Tuesday, June 5, 2012

To Black & White or NOT to Black & White?

There is only one reason why I turn images from colour into black & white — it makes them stronger.
Now, when I say 'stronger' I mean one of two things... Either,

a) In colour the image is not good enough to be used / given to the client. The colour detracts from the image because the exposure is off, there are too many competing colours or too many bland colours that cause the images to look flat and dull. Sometimes the image can be saved by removing the colour. This of course, requires that the only problem with the image was colour. Black & white cannot save you from bad composition, unattractive faces or lack of content. Now I know...never say never. There are of course exceptions to this claim but generally speaking black & white can only be used to save a good image with bad colour.

This is an example of situation A. I wouldn't, use the image on the left. The colour really makes me unhappy. But in B&W I feel that it's much stronger. The pink shawl doesn't distract you from the emotion.


b) In colour, the image is fine or maybe even good, but in black &'s stellar! The images that rock in black & white are usually images that are riches in content. i.e. the images that have the most emotion, action or details. I find that more often than not, colour distracts and therefore detracts from these content-rich images. By removing the colour our eyes have one less thing to process and our attention can flow more naturally to the subject. In other words, black and white makes it easier for us to view and appreciate images that contain special, busy and meaningful moments, making them more powerful, moving and usually artistic. Like a movie, black and white can help us momentarily forget reality while we allow ourselves to be immersed in a story.

This is an example of an image that is acceptable in colour but I feel like turning it to B&W makes it much stronger because it gives it a more classic and clean feel and of course it helps draw your attention to the emotion.

Don't Wrongly Convert an Image to Black & White
There are two sides to this coin. Some images gain strengths from black & white whiles can end up looking cold, dead and boring. Some images depend on their colour to be interesting.
This image doesn't work in B&W at all, in my opinion. It's an image that's full of laughter and life and the colour adds to the energy. I feel like the B&W really sucks out some of that life. 
How to Deliver B&W images to clients...
If I convert an image to B&W for reason A, I will only send the B&W image to my client.
If I'm honest, the image sucked in colour. They won't like it, they won't use it, they won't share it. AND I don't actually want anyone to see it. If they asked for the colour copy I would explain the situation. If they persist, of course I'll search through my archives and send them the original — make the clients happy :D

If I convert an image to B&W for reason B, I send both the colour and B&W copies to my client.
I simply explain to them that in my professional opinion I feel the image is stronger in B&W, but I respect that they may prefer it in colour. If they choose to use/share the B&W image, we're all great and on the same page. If they choose to use/share the colour image, that's fine because I wouldn't have sent it to them as an option if I wasn't okay with other people seeing the colour version. I would of course still be using the B&W version in my own portfolio, website, blog post etc...