Black and White or Color? | Photography Tips from Elizabeth Langford Photography

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Have you ever taken a picture and immediately thought to yourself this would be great in black and white? As a wedding and engagement photographer I’ve found that certain photos scream out to be in black and white. Black and white can create an additional sense of drama in the image that isn’t there when the image is left in full color. Black and white also tends to have a “timeless” and classic quality about it. Some of my favorite images to edit in black and white are brides and grooms dancing and brides dancing with their fathers. Those moments just tend to lend themselves to black and white, in my opinion. And that’s really where the answer to “should this photo be in color or black and white?” lies. It’s up to you. It’s a personal choice and your opinion might be different than mine and it might be different than everyone else.

Here’s an example of a photo that I like in color, but I absolutely love in Black and White. {This image was taken while I was second shooting for Suzanne Melissa Photography at the Wigwam Resort in Goodyear, Arizona this past spring}.

Elizabeth Langford Photography - Gilbert Wedding Photographer

The color image has not been edited at all. No color correction, no post processing of any kind. The second image has simply been post processed as a black and white image. Both color treatments convey the joy and love between the bride and groom but for me the black and white image makes a greater impact.

The same can be true of snapshots you take of your children. Anyone who has ever attempted to photograph toddlers knows that it’s a bit like wrangling cats. They move fast, they never look at you when you want them to and they always find the most dangerous things to do while you’re holding your very expensive, shiny camera. I took a couple of snapshots of my daughter the other day and here you can see the difference between the unedited color images and the black and white images. Again, it really comes down to personal preference, but I really like the “feel” of the black and white images.

In this next photo {the one on the left is the unedited color version, the one on the right has simply been changed to black and white using a preset in the photo program I use called Lightroom} my daughter had just touched a snake for the first time. As you can see in the photo, she didn’t much care for the feeling and was holding her hands and probably wondering why we’d let her touch the snake that the dog had caught in the first place.  In the color photo the shadows from the backyard are more pronounced, there are “hot” spots where the sun is hitting and she is competing with the background. In the black and white image the shadows are less pronounced, the hot spots are minimized and her facial expression is much more clear. Can’t you just feel the worry she is experiencing.  Right after taking this picture she looked at the camera {of course!} and said “yucky.”  Yep, that snake was yucky!

Elizabeth Langford Photography - Gilbert, Arizona Photographer

The next image is a great example of how black and white {again, in my opinion} can sometimes “save” an image. My daughter was playing with sticks {a favorite activity of hers and one that scares me to kingdom-come} and swinging a small branch around. She happened to look right at the camera and the stick was across her face. In the black and white image her eyes pop, she’s separated from the background and you can sense the excitement she feels {probably because she can hear my heart racing from three feet away}. Her hat is creating a shadow across her face {darn those hats… they’re so cute, but they sure can mess up a photo} but in the black and white image that shadow is less distracting. Turning the image to black and white also “blew out” the background and while it created a “hot spot” on the image, I actually think it’s less distracting than the white fence and piece of bright cement that you can see behind her in the color image.

Elizabeth Langford Photography - Gilbert, Arizona Photographer

At the end of the day, it’s all about personal preference. Some people {like me} love the look of a black and white image. Others find them dated and un-modern. I personally prefer images that are not over-processed and that have a classic look whether that is achieved through color or black and white. Here is an image that I love in color and wouldn’t put in black and white.  This is a senior portrait and in black and white it just wouldn’t have the same pop. The red makes it vibrant and the light on one side of his face helps to create drama.

Gilbert Senior Portrait Photography - Elizabeth Langford Photography

If you have a photography question or a tip you’d like to share with me please email me at [email protected] and I’ll answer your question in an upcoming photography tips post. Please be sure to visit my website if you or someone you know is looking for a wedding or senior portrait photographer!