I find it interesting as a photographer, when I ask people of my parent’s generation how they would like their prints , they most often say in colour. I think this is because in their day most affordable photography was taken on black and white film. Black and white though has so many qualities that have meant that it had stayed long after the introduction of affordable colour processing:
Black and white images have a timeless quality. Taking away colour also takes away some elements of fashion that date pictures. They have a newspaper reportage feel to them and a straightforward approach to telling a story. Street photography is often black and white. Monochrome declutters the image and the viewers mind, providing less distraction to the eye in a busy scene. Black and white often adds not just technical depth to the image but to the feeling or moment that you want to convey to those looking at the photograph.
There are many ways that you can convert your images to black and white, some more contrasty (ie more black and white with less shades of grey), some softer and grey. Some images work better in black and white. This is often because there are less distractions. Sometimes you can use black and white as a get out if there are peculiar colour casts on your shots. The same basic guidelines on composition, focus and lighting still apply on all pictures so don’t be fooled into thinking a bad shot will suddenly become a good one just because you have taken out the colour!
Take a look at some of ours.. and then show us some of yours!
This picture was taken on a lovely sunny day but I wanted it to feel melancholy and lonely, so I used a harsh black and white conversion to completely change the mood of the shot. She is actually wearing a pretty blue and pink dress and standing in lush green surroundings. Here she looks cold, sad and alone, which was what I want the viewer to take from the image.
This image was taken at a fabulous little beach in Mallorca. Son Caliu, although known to many, it still feels like our secret. We visit our friends who live just a couple of minutes from there and the children love it. This moment in time captured the kids looking off into the distance and wondering who owned the yacht and inevitably asking if we could get one! This image does work in colour due to the strong colours of the sea and sky but to take it back to black and white adds to the feeling of reflection and some quality sibling time don’t you think?
This portrait of groom Chris was taken on the afternoon of his wedding. Things weren’t quite going to plan (this is a good thing to accept on wedding days) but he and his bride were very relaxed and focussed on the reason for the day. I love the sense of anticipation in this window lit portrait. I often shoot in black and white as it removes the background clutter when I am composing the image and encourages me to look at light and shade and form. Here I have left the image in black and white to emphasis the emotion and thoughfulness of someone on the verge of one of life’s big moments.
This is one of my favourite images. My daughter ran across our pine-coloured floor, in her pink ballet shoes. In edit, the obvious thing to do was to put it into black and white as the pine colour and pink just looked odd. I then turned up the shadows and contrast to give it a striking effect. I think an ordinary shot in colour became very effective in black and white.
We love life in colour but we also adore those gorgeous tones you get from black and white photography. The timelessness it lends to images and the emotions it can add are both qualities which we love. Some situations like street photography just become much more compelling in monochrome. There are also subjects like sunsets where on the whole it’s best to avoid as it loses so much of the essence of the scene. But rules are to be broken and experimenting with processing till you find what works for your tastes is one of the joys of the digital darkroom. One thing the TMK ladies can agree on is that selected colour with black and white was never a good look.
So this week I”ve chosen something architectural for my black and white image. I shot this image last summer on an empty beach in North Wales. I got down low to the ground and angled myself to capture the endless ripples of the sand. I like the abstract nature of the image and that in colour you would not see the same definition or gain the same moodiness you feel. And yes, I know it’s wonky – it’s an imbalance I have which has become a bit of a trademark of mine!