Saturday, January 9, 2016

When Is Black & White Better?

Copy Machine - Mojave, California
One question that I commonly get asked is, "How do you decide if a photo should be color or black-and-white?" This seems to be a point of confusion for many.

A common mistake that people make is to capture an image and decide later if it should be color or black-and-white. Color photography and black-and-white photography are not all that similar. They don't have much in common, and so you have to think about them differently when you capture them.

Color photographs only work when color is an essential element to the photograph. Monochrome images only work with appropriate light, contrast and design.
Diamond Sneaker - California City, California
Before opening the shutter, I ask myself if the image will remain in color or if I'll convert it to black-and-white. If color is not important to the image, I'll decide to convert it to monochrome. With that decision, I then compose the scene for black-and-white.

Look at tones. Look at shadows and highlights. Look at contrast. Consider how these will interact with each other to create the lines and shapes within the image. Will it draw the viewer in? Are there distractions in the frame that can be eliminated? 

When is black-and-white better? When color isn't essential to the photograph. But this decision needs to be made in advance so that you can craft a great monochrome image from the scene.

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