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So which do you choose? black and white or colour? Some images work better in colour, others in black and white; there’s no right or wrong (which is why I deliver both); it’s subjective.
Color catches the eye. A bright hue often highlights the main subject and will get our attention, red particularly: a red dress, red lipstick, poisonous red berries and the red balloon of a scary clown all grab our attention in life, film and photography.
Certain colours provide indicators of times of the year, lush greens and autumnal tones but in wedding photography and perhaps in all photography colour creates a mood. Mood can be communicated based on a photo’s colour scheme. A blue, cold tone can elicit a feeling of sadness or loneliness, while a warmer orange tone might suggest tenderness or joy.
The rules of colour theory attract a viewer’s eye when used effectively; often subconsciously. We use complementary colours or analogous/similar colours, to focus relationships between subjects in our photographs; this subtlety is impossible with black and white photography.
I love to use when colour it is a main element in my photographs. The beautiful colours of a wedding dress, the bouquet, table decorations and (fingers crossed) some warm evening light. Back at my computer I love to work on developing a simple pallet of tones that produce a warm, romantic and happy feeling to your photographs. As digital photographers we are fortunate to be able to change the white balance at the flick of a button or mouse and arguably it is the single most important decision we face in processing your photographs; it’s how we build the mood and feeling of the various parts of your day.
Black and white images instantly appear timeless and because we don’t see in black and white we respect and study them in a more reverential manner. Colour can often suggest a specific time period; the faded tones of my early film photographs look nothing like the crisp and realistic colours that come straight out of our digital cameras and phones - consequently I deliberately process and develop my photographs to have a timeless, warm tone and avoid the sharp realistic colours of the every day.
Removing all the colour however makes it more difficult to put an exact date on a photo. Without colour we focus on the light and shadows. Backlit subjects and dramatic shadows are brought to the audience’s attention quickly in black and white images.
As humans we are drawn to faces, we see them in clouds, burnt toast and even a simple upside down triangle of 3 dots is enough for us to recognise a face shape; it’s how we have evolved. Removing colour from a picture removes the distractions, it allows us to quickly see the faces, the emotions. Even viewing a silhouette we instantly read an emotion based on their body language; without the details to clarify a scene, our mind fills the gaps.
I prefer black and white when the light, form, or texture in the scene is more compelling than the hues of the subject matter. Black and white is my choice when the colour in a photo serves only as a distraction from the message I want the image to convey; more often than not that means the reception or dance floor. Perhaps there are a lot of competing elements: coloured and contrasting lighting, guests in a broad range of colours, a busy scene full of busy people. I think black and white brings everything together and allows you the viewer to focus on the subject of the photo in a timeless and stylish way. But that’s only my opinion.
Here is a selection of identical images, I think some work better in colour, others in black and white. What do you think? and why?
For me it is about light, after all that’s what photography is: it’s the science of light (albeit an arty farty way of studying it).
There is no right or wrong and because, as I say, it is subjective; I think you should have both sets of images: colour and black and white.