My words, thoughts and photos from a Swedish perspective

Black and white or colour?

My answer is “It depends”. A photo looking pretty flat or dull in colour can lift considerably if converted to black and white. By the way, black and white is a bad expression; we can all see that it is not black and white – it is a grayscale – but the expression is so common that any change is not worth thinking of.

If you are interested in trying black and white now and then I would suggest that you try to look and think in a grayscale when composing the image. Will these colours/hues create nice tones in B & W or will they make a dark blur together? Look for possible gray tones instead of colours and you will probably get a very satisfying result.

Is not B & W old fashioned? I think not. Many want their portraits in black and white and much of what could be referred to as Artistic Photography is done in black and white. There are compromises, of course. Many prefer to lower the saturation instead and almost get the same result but with a dash of colour left.

Personally, I am more fond of colour photos without colour – an expression I borrowed from a professional photographer, but I can’t remember who when writing these lines – which means that one looks for subjects with colours near the grayscale, but leave the saturation intact (or increase it).

A modern digital camera can shoot B & W but that is not quite true and I would say the manufacturers are cheating. The image is still in colour – it is only shown in black and white. You will get the best result if you keep shooting in colour and convert to grayscale afterwards because you will have more control over the process.

The image above was shot in colour but looked flat. It is part of a school being torn down but its muddy-dirty yellow plaster, that dominates the composition, did not make it particularly interesting in colour despite the interesting shades and shapes but it came out different when converted to grayscale. Maybe you should try and see what black and white can do to one of your shots?



4 responses

  1. imac

    Great info post my friend,
    Me – I like to raise the contrast in B/W then adjust the darkness – to get a real sharp-crisp contrast.

    10/04/2012 at 23:27

  2. Staffan H

    imac: Cheers! I often give my shots the same treat in B & W; it really lifts the image. Some extra adjustments are probably necessary when converting from colour to B & W to get a good result.

    11/04/2012 at 10:54

  3. The top one in b & w is brilliant. I think color would have distracted the viewer from the great lines and shadows.

    13/04/2012 at 19:38

  4. Staffan H

    Lynn: Thank you. I think you are right and agree with you.

    13/04/2012 at 23:51

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