Black and White, embrace the retro
The power of Black and White
A photographer's impassioned argument
Hi everyone, today I am extolling the virtues of a good black and white image. I often see black and white having fallen out of love with the general public and it does make me a little bit sad, I think the power of black and white has been underestimated in recent times and it needs more champions, so today I am standing up by offering a bit of colour bashing
I love black and white, I'm a confessed addict for a great bit of the B and W for some impact. It really lends to the intimate nature of a shot and adds something etheric almost. I think it's fair to say that if I could get away with shooting everything in eithet colour or black and white and had to make a choice, I would go black and white (I know, retro hipster douche, right?!).
I know that I prefer black and white (not taking away from colour, I also love colour and the sheer scale and punch it can add to an image, the vibrancy and contrast is never to be underestimated) but the majority of brides I have spoken with enjoy colour more, it's very deriggeur. I found a few great quotes on the subject, such as this one:
“Black and white seems to be an acquired taste, like classical music or cognac, or, for that matter, like films shot in black and white.”
“Personally I love B&W and do spend time converting some images. Clients don't seem to like them that much though. They very rarely buy B&W prints so I do it mostly for myself.”
So you have to question what it is that people don't instantly like about the black and white and off the top of my head there are several different issues that could add to it. Maybe it's time I start a one man crusade to bring it back!! I am not saying in any way that it's not loved by many, I always convert a large portion of my images to black and white as standard but it is very rarely that anybody comments about the strength of them so let's see what I'm talking about here.
1. The processing
Processing is an important part of photography, it always has been. A lot of people, photographers included, think that photoshop is a cheat, a way to polish muck and can get quite snobby about it or expect miracles but what they always fail to remember is that photoshop is the dark room of the digital age. We don't use enlargers or toning fluids, there is no selective darkening or lightening under a red light in a dark room now. Instead of the darkroom it is at a screen in an office or, in my case, at my dining room table. Photoshop is very powerful and can do some amazing things but when you look at the basics its foundations are rooted very firmly in darkroom mechanics.
I think most of us have seen the Cottingley 'Fairy' series by Elise Wright from as far back as 1917
But here are a couple of examples of my black and white, you will see I adore contrast, I like to break the rules a bit and don't mind if some areas are “too dark” or “too light”, it adds to the punch and impact of the image. I also like to wash them out a little bit, I know this is quite in vogue at the moment but you can't argue with the results (or more importantly, you can, it's a subjective medium after all!).
2.t's what my grandparents had at their wedding! It's old...
Of course black and white is reminiscent of bygone eras, in the days where they hadn't developed colour film it's obvious that they would only shoot in black and white and I'm the first to think about shying away from a movie that's in black and white these days (until I watch it and enjoy it for the creative piece it is... The Artist, Schindler's List, Sin City etc). Photography is different though, photography is something that has the unique ability to be timeless, to capture a moment and personally I think this means it doesn't stand by the same rules as the moving image. A black and white image, in my humble opinion, can carry ten times the gravitas of a colour image if it's used right. Again, here are some of my personal favourite comparisons side by side.
3. That photo looks weird in black and white
Yes, it probably does! Not every photo works in black and white, it's true. You shoot differently for black and white than you do in colour and because most wedding photography is shot for bright and vibrant colour the conversion to black and white often simply does not work. The great thing is that you have all of your colour shots and I personally will convert anything that can work in black and white to black and white so you at least have the option but below are a few shots I've pulled from the vaults to show you what I mean be it the light or vibrancy gets lots or the lack of highlights and shadows but for whatever reason...
Once again, thanks for reading and I hope that you will consider the power of black and white, the mighty monochrome. Obviously it's your day your way as always but I thought it would be fun to just get out there and shout about it with a bit of passion.
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