Black and White vs Color Photography

With the modern digital cameras and color photography the question remains when and if to choose black and white for your photographs.

Until the 1930 photos where solely taken in black and white. Today color photography is contemporary. With the arrival of digital cameras color can easily be manipulated and the same picture that was taken as a color photograph can be processed into a black and white photo.

When to choose color photos over black and white.

Color catches the eye. It creates mood in the picture and sets the time. You can easily see if the photo was taken in spring or fall, morning or evening just by the color of the photo.

  • Choose color if it’s the key element of the photo. If a picture lives off the rich color of fall leaves for instance, go with color.
  • Go with color if you have colors that are contrasting, but that don’t translate well into black and white.
  • Color photos are great when the color helps the subject stand out.

When to choose black and white over color photos.

By removing color the emotional context associated with it also goes away. Black and white brings forms and shapes into focus.

  • Choose black and white if you want the photo to appear timeless.
  • Black and white simplifies the composition. Choose it when the composition is strong in the photograph.
  • Go with black and white if the picture has a wide range of tonal values and definite blacks and whites.
  • Do it when texture, light or shape matter more than the color in the photo.

The takeaway.

Ultimately it is up to you when to choose black and white or color. It largely depends on the subject matter and the feel that you are going for in the picture.

Experiment with it and keep in mind that some colors don’t translate well into black and white photos. With some practice you will soon find out which subject matters will look better in one or the other.


3 thoughts on “Black and White vs Color Photography

  1. Donna DeGuglielmo says:

    hello fellow triber 🙂 this is what I needed thank you so much okay you are going to laugh ha… i just started digital a few months ago and have not done photography for years I loved the old way andI thought oh well I will try it and just recently humm i like some b&w and you came with this great article. okay now looking at the photos you displayed they are good either way but I tend more to the B&W.

  2. Meg says:

    I would argue about the emotional context, though. Black and white do impact emotions just as strongly as chromatic photography does. At the end of the day black and white are also colours 😉

    The subject, the lighting, the texture, the narrative, the composition – all of these elements play their emotional part. Just the effect you achieve is different. Yellow translates as grey in the black-and-white colour space, and thus causes a different emotional response than it would in a fully saturated hue.

    Thank you for initializing the conversation!

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