When To Use Black and White Photography

There's something special when it comes to black and white photography. It's timeless, classic, and can help you create a stronger image when you process your photos! Here are three tips I've found that has helped me determine when to process photos in black and white.

1. Color is a distraction to your story.

If you find there are too many colors around your subject AND there is a lot of action going on in your photo, try processing your photo in black and white. I think color can be a wonderful and powerful element, but sometimes it can detract your viewer from the story you're trying to tell. Ask yourself: will removing color strengthen or weaken my visual narrative? Will it add or take away from the story?

In the photo below, I wanted to emphasize the moment when the mother of the bride was helping her daughter get into her wedding dress. I found the colors of the wall and floor to be distracting (we were getting ready in a classroom at church). Changing the photo to black and white made the photo more refined and clearly puts the focus on the subject: the bride and mom.

Raleigh Wedding Photographer | G. Lin Photography | Mom helping daughter get into wedding dress | Photo in color
Raleigh Wedding Photographer | G. Lin Photography | Mom helping daughter get into wedding dress | Black and white photo

2. You want to emphasize an emotion or expression.

Sometimes there's a cute expression or emotion that is happening in your photo, and again, you want to focus on that! Expressions, gestures, and emotions are all things that help make a photo interesting and meaningful (especially when it comes to family portraits).

In the photo below, I would use the color photo in a family album or slideshow because it would look consistent with the other images I took from the session. However, if I was framing this photo or presenting it by itself, I would choose the black and white photo. I really want to highlight the baby and his cute yawn!

Raleigh Family Photographer | G. Lin Photography | Baby in parent's arms yawning
Raleigh Family Photographer | G. Lin Photography | Baby yawning in parents arms, photo in black and white

3. You want to highlight interesting light, shape, or pattern.

You can apply this tip to so many genres of photography! Whether you are shooting portrait or travel photos, look for patterns or interesting light and shapes. If you're looking to go the extra mile, change your camera settings to black and white then shoot! It totally changes the way you see everything, and helps you become a master of light and composition.

In the photo below, my husband and I were on a boat tour in Chicago. As we were approaching the city, I saw the beautiful skyline and wanted to capture its grandness! I also wanted to capture the silhouette of the guests on the boat, and love how the contrast is emphasized in the black and white photo. Also, the shapes of the building stand out better, and if you look closely, the building at the center is the Willis Tower.

Raleigh family photographer | G. Lin Photography | Chicago skyline in color
Raleigh Family Photographer | G. Lin Photography | Chicago skyline in black and white

Now go out and experiment with black and white! Remember, ask yourself if using black and white will help strengthen or weaken the story you are trying to tell.

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