I love black and white photography, always have! Maybe it stems back to my formative years watching a black and white television or is it something more profound?
Don’t get me wrong, I like colour as well and both have a place. There are photographs where colour make them leap out or the page (or screen), imagine a beautiful sunset for instance. Equally there are photographs that could be either or better as black and white. The decision; which will deliver the greater visual impact.
How, When and Why to Choose?
Well, I guess it is during the editing process, when you start to process the images, pick one and hit the saturation slider. Actually, for me it is not! Never has been. It is at the point of composition through the lens, I see the image in black and white and instantly know the style, the crop and impact the image can deliver. It is instinctive, a gut feeling and about being a visual influencer.
If I unravel the instinct to distinguish some of the factors…
To add drama, instigate an emotionally response or to create a mood. Admittedly, black and white can impart a dark, bleak, sombre or ethereal overtone to a photograph but that does not mean it doesn’t also work for energetic images.
Capturing texture in a photograph can transform an image into something that is visually tactile. Think of wood, especially the bark on a tree or perhaps the skin on the back of a hand. A black and white image can emphasis the contours, the light and dark shades the depth of each groove and contour.
Use of focused light and a pure nebulous black space will draw the viewer into the image. Create a photograph that captures and keeps the attention, perhaps introducing a sense of mystery. A fabulous technique for portraits.
Colour is fabulous but can also distract the viewer from creating an impact and reduce the visual influence. Even a beautiful sunset can be transformed into wonderful textured and dramatic sky changing a photograph into a dramatic landscape. Some even say that whilst the photograph is black and white that they will still visualise the colours in their mind.
Using Black and White
As a professional photographer, photographing a wedding for instance, I will talk about the impact of black and white as an option. It is a part of my style especially effective for documentary photography. Similar to the impact of black with with street photography.
Someone once told me that they were drawn to my photographs because I had captured the pure emotion in the face of a singer. As I recall, this was in a set of black and white images.