Angle: How to Make a B&W Photo More Film-Noir

To mimic the film-noir style isn’t just simply adding a black and white filter to the coloured photos. Apart from lighting aspect, another key feature that I personally believe that makes a B&W photo a film noir one, is the angle.

When browsing the images from the web, I find out that most of the film noir photos are either in strange camera angles, or only part of the picture. And the angle feature, in my point of view, is basically composed of these two categories. 

Strange Camera Angles: i.e. Dutch Angle

Go back to the very beginning, we might realise the concept of film noir, actually, defines and narrows down the types and themes of movies and photography, on the very first hand, that is,  according to Sasaki’s blog post, the dark and twisty characters, the violence and intricate plots. The photography falling into this category might be born with that hint of mystery or immorality.

Strange angles, here, I specifically focus on the famous Dutch Angle, is frequently used in the photography. 

Let’s first go through the definition of this term. According to the Rule of Thirds Photography’s website:

“Dutch Tilt is a camera angle in which the camera is intentionally tilted to one side. This could be a slight or extreme angle, and it’s used to create a dramatic effect such as disorientation or frantic action.”

It was, firstly and widely ever since, used to depict the madness, exoticism, and disorientation. As mentioned by Mamer, this type of shots is generally used to give an overwhelming sense of the world’s being unbalanced or out of kilter. That is why when the camera is tilted to the other side, the audience will instantly get the moment of tension and an atmosphere of disquiet.

Since we have some general ideas, let us see an example:

The 1949 Move Third Man makes extensive use of Dutch Angles

I also did an experiment on my own photo with the Dutch Tilt techniques. Let us see the contrast:

The one on the left is the original version of, and it brings the audience a quite and peaceful atmosphere. For the right one, I just gave it a little bit of tilt, which makes an instant different: no more peace and no more sense of harmony. Personally, I believe it is more noir. The audience might guess what is happening in the dark, as well as who is watching the empty room.

Partial Picture: 

Not every photo has to obey the classical rule of third.

After getting the general idea of composing the whole image in mind, the photographer can choose to leave the important part out of the frame. I put this under the angle category as I consider that in terms of the broad perspective instead of the, angle just suggests how you compose the picture and how you position the camera.

The audience don’t always see the whole picture.  The beauty of this technique is that you sometimes have to guess what the rest of the scene is showing, which increase the level of suspense, as well as the degree of mystery.

Here is my several tries of a partial picture:



I am not an expert.  But the experiments were so much fun. The “partial picture” methods really add more “noir” to the pictures.

Final Thoughts:

As getting used to the colourful pictures nowadays, it is a bit difficult for me to go back to the B&W photos. Since the colours are non-negotiable, the things we can alternate are the lighting contrast and the angle.

With respect to the strange camera angles, and partial picture composition,  in my opinion, we can kind of replicate the retro style of film-noir. 







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