I thought I’d use this photograph I made recently of Susie Fowler-Watt to illustrate something a client asked me only yesterday – thank you Susie and husband Alex for kindly allowing me to use this picture. The client’s question was:
What’s the point of a black and white image, isn’t it dated, we view the world in colour?
Photographers could debate the subject for an eternity, talking about photographers preference, creative choice etc. For me, the employment of black and white, sometimes referred to as monochrome, is to focus the viewer’s attention and remove distraction. For example, a brightly coloured item of clothing, colour cast or colourful background may draw the viewer’s attention away from the author’s intended focal point. Monochrome can also emphasise emotion, again by removing surrounding distraction – when colour is removed from an image, it seems we make more of a connection with the people in the picture.
I can set my camera to record a scene and its associated information in black and white, so I see the scene through the lens in monochrome, not colour. This has a startling affect of making me see light differently, and in turn affects the composition of the picture, as shape and form stand out and patterns appear – sometimes more so in the studio when using flash lighting. Personally I love black and white portraiture, as I believe it presents the sitter’s skin in an almost magical way, adding depth to the image and making skin tones more even. I’m also going to throw in the platitude that, black and white conversion creates a timeless feel to an image… I’m not sure if this is because we associate black and white with old photographs or again, because of distraction being removed due to the lack of colour.
I’ll leave you to make your own judgement and comparison to the image of Susie and her son, above and below. Whatever your preference, don’t discount a black and white picture over its colour counterpart until you’re really looked and compared the difference in the viewing experience, and how this portrays the story within the image.
by Angela Adams