Professional London Photographers

Black and White Photographs

Love black and white photography?

continuous-lighting-portrait

Go to a photography exhibition or pick up one of those hefty coffee table photography books and you’ll quickly conclude that black and white photography dominates as an art form. But why? Why do we all respond so much more readily to black and white photography than we do to colour? In fact, there are a number of factors.

 

The lure of black and white photography

Here are just a few of the reasons why black and white images have endured even though colour photographs are just as available.

 

  • Timeless – black and white images often have a beautiful timeless quality to them. For many people there is an air of nostalgia, particularly for those who grew up at a time when black and white photos were the norm. And lots of black and white pictures that were taken years ago still retain a freshness to them that makes them stand out today.
  • Versatile – black and white works well for nearly every field of photography – from landscapes to still life, from portraits to documentary images.
  • Simplicity – black and white images often have a deceptive simplicity compared to their colour counterparts. Because the background is tonally similar to the focus of the image, it doesn’t act as a distraction.
  • Emotion – for some reason, a black and white image has the ability to convey emotion and feeling far more effectively than a colour image. Happiness, sadness, joy, nostalgia, anger, wistfulness – it’s rare to see a monochrome image that doesn’t convey some sort of feeling. Portraits in particular seem to have greater depth in black and white than they do in colour—for some reason it’s easier to discern character in the face of a black and white portrait, and to gain more of a sense of who the sitter is.
  • Drama – on a cloudy day, a colour photograph of a landscape can come across as dull and flat. But take that same picture in black and white, and you instantly add a sense of drama. Dark clouds can look foreboding, a ray of sunlight can appear hopeful, moors will look more desolate and crags more menacing. The contrast between the darkest and the palest tones can be stark and bold – or there can be a soft graduation of greys for a more benign image.
  • Distraction free – without a riot of colours in the background, black and white images are able to focus attention on the subject of the picture far more effectively than full colour images.
  • Texture – by increasing the contrast between light and shadow, rough textures can become far more visible, lending a gritty quality to a black and white image. Tone down the contrast, and the result will be a smoother, softer effect.

 

At the end of the day, because of the simplicity of monochrome and the drama afforded by stark contrast, many black and white images simply have more impact with the viewer than the equivalent colour photo – their appeal is enduring, no matter how photographic technology changes.

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