Black and White is Not A “Fix!”

Quick quiz: Below are two versions of the same photo taken in the exceptional direct light of the setting sun on a beautiful day. Which one looks as though it actually WAS taken at sunset and which one looks like it could have been taken at noon on an overcast day?

Sadly, the first image is the single most popular method used by most professional wedding photographers.

Black And White (not always) Done Right

Black and white wedding photography is very popular, and with good reason. Done right, it’s classy, timeless and bold. Done lazily, it’s flat and lifeless.

It generally starts as a color photograph, it’s the process of going from color to mono that makes a world of difference. The most common method is to simply drain the image of color, or desaturate it. It’s fast and easy so it appeals to the vast majority of wedding photographers who are working with huge batches of images, but it looks pretty bad. You get flat, muddy photos that look very much like an afterthought.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have a small set of photographers who take a lot of care and pride in crafting high impact black and white images. It’s actually a time consuming process but the results can be spectacular.

One Photo At A Time

Each photograph is done manually, one at a time. Specific areas of the photo are “painted” darker while others are “painted” brighter, binging out depth and giving the overall image a feeling of three dimensionality. Through careful sculpting of the image, the viewer’s eye is drawn to the main subject. There is quite an art to it, actually.

What I love personally about the process is that I can impart a deeper emotional feel to the photograph. I can take enhancement farther without it ever going over the top to create something truly unique and moving. If I shot nothing but black and white weddings, I’d be a very happy photographer.

The 80/20 Wedding

I actually wouldn’t recommend a completely black and white wedding. Some details just cry out for color. You put a lot of thought into the color scheme and decorations, so posed formals, flowers, place settings and other details are really best in color. But the story of the day, the candid moments, even the bulk of the ceremony are perfect for high quality black and white.

Candid coverage generally comprises about 80% of the day’s photographs while posed formals and details fill out the remaining 20%. Thus, the concept of the 80/20 wedding – 80% bold black and white, 20% rich color.

Not so sure? Take a look at one of my recent 80/20 weddings and see for yourself.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear from you. Does the extra effort seem worthwhile, or is desaturated black and white good enough?


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