Black and white is a powerful look. It’s timeless, romantic, and dynamic. A photo in black and white can transcend time and place and become a world unto itself.
It’s important, however, that black and white be done right… it’s not a quick fix. Good black and white starts even before the photo is taken. Some scenes are simply better for monochrome photography than others and it takes a practiced eye to “see” in black and white.
Let’s take a look at this couple’s kiss just after the ceremony. They’d just walked back up the aisle and ducked into a side room for their first moments alone as husband and wife. I stood just outside the room shooting through the doorway with a long lens so as not to disturb them in this special moment.
The moment is wonderful and, from a technical point of view, I like the overall composition. But I knew at the time that the garish yellow object in the background was potentially distracting and that the light was somewhat flat with the florescent bulbs overhead. I knew this was going to look best in black and white.
Not All B&W Is Created Equal
Here we have two versions of the above image converted to monochrome. On the left is a very typical conversion and an example of what you generally see in a black & white conversion. It simply drains the color away which tends to leave the photo flat and dull.
On the right is a far more dynamic and emotional version. Rather than just draining away the color, I use a fairly involved process which renders skin tones very delicately and enhances a fool of three dimensionality. Notice the sense of depth the right hand image portrays when compared to the left? Finally, through careful manual “painting” of dark and bright areas the eye is drawn through the photo.
There is so much more to a good black and white than simply removing the color. It starts with a practiced eye to see what works even before taking the photo. When enhancing photos, dynamic monochrome photography takes considerably more work than similar color shots.