Why black and white wedding photography is still relevant

Let me get this out of the way first: I do not suggest we photography your entire wedding or portrait session in black and white! Back in the days of film when I first started as a photographer, we had to make the choice to load black and white film or color film when we were shooting. Often, I would carry my Mamiya 645 loaded with Fujifilm color film then a 35mm body with black and white so I could shoot the bulk of an event in color and accent it with black and white. It’s certainly no secret that we now shoot everything in digital and don’t have to make that decision until post processing. However, in this age of Instagram and quality cell phone photos everywhere, it seems the ratio of color to black and white is moving in a somewhat depressing direction to this lover of black and white imagery!

So if we are in the age of Instagram (to be fair, IG is my favorite social media) and everything is in color, what’s the value of black and white? To me, it’s the drama and simplicity of black and white that draws in the viewer so they aren’t distracted by colors. It takes a powerful and well crafted image to really make an impact when color is omitted and when successfully done, the viewer can’t help but be drawn in to become a part of the image.

How I choose what gets converted

Shooting for black and white is not like shooting for color images. For both, I look for the best and most interesting lighting but with color I think about how the colors in the frame will interact to create depth. But when the light gets contrasty and dramatic, I know that the image has a good chance that it will become an interesting image for a black and white conversion. When I see that situation develop, or when I set up my lighting specifically for that purpose, I tend to look for more powerful and emotional imagery that will show a greater range of tonality so that it only gains in impact rather than looses anything. For the image above, I chose to up the intensity of my light that was creating the rim effect as I knew enough would spill over on the couple’s faces but I didn’t want to increase my fill light so I could keep the dramatic outline. To me, this creates a more dynamic image and keeps a bit of background detail so it’s still an interesting scene but ups the emotion impact of the moment because of the simplicity and directness of the composition.

But why is it important

The drama and difficulty of creating a good black and white image is very important to me as an artist. I won’t lie: for my personal work I print 99% in color. But in the nearly 20 years I’ve been a professional photographer creating good black and white imagery has kept my creativity alive and also positively effects my shooting overall as I don’t just search for pretty colors, I look for genuine experiences and tonality that work together in all mediums to create impactful images. For my clients, many love the more abstract and inherently artistic nature of  black and white prints or maybe they just match their home decor better. Either way, I’m happy to continue creating images that can be enjoyed in both forms and as a service to my clients I provide both. So whether you have a preference one way or another, know that I’m creating the best images possible to relay the emotion of your wedding or portrait that you can enjoy for years to come.

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