The temptation to make our pictures vibrant and colourful is understandable. After all colours make images pop. But there are times when going the other direction makes the image stand out even better. I’m of course talking about rendering pictures in monochrome, specifically in black & white.
Sometimes the biggest enemy of a great picture is the colour. If the hues and saturation are naturally elevated in the subject, they tend to overshadow the basic composition and distract from the scene. Rendering an image in B&W brings more focus to the actual composition of the scene that’s being shot by removing all “colourful” distractions.
In this post I’ve listed some of the situations where I usually switch to B&W when taking certain pictures –
Shapes & Patterns
I find geometric patterns absolutely fascinating. Whenever the framed subject exhibits distinct geometric qualities, I switch to monochrome to accentuate the shapes and patterns. This works great with outdoor city architectures and skylines as well as interiors of heritage and old school buildings. In fact patterns are all around us and when you shoot them in B&W, you allow the focus to be on the beauty of the geometry of the subject rather than its colours.
Sometimes the contrast in the colours of the composition is poor. And this can make the shot a tad dull. Times like these it really helps to switch to B&W and pump up the contrast in post processing. Since you’re only dealing with two diverse colours, the issue of poor contrasting colours gets addressed. You can play around with the contrasts and highlights to brighten up the image composition and get that pop you wanted.
This might sound silly, but people look brilliant in B&W. Faces somehow pop a lot more in B&W portrait shots than in coloured ones. But the monochrome rendition also works brilliantly for candid shots. At times the contrast and highlights need to get a little pumped to accentuate the image, but when it does, it is pure poetry. This brings me to the last and final point on when I rely on B&W…
Let’s face it; black and white pictures just scream STREET! Well not really, but some of the best street photography images are in monochrome. Why? Because the lack of colour forces the observer to be pulled into the scene and its characters. This implicitly implies that street photographs have to be that much better composed than the other types of shots. Without any colour or vibrancy to distract the observer, the image relies solely on its composition to wow you.
So there you have it folks! These are the most common scenarios where I opt to go colourless (so to speak) and choose to shoot in Black & White.
These are by no means the only scenarios when you can shoot in B&W. There are loads of different situations where rendering an image in B&W will accentuate the composition and elevate the brilliance of the shot by several nothces. So if you have any suggestions, do post a comment and let me know. 🙂