Black & White outdoor portrait photography
Black & White Photography

Of course it's all very subjective depending on the subject matter.

Sunset at Motney Bay
Colourful sunset

If your image is all about colour such as this glorious sunset then of course it would be criminal to remove the key element. The colours of the sky make the photograph

Portrait photograph in colour
Colourful portrait

The red flowers in this image are an integral part of the composition, probably more than the model. If the image was converted to black and white they would no longer stand out and the dynamic of the image would dramatically change.

When the colour hue of an image is no more than a distraction, converting to Black and White can make you see an image differently. This is because removing the colour shifts the emphasis of the compositional parts of the image. For example contrast, tones, shapes, textures and lines.

Take a look at the example below to see how a Black & White conversion on an image can have a dramatic impact.

Colour headshot
Colour Portrait

I recently ran a poll on two social media platforms to see which image people preferred.

Black and White Portrait headshot
Black & White Portrait

The Black and White version won by 58%. Notice how the back ground and models shirt become less distracting. I darkened the sun glasses down for a more contrasting effect.

This is why typically portrait & street photography lend themselves to Black and White, (often referred as Monochrome), where the subject matter is the most important element.

Light can also be a key factor. My son recently asked me to take some photographs of him for a project he was working on. Unfortunately he was only available at 14:00 pm on a very hot sunny day. Just about the worse time of day to shoot with the sun high in the sky casting harsh shadows. Luckily he was after a black and white, Film Noir look so I was able to use the harsh light and shadows to our advantage.

Black and White `Portrait Photograph
Use of a Shadow to sculp an image.

In this image I was able to work with the contrasting light to make the shadow one of the key elements of the image.

Below are a few more examples taken on the same shoot, which take advantage of those shadows and contrasts.

What if your unsure if Black & White will work for your image? If you have the option try changing to the monochrome setting on your camera and take a photograph. If you shoot in RAW your image will still upload as a colour image so you will need to convert back during editing process.

I tend to shoot in colour and then test out during my editing process by applying Black and White filters.

That's the beauty of digital photography you can choose what you prefer later when editing. If unsure you can always save a colour and a black/white copy.

Remember photography is all about PRACTICE. Don't be scared to experiment.

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