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Black and White?

Updated: Dec 10, 2020

I like black and white photographs, they look atmospheric and add create a timeless quality to images. black and white also helps us focus the main subject of a picture and to see shapes and textures more clearly. But how do you choose whether to make an image black and white?

For me it comes down to two questions. The first is does colour add anything to the picture? If not black and white is definitely an option. A prime example of this is a dull cloudy day when colour and light are in short supply. I call them black and white photography days. The picture below was taken on a particularly grey stormy day which I think suits black and white better, even more so because of the subject and the weather.

The second question is whether there is there is colour in the image which distracts from the main subject. For example in the picture below I wanted to capture a typical winter scene of a narrow boat, I wanted to focus on the smoke rising from the chimney and the logs on the roof. I think colour detracts from the main subjects in the picture but also black and white is more atmospheric.

In a second example of Street Photography below, removing colour really helps us focus on the main subject, the couple. In this image the things in the background such as the bus, just add clutter. I also think black and white adds character and creates a more atmospheric image.

You don't need to make a black and white decision when you take the photo, better to take colour then you still have the option of either and of course if you have a DSLR always shoot in RAW. Changing to black and white is very, with Lightroom it's just a single button. But it's also pretty easy to change with a phone. With my Sony Xperia it's got a colour saturation adjustment, you can de-saturate the colour until it's gone. With a Samsung there's a colour editing screen and several options for black and white.

All of this is of course subjective, but have a think about it next time you take a picture and have a go with black and white!

More soon,


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