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When to Choose Black and White


Every choice you make should serve a purpose.

This includes every choice in photography.

Where you place your subject, what direction your light is coming from, and what angle you are photographing from are all decisions that make up your photo. After the photograph is captured comes another set of decisions, editing. The largest of which is whether to keep it in color or turn it to black and white.  I have two rules when changing photographs to black and white.

1) Does it showcase the story or mood in a way color would not?

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When changing a photo to black and white you are taking away the distraction of color. This allows the viewer to focus more closely on the subjects of the photo and what is happening in the frame. It forces us to examine the story rather than the color palette. Black and white photographs simplify and highlight emotions.

Here are some examples where Black and White told the story of the frame more clearly then color would.



In this photo the black and white highlights the tear running down her cheek and forces the viewers attention to the powerful emotion on their faces.



Even though the tress lining this walkway are lush and green I felt they were what you noticed first instead of the grooms face when he saw his bride for the first time.



I’m a sucker for converting photos of elderly people to black and white. It makes all the wrinkles, smile lines and wise eyes come to life.



This moment had a tricky set up, the bride and groom were praying before together before the ceremony, but the church was pretty small so we had to make do with the spot we got. I was clicking away, knowing what a nightmare color correcting these in editing as going to be and thats when I saw her bridesmaids. This shot is in black and white for two reasons: 1) It focuses on the bridesmaids, which is where the emotional impact is in this photo, and not the brides flowers and 2) there was no helping all those different light sources, when you have 3 or more light sources it is okay to convert to black and white for sake of saving your photo. In this one we had the flash being bounced off the ceiling (neutral), The florescent lights in the bridal room (blue) and the tungsten lights where the bridesmaids were standing (orange).

2) Does it emphasize pattern or strong forms and shapes in the photo? 


Strong visual patterns can make a photograph. Black and white emphasizes them. Leading lines are another thing that can be emphasized by black and white conversion. As you can see in the photograph above if you follow the strong black lines  of the ceiling it leads directly to the bride and groom. Black and white shows forms and patterns without the distraction of color and outside noise. It makes it easier for the viewer to latch on to what you are wanting them to see. Patterns and strong visual forms can be a nice break when flipping through wedding photos from the usual soft and romantic photographs. Check out some more examples here!



Converting this photo to black and white showed the repetition of circles in this photo, the two rings, the end of the cork and wood all make up for a nice solid forms.



There are so many leading lines in this photo! The logs on the left, the hinges on the hutch on the right and the beam on the ceiling all point towards the mirror which is where the emotional impact of this photograph is. By turning it to black and white the viewer can more easily follow these lines.

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One of my favorite black and white conversions of all time. By converting the bride and groom seem to pop off the page, the beautiful lines and patterns in the wood stand out even more and the photo comes to life.

Thanks for reading friends! Wishing you all the best in your photographic adventures! Get out there and shoot!


Emily Jean Images


*Please note: all color photos are straight out of camera and unedited*

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