In the old days of photography, photos were shot in black and white. This should not come as a surprise considering that the technology back then was still not yet capable of capturing images in color. Of course, today’s photography scene is pretty much different now as color photography is now the standard and black and white photography is rarely used as it once was.
However, don’t mistake it with the notion that black and white photography is “dying” or at least consider it as “old-fashioned.” Even in this day and age in photography, and with the technology continuously evolving, black and white photography is still alive and well and is still making an impact. In fact, a number of photographers like Emma Joy still use it in their work.
An Element of Timelessness
For one, black and white photos have an element of timelessness in them. It can be due to the influences of photos shot in the past in black and white that it gives a classic look. However, that does not mean all photos will look classic if they are shot in black and white. With the prevalence of color photography, photographers now get more creative freedom and leeway to decide which shots would look timeless in color or in black and white. Let’s face it, some settings look best in color photography while some in black and white and technology makes it possible to make sound choices.
Seeing Light Differently
Another thing that makes black and white photography still relevant today is with regards to approaching light. Of course, you won’t be able to capture the colors of the sunrise in black and white, but you will be able to vividly capture the direction, quantity and quality of light around you. Understanding and playing around with different elements of light in this way is a fantastic skill that can be applied in video and studio lighting too.
Highlighting Elements in the Image
Looking at someone’s face, or into their eyes, without the distraction of color can convey emotions in the image much stronger. It’s not necessarily always the case, but it works, especially for people who feel they are much connected to a person in a black and white image over a color image. This is why many portraits are shot in black and white, especially to convey certain emotions.
Also, with the absence of color, elements in an image like its form, shape, and pattern are given more attention. The viewer can better notice such elements and have a better appreciation of the image and its characteristics.
Highlighting Beauty and Skin Tones
Regardless of race or color background, black and white photography provides wonderful tonal range from the deepest blacks and the whitest whites that highlights the subject’s complexion. It also makes makeup, discoloration and other distracting elements of the skin become less obvious to highlight the subject’s natural beauty.
Focusing On Composition
Another important characteristic of black and white photography is that it allows photographers to focus more on one important element: composition. Of course, composition is not color-dependent. A strong composition is a strong composition. This is because black and white does away with the distraction of color. Suddenly elements within the frame can relate in a way that might otherwise have been throw off because of jarring color, and the subject becomes more in focus than before.
Showing Off a Bit More Artistry with the Use of Negative Space
Negative space refers to the areas of the frame that have nothing in them. While in normal circumstances they tend to be distracting, in black and white such space is easier to showcase and highlight making the subjects instead of distractions. Playing around with negative space can also be useful in separating your subject nicely from the background and give added depth in the process.