Some photos obviously work better in black and white than they do in color. However, sometimes it’s difficult to decide whether to keep the color version or convert your photos to black and white. I know it’s happened to me many, many times.
If this sounds familiar, this video from Adorama is for you. In the video, Pye Jirsa discusses five scenarios when transferring a photo to black & white could be the best editing option. It will not only help you improve your images, but help you make the decision when you’re having second thoughts.
1. Timeless photos: when working with the images that you consider could be timeless, it’s a good idea to convert them to black and white. In this context, timeless means that there’s nothing that indicates when the photos were taken (things like fashion, hairstyles, specific cars in the frame, etc.). In photos like this, you’re, looking for emotions and candid moments. Of course, they can work in both versions, black and white is just an option, but it’s a good option.
2. Bad/no color: converting an image to black and white is a simple fix in shots that have poor colors. This comes from colored artificial lights (this happened to me so many times in concerts). Or, in case of natural lighting, this off-color can come from tinted windows as you’ll see in Pye’s example.
Another scenario is when there is no color in the scene. Pye’s example shows a studio shot, but this also happens on a cloudy day in some landscapes. In cases like this, black and white isn’t just optional; it will most likely make your photo look better.
3. Light quality/texture: in the last three scenarios, your photos could work in both color and black and white. But, taking the colors away will also take away the distraction. The first situation is when you want to emphasize light quality and textures in the scene rather than the colors.
4. Shapes and patterns: another scenario where black & white works better is when you want to emphasize shapes and patterns in the scene. Just like in the previous example, colors can be a bit distracting although they could still work well.
5. Accentuating detail: finally, when you want to accentuate detail, black & white removes the distraction the color can be. Again, it’s optional, depending on the shot – but it can be a great option!
Are there any other situations in which you choose black and white over color? I’d love to hear how you make the decision.