We live in a world of colour so it’s only natural that when we take photographs we do so in colour, but for many years black & white was the only type of film available but black & white photographs still have a place.
Do away with colour and it concentrates the attention on the subject and can produce a much more dramatic and powerful picture.
Take a look at the photograph below.
This is quite a nice photo and a good record of the locomotive concerned, but by removing the colour and making a few adjustments the result is the photo below.
By removing the colour our attention is focused on the subject and the image gains more impact.
Look at this picture of a Centurion tank hiding among the trees and bushes, by removing the distracting colour from the surroundings the eye is drawn to the subject of the picture, the tank itself. Without the pretty green trees we’re left with a stark no-nonsense image of a serious piece of military hardware.
In the picture below the sky takes on a much more dramatic appearance than it would if it was in colour and gives the subject of the picture, the bomber aircraft, a much more impressive backdrop. This machine’s home is up in that sky, it’s a no nonsense machine, with a serious and deadly job to do. The no-frills monochrome image conveys that purpose.
Here’s a different subject, this photo of a massive sand sculpture of a castle was impressive in colour, but taking away the colour gives it a whole different level of dramatic impact. The steps lead your eye up past the brooding clouds to the castle surrounded by a halo of light.
Finally, take a look at this photograph of the exhaust nozzles of a Concorde’s engines. With the white of the wings and silver of the nozzles this picture was almost monochrome, but rendering it as pure black & white has made the detail in the exhaust nozzles really stand out sharply and gives an impression of the power of the jet engines that took this aircraft to mach 2.
I hope this post has made you think again about black & white photographs. With today’s digital cameras we no longer have to choose which film to load in them, or take two cameras out with us, we can create black & White pictures in our photo editing software without affecting the original colour image.