Black and White Love
Technology has changed photography so much in the last few years, yet one thing remains the same, we still love black and white, especially for wedding and portrait photography. But quite why, with the world having had commercially available colour photography since 1907, are we still infatuated with black and white over 100 years later.
As a photography student I, and many others, began working with black and white; starting off it has some major advantages, it places more emphasis on composition, tone, correct exposure etc. The technique helps to teach and instruct the new photographer to develop these basic skills. But with this learning comes a certain appreciation and black and white will always have a special place in my heart, with memories of chemicals and red lights.
In the above image we see The Sheriff of Nottingham in the bottom row and above Mich Stevenson, Freeman of the City of Nottingham, both having conversations with others. The composition is allowed to be spread between the two rows partly due to the flattening effect that black and white has, creating a far more graphical image than if this were to be a colour photo.
Naturally, people want to look good in photographs and this can be something that influences their choosing black and white. Black and white minimises blemishes and can help the skin to look smoother and any redness isn’t shown. This is perhaps why I’m often asked when providing portfolio and promotional images for the pictures in black and white as well as colour.
As art, colour photography was a late arrival, it wasn’t until the late 70′s that it really emerged, and even then it was thought of as inferior to black and white for art. Many regarded it as the domain of home and commercial photography and black and white as true art. To this day Black and White is still closely associated with an artistic approach, one of the reasons why many still favour it for their wedding and portrait photography.
Of course, black and white shouldn’t just be a default setting; it should be used only when it is appropriate. The world is full of colour and it is this that makes many photographs. See the picture below of engineers at a garage, there is a rich colour play between blues and browns in the vehicles, buildings, overalls and skin tones. The de-saturated image loses this and as such becomes a less interesting image.
Black and white photography can be a powerful tool in creating emotive portraits and reportage images, when used with purpose and skill, but we should choose carefully between black and white and colour photography when producing images.