There are different schools of thought when it comes to black and white photography. Some believe it was a technical limitation of the past that you need to get over and move on. While others see it as a creative choice, that needs to be explored in great depths.
As camera technology gets better, with more emphasis on improved colour ranges, why would you choose to shoot or process your images in black and white? In this article, we’ll look at five reasons why you might want to shoot or convert your images to black and white.
1. B&W Helps you see differently
The old “Masters” of photography shot in black and white initially, because they had no choice. Even with the advent of Kodachrome, which introduced the world to colour photography, there was still a pursuance of black and white. This was because black and white was (and still is by some people) seen as photography in its the purest form.
2. B&W Eliminates distractions
You are used to seeing the world in colour and there nothing is wrong with that view. Sometimes this contributes to other elements or details being lost or taken for granted. Some of the elements (highlighted before) required for a great photo include contrast, texture, lighting, shape, and form.
When you shoot for black and white, you challenge yourself to remove the distraction of colour. These include colour casts and differences in colour temperature (ambient light sources), as well as specific colourful elements that are strong, which may reside in the background or take away from your story.
3. B&W Offers creative choice
Since your world is in colour, it is safe to say that colour photography depicts reality and is more realistic. Thus, black and white photography is viewed as a rendition of reality – or how you interpret what you see.
When you remove colour, you not only isolate the different elements, you are compelled to find how they relate to each other. This helps you explore and create different ways to tell your story.
4. Adds emotion or mood
Something about the variance of tonal ranges, rich blacks, and deep contrasts appeal. It creates a connection that makes you stop and pay attention to what is being presented.
You no longer have to imagine what your scene will look like in black and white, as current camera technology allows you to try this on the spot and see if it works. While some photographers prefer to shoot in black and white, others prefer to shoot in colour and then process or convert their images to black and white to get a different or better tonal range.
While black and white photography still has an important role in photography, please note that not all subjects translate well to this mode. Even though a strong composition is not colour dependent, sometimes the power of the photo is its colour. This is why it is good to know when to use black and white.