I commonly receive a lot of emails and general inquiries about Black and White Photography such as:
"Do you do Black and White Photography?"
"Why is this image in Black and White, I do prefer color."
"Do you shoot some images only in Back and White?"
Well here is my take on why it is essential to have Black and White Photography still play a major role in any genre of photography we shoot.
Growing up years ago in this industry, I was introduced to common 35mm color negative film, then solidly grounded into 35mm and 120 mm Black and White. For a fair amount of time, that introduction into black and white film throughout part of High School, College, and into my early career as a photo journalist helped to pave the way for not only my love for Black and White, but for my upmost respect for it.
Now these days into the digital world we are provided with the beauty of instantly creating vibrantly colored photos and at the same time (with the click of a button) the ability to "grey style" our images into retro looking pleasantries.
I am generally biased towards Black and White; afterall, that monotone goodness helped to form my overall appreciation for the craft; But creating eye popping color imagery is what makes even me say... Ohhhh Ahhhh! So I can't discredit color. Most of the time, it does look amazing.
Ok, so take a look at these 2 images.
The 2 images above show that both of them are beautiful in there own way. In this case, you could choose either one as a personal preference. Just keep in mind that Black and White (generally speaking) can give you a more defined and consistently solid look, especially in print.
Now here are 2 examples below that prove black and white is necessary rather than a preference.
The image above has 2 light sources illuminating our subject at 2 different color temperatures. The problem with digital photography is that the camera sensor has a hard time deciding which direction to shift the white balance (especially during auto white balance). In this case (as above) I had manually set my white balance to better interpret the look I was going for. Knowing this, I had chosen to match my camera's white balance to a slightly cooler yellowish skin tone rather than the warmer (or hotter) bluish light coming from behind my subject.
But even with the white balance near perfect in a mixed lighting situation, the mixed tone looks difficult on the eyes from left to right of the frame.
Enter Black and White (this is why it is still a great option to have)
Above is the very same colored image placed through a grey style filter to help smooth out the transitions between the warmer natural light on the left and the cooler indoor tungsten light on the right. From this, you can see better transitioning skin tones, more defined lines and a more appealing glow from the background we just didn't have in our colored image.
So the next time you look at an image of black and white or color. Play a little game to determine if an image was grey styled because the photographer decided "why not." Or if perhaps there was a more technical, or artistic reason.
Whenever I shoot my weddings or family sessions, 98% of what I shoot is in color. Always. But sometimes when I know I am in a situation where shooting in color just isn't a good decision to capture the highest quality image possible, I switch to good old Black and White. It has never failed me.