It’s not just Black and White

When people talk about black and white photography there is always a fair amount of disagreement, objectivity and often a decent amount of misconception. I just want to quickly give our perspective on the issue in a non-pretentious and (hopefully) simple way.

I say non-pretentious because people do get more than a little snooty when talking about the issue. Some people talk about it as a whole different “art-form” and some purists will even argue that its the only way to take truly authentic photographs. These people will probably be the same who insist on using rolls of film and developing their own photographs in their home dark room, Red Dragon style.

The other opinion we had come across is that a black and white photograph is just a colour photograph thats had its colour taken out of it, and that anyone can just do it with any photo as an almost arbitrary button click.

I have had to think a little about my view on black and white photos, and I think I have developed my own understanding of why we select some images to turn into a monochromatic photo rather than leave it in colour.

There are basically two reasons why I would give a black and white image rather than a colour image:

The first is genuinely practical and simple, and involves very little explanation: some photographs are unusable in colour, and look great in black and white. This happens when the lighting in a room so dramatically alters people’s skin tones that no amount of editing can fix it. Blue and purple “wash-lights” are the most common cause of this, so be aware of this issue when chatting to your DJ or venue.

The second reason is a little more abstract, but I will do my best to not be too “arty” about it. Some pictures just look beautiful in black and white in my opinion. There is no formula or scientific reasoning behind it, but it is definitely an emotive thing. Photographs that carry certain moods, especially moments captured, lend themselves to being more dramatic and appealing in black and white. Very occasionally we will actually give the same image in black and white and in colour because we couldn’t decide which we liked more.

Just a quick overview of the process of creating a black and white image. It is not quite as straightforward as just hitting the “Inkwell” filter on an instagram pic. When you convert a normal colour image to monochrome it will usually appear to have a lot of grey areas, and often fairly washed out. A process of contrast and shade correction needs to be followed to make a colour image a really great black and white shot.

If you have any questions about anything we discuss here please don’t hesitate to ask via comment or DM and we will do our best to answer.

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