Really beautiful,


  26. 26

    simply amazing ……
    tired of seeing graphical pic’s nowdayz
    gr8 collection :D

  27. 27

    I’d prefer colored version, some amazing shots there.

  28. 28

    Absolutely amazing shots. The photographers ought to be proud of themselves.

  29. 29


    June 9, 2008 5:45 am

    the piece entitled “birds” is a photomanipulation submitted on approximately 1 year ago. It is not an original photo.

  30. 30

    I love black and white photographs much more than the colored ones.
    They always transport the feelings much purer than with colors.
    Great selection by the way.


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