Let’s chat about photo editing. This is a deep-dive topic in whole, but today we’re going to start simple and discuss one of the most basic photo edits: Black and White.
I’m often asked why I select certain images to process in black and white. While there are no hard and fast rules, every photographer has their own set of criteria on what images make the cut.
Black and white coloring in itself complex. There are several variances with black and white colorization such as warmer, brown tones which can be referred to as sepia. Additionally, soft warm grey tones (which I tend to favor) and deep contrast using strict blacks and whites are options as well. Choosing which type of colorization treatment to use is a completely separate topic which I’ll cover down the road.
For me, prospective photos for black and white conversion generally fall into four main categories. Let’s dive in!
This is the easiest one to spot. If there is an image I want to use but there is simply too much going on in the foreground or background, I will most likely convert these into black and white. This way the people or one segregated item becomes the focus. Bridal suites, groom’s quarters, and busy receptions are the most common scenario. Black and white photo conversation allows the moments that are happening stand out in a sea of colors and textures.
The lines within a photo often lead me to covert an image to black and white. If the lines frame or outline the person or event, the subject instantly becomes the focus by removing color and distraction.
The concept is similar in lighting scenarios. Strong light lines or soft, diffused light will often create an amazing filter to allow the subject to stand out even more. When I see this type of opportunity, it’s when I feel I get to be the most creative with my composition and use of photo editing.
Another candidate for black and white images are the small details. Some examples are pupil reflection, a strand of hair, freckles, or some other element that captures my attention. Again, by removing the distraction, that simple detail enhances the image as a whole and tells a separate story.
Taking a beautiful picture isn’t that difficult. Taking a photo that conveys emotion is a completely different story. I’m compelled to strip distracting elements away from images that have a highly-emotional component to them. This allows the clutter and distraction to melt away and puts you right in the heart of what’s happening. After all, that’s why treasure photographs, to put ourselves back into the emotion of the moment!
Here are side-by-side comparisons so you can judge for yourself! I’ve also included some of my favorite all-time black and white images as stand-alone stories so you can begin to see why I select certain photos to be featured in black and white.