Photographers use light and shadow to "draw" an image. Black-and-white portraiture relies heavily on values and the contrast between them to communicate an impression of the subject. Take several photographs of a person, lighting them so that there are different ranges of value (from high contrast to flat) and different moods created as a result.


Self-Portrait by Vivian Maier


  • Ask someone to be your subject for a photo shoot, explaining that you will be changing the lighting of the environment to depict various moods. They should think of themselves as an actor, but reassure them that they will always be able to accept or reject photos they don't like.
  • Using a camera, or the camera on your phone or tablet, place your subject in front of a simple, neutral background.
  • Photograph them from different angles. Ask them to change their expressions, move in close and farther away, etc.
  • Change the direction of the light or the placement of your subject in regards to their distance from the light source.
  • Bring your photos into one of the apps below, or use the editing software of your choice, and manipulate levels, tones or contrast.


Adobe Photoshop Elements

PicsArt Photo Studio


PIXLR Editor



  • Share your photos with friends and invite them to assign a title, story or poem to each one based on the emotion or feeling conveyed by the values. Ask them to incorporate what they see and what the subject may be thinking. If your subject is comfortable, post your photos online and tag #ArtSchoolElements.