5 Things That Black and White Does for a Photo That Color Can’t

Black and white photography is seeing a revival in all fields. Photographers who really like the idea of working with shapes, tones, and like to be very specific about their scenes have found that black and white is really perfect for them. In times past, photographers mostly used black and white as a way to cover up some sort of mistake when it came to digital photography. But it has grown beyond that and views have genuinely started to change at least with the newer generations of photographers out there. So if you consider yourself a “young thinker” of some sort, then you’re already on board. But here’s some extra justification about why black and white is so great.

Simplifies the way you look at the scene

There is an idea that mastering color is a scene is really difficult to do. And in truth, it indeed is. I mean, look at cinema and television shows. The colors are all in scenes that really make the colors stand out. Watch the End of the FXXXing World on Netflix and you’ll really see this. Real life though isn’t necessarily like this. So you often need to find a way to simplify the scene in terms of colors. Great photographers like Steve McCurry try to keep their palettes to three colors per scene.

With black and white, the world becomes various shades of black, white, grey and tones. Some are brighters and some are darker. That’s just how it works. This ultimately makes the scene simpler to look at.

Can put more emphasis on a subject with specific lighting

In the same way that bright colors like reds can really put emphasis on a subject, so too can black and white. Here, effective lighting is much more critical. The idea I like to often bring up is the scene in a theatre where there is a spotlight on a subject. With black and white, that lighting is really key to the scene.

Gives a classic look to a photo

This is sort of obvious, but getting that classic look in a photo is essential for many people. Brides and grooms tend to love it when it comes to wedding photography.

Makes the Mind Work in ways to interpret the scene

Here’s where I feel black and white photography is truly at its most powerful–by making the mind fill in the blanks. The Washington Post featured this photo series on seal hunting. The entire thing is in black and white and because it is in black and white, it’s a whole lot less graphic. But your mind fills in the blanks. I mean, imagine all those trails of blood. Crazy, right?

Allows you to get away with mistakes and turn them into beautiful aesthetics.

Finally, I’m bringing this short feature to an end by saying the very obvious: black and white can and still does help with covering up mistakes. It can make a drab photo much better due to the color in the scene perhaps not being effective.