Black & White Form Photography


Form is a powerful compositional technique in photography. This element captures a three-dimensional subject in a way that achieves depth within a photograph. This post will explore Neographic Media’s journey to successfully capturing form in a photograph.


The first step is to decide on a subject. Given that this is a beginner’s guide to photographing form, we kept it simple with a white subject against a black background. Limiting color minimizes distractions when trying to achieve depth. We decided on an origami swan out of white paper. Below is the exact YouTube tutorial from Origami Kiyoshi:

Origami Kiyoshi teaches viewers an original origami swan design
origami swan on desk
Our swan after following Origami Kiyoshi’s tutorial

Now that we have our subject, it is time to consider your lighting. An important aspect to consider when photographing form as well as in black-and-white, is to avoid harsh lighting. The subtle tonal gradation from soft lighting creates the necessary depth for form photography and engagement for black-and-white photography.

We took advantage of indirect natural lighting for this particular photograph. A white piece of paper was used as a bounce card to soften the light projected onto the subject. Below is the series shots we captured:

screenshot of camera gallery with raw CR2 swan photos
Raw form photos pre-editing

Note how the photos above all utilize a unique angle. This is completely intentional. When photographing form, it is important to capture multiple angles of your subject in one image. This way, the subject appears three-dimensional and the image takes on the quality of depth. Otherwise, the resulting photograph may be flat. Explore your subject and experiment with angles.


The final photograph utilizes composition, soft lighting, and a shallow depth of field to create dimension. Combined, all these techniques create depth, which is essential to capturing form. Of course, some editing took place to develop bright whites, deep blacks, and endless shades of grey in between. Below is the final photo:

final black-and-white origami swan form photograph
Final 20″x16″ black and white photograph post-editing

The subject practically pops off of the background. It appears as though the viewer could reach into the photo. Another quality of the photo that we wanted to draw attention to is that the viewer has no sense of proportion. Considering that the minuscule subject, this was intentional. We wanted the photo to have a grand and majestic feel.


Form is may be a confusing concept at first, but it can be the difference between a lifeless photo to a captivating one. Over time, these techniques will intuitively appear in your own photography. Imagination and practice are key.