Black and white photography can be a powerful tool for cutting to the heart of a scene and conveying story and emotions in a dynamic way.
Here’s a quick example from a recent reception where the color image looks nice to my eyes – it’s a good moment and interaction and I like the framing – but I feel the black and white version is far more dynamic.
The eye is drawn directly to the father and sun and their interaction. Because you can get away with deeper shadows in a monochromatic image the background, curtain, woman on the left, and man on the right don’t attract the eye nearly as much and act as a framing device, leaving the real subject and story of the photo to draw our attention.
In this particular case I don’t feel color adds to the overall story being told. This is not universal and some images certainly benefit from color. This isn’t one of them.
I’m very passionate about my black and white work and put about twice the work into each as I do for the same image in color. I like a good range of tones from deep black to bright white – not muddy or washed out – but I also like to see subtle details and good tonality in the faces. It’s a lot of work to get right.