Photographers’ reasons for black and white photography are one of the most divisive. “I love color,” is a common refrain. “I love the colors.” Yes, color is cool. However, I believe the arguments for black and white are strong (some stronger than others). ).
Here are 10 reasons why you should shoot black and white photos.
Greyscale images are a bit surreal and serve as a reminder that all photographs are surreal. It’s always an inventive invention. This is more evident when images are in B&W than when they are in color. Color pictures are often viewed as objective reality. They’re not.
It can distract from the real thing. Color attracts the eye. If the color is integral to the subject, that’s great. It’s often not. This visually complicates the scene. Clutter. There are more little things that your eye can be drawn to, regardless of whether or not you like them. It can easily become overwhelming. While it adds flavor, it is easy to overdo.
3. Adjustment Latitude
The goal of post-production in color is to make a still picture look exactly like what you observed with your eyes. If something is blue, try to make it truly blue. It’s always blue. B&W allows you to modify the look of the frames, their strength, and the amount of attention they draw.
It’s possible for blue to become dark grey or light gray, but neither is “strange.” It’s often perceived as false when done in color.
Not – If you’re an expert at Photoshop or similar tools, it’s possible to transform strong colors into colors that are less distracting.
4. Uncanny Valley
It is impossible to reproduce the colors of real life in print. Prints can’t be as vivid and magical as what you see with your eyes. While color slides are a step forward, they still lack transparency and light shines through, which is why they are not viable distribution methods. Digital screens are better than printed materials and can still reproduce natural vision, but they are often inconsistent in their color presentation.
Color pictures are always a strange deviation from reality. The color images feel “less-than” what I saw in person. This color valley is not apparent in B&W.
B&W forces you to concentrate on structure and composition. Ideally, I would do this in color, but sometimes it is not possible. It is easy to fall into the trap of taking bad photos when all that matters is the color. To see if the photo “really works,” we can change a photo to B&W. This allows us to evaluate composition and story without having to remove any colorful distractions.
6. Too Pretty
Color images can be pleasing simply because they are “pretty”. This is nice initially but eventually gets boring. Susan Sontag’s essay, “A beautiful photograph is more than a photograph of a beautiful thing” reminded me of this. This is a common mistake made by amateurs who over-saturate colors to make everything… prettier. It is a beautiful place. Instagram is best for small, but striking images that can be easily shared on the internet. It’s also easy to forget.
7. Creative constraints
B&W is a constraint. It is not worse or better than color. It’s an arbitrary constraint I place on myself when taking photographs. And it’s enjoyable to work with limitations. It is a bit more difficult to create a pleasing image. But that’s what’s important. Limitations encourage creativity. It forces you to think outside the box. It’s great fun to challenge yourself if you are already a pro. Shooting is so much easier nowadays. It’s great to have creative limits against which to push yourself.
8. Everything should matter
I once heard a popular photographer say that every frame should have a purpose and be present. The same goes for color. If color is going to be in an image, it should be relevant to the message of the image and not just documenting it. The photographer has the right to decide whether or not the color is important. Start by asking the question.
A cohesive body of work is created when there are consistent practices. Even if your goal is to build a professional portfolio, the photos you take are still part of your “work.” You may wish to keep them all together over time in photo books or on photo walls. Although color images can look great together, the natural ranges in temperature and color light make it difficult to display images taken in bright sunlight alongside images taken in incandescent or firelight bulbs. The colors and feelings can end up being misaligned.
It’s possible that it is a subtle advantage but if a group of images are all monochromatic, and especially if they have the same aspect ratio, no matter when or under what lighting conditions, they kinda fit together. Although they can still vary, it is possible to have a group of B&W photos that spans over 30 years and still feel strangely cohesive. This is more difficult with color.
Images in greyscale feel timeless. Photos are also dated but not dated because of this process. Old things feel modern, while new things feel classic. It’s almost the opposite of nostalgic. The images don’t have that old-timey feel, but they are actually taken from the past.
B&W photography was the predominant medium for the first 100 years. Even when color was invented, it was much easier and less costly to process B&W photos chemically than color. This made it a dominant medium in journalism as well.
The 1970s saw a shift in the economics and color landscape. The use of color in news photos was a novel treat ( USA Today first printed news photos in color in 1980s. However, they were often criticized for not feeling journalistic and were nicknamed “McPaper”. Public associations with B&W images were both historical and news photos. This gave them an assumption of veracity, significance and authenticity.
Although color was possible, it was not practical for fine art photography. Images would fade or color shift over time. They were not “conservation-ready” and therefore not collectable. Because of the industrial process utilized to mass develop and print color images, the rise of the Photomat, and the relative difficulty in controlling color fidelity in prints, color photography was the domain of consumers and amateurs.urn:uuid:aa2c9dab-5241-aa45-9d6a-aa455241aa2c
Slowly, artists began to explore the medium, and the chemical process became sufficiently stable that they started getting collected. In 1976, William Eggleston was the first artist to exhibit at MOMA. Other artists like Gary Winogrand and Lee Freelander followed. To enhance their photographic goals, these artists used the way that color images felt normal. Even though digital processing has made color more stable and precise, fine art photography remains largely monochromatic. However, this trend is slowly changing.
These are ten great reasons to shoot black and white photos — both pragmatic and philosophical. None of them are just that it makes pictures look “arty” or nostalgic. There are many good reasons to use color in a photo — not all photos require color. Some are about colour in some way. I find it problematic to apply color simply because it is there or because it’s real. Too many colorful images can be distracting. Use color if you can.