Just like with any area of photography, you cannot create a stunning photo in Photoshop – you can only improve upon the content that you have. Since you still need the best possible foundation for editing (your original image), competence with your camera is the most important step in black and white landscapes. This means that the basic principles of landscape photography apply to both black and white and color images – such as composition, rule-of-thirds, using a tripod for long exposures, etc.
However, there are some things to keep in mind specifically for black and white images to get that Ansel Adams quality to your work. Below are a few tips to for working in black and white, and also the most ideal landscape situations that work especially well in this format.
The Importance of Contrast
Since you’re now working in black and white, it’s time to view the world in terms of tones rather than colors. Digital SLR cameras generally don’t capture images in black and white. Even if your camera offers this option, I don’t recommend using it as you can transform your image to black and white more accurately in post processing. With that being said, black and white images will have no color interest whatsoever – their effectiveness will be based on the tones that your colors create. For example, reds will be darker than yellows, so look at your scene in varying scales of lights and darks. The more contrasting tones you have, the greater the interest.
In my image here, you can see that there is a wide tonal range. The lights of the sky contrast with the mediums and darks of the ground, and the slight back-lighting adds texture and interest throughout the entire image as highlights and shadows. I added a touch of sepia to take out the coldness of the black and white.