A reader recently asked why black & white photography is often chosen in preference to colour?
I like photography that is a true representation of what the photographer saw; therefore I don't like black and white. Usually I look at a B&W photo and think to myself "I bet the colour shot is more interesting". You wouldn't watch TV in B&W for fun. So, why do people like B&W?
It often depends on the style of image but to me a lot of photography just looks far better in monochrome (not necessarily B&W) than colour.
Removing colour can remove distractions such as dominant primary hues especially red that are not part of the subject or the primary subject of the image.
A good example could be a portrait of a Groom with a bright red tie or lapel flower that would contend for attention against the Groom’s face, which is the real subject.
Red is the most dominant hue (colour) and a red object can easily be the main subject of a picture even when it is very small relative to the rest of the image, for example a red car in a vast landscape could easily be the subject.
Removing colour simplifies images and allows the viewer to see the shapes, lines and form within an image that may not be obvious in a colour image. This can lead to new levels of abstraction that would not be possible in colour.
Black & White (monochrome) images can be extremely powerful in conveying their message whilst the same image in colour may scarcely get a second look.
I personally think that street photography or wedding candid shots usually look much better in B&W 95%. Fine art nudes rarely look nice in anything other than B&W whilst fashion usually looks better in colour – perhaps because it is selling a product and we want to know what it looks like in reality.
Converting to B&W can solve colour temperature problems that might not otherwise be easily solved. Sometimes the colour cast on a colour image can actually distract from the image’s message especially green people under fluorescent lighting 😉
Don’t get me wrong, colour can also be very important especially when a true representation is required. In these cases the colour temperature being correctly balanced becomes important. However sometimes colour images can look better when the colour balance is deliberately miss-matched to add to the story of the image, such as the warm glow of people sitting under a tungsten light.
Black & White also has a timeless quality that colour does not seem to process. You can usually date a colour picture such as 70’s, 80’s etc. and sometimes even more accurately than that. This may change as almost everything goes digital.
And just to prove I do enjoy colour, here are two examples of Trash The Dress where the colour brings out the subjects from the background.