We often hear how color can add to the story and make our subjects pop. But what if I told you that Black and White can do the same thing? When we think about the reasons to convert to black and white and how it can enhance the storytelling in our images, I think we will come to love conversion better. Black and white can draw our viewers in and help them linger even more.
Color is a wonderful storytelling tool – you can use it in your composition and storytelling. But you can do the same thing with black and white imagery.
Before you convert an image to black and white, I want you to think about why you are doing this. Here are some reasons why you SHOULDN’T convert to black and white, ever!
Instead, I want you to think about converting an image to black and white when the WB works, when the light is amazing, and when there are no distractions in the frame that doesn’t add to the story.
When you’re photographing, do you ever think about black and white as you are taking a picture? Do you ever think about what type of image would make a good black and white and purposely shoot for it? Don’t use black and white to cover up mistakes, use black and white to enhance your story.
Here are some key elements that will help your black and white images enhance your story.
Composition is important in all aspects of photography, but you can use black and white to enhance a composition. One way is to help your viewer narrow in on the subject. Another is to help bring out the texture in an image that can lead your viewer straight to your subject as well. When you’re converting your images to black and white, pay attention to how your subject pops (or doesn’t pop) before deciding if it will make a good conversion.
When composing your shot in camera, pay attention to all the little details. Try to get the shot as close to perfect in camera as you can. With that being said, once you’re editing, pay close attention to your composition and how you can improve it by cropping in and leaving things out. Tell the story you want to tell.
Including small little details in the frame can help enhance your story further. Things like outfit choice, light, location, items in the frame, composition, texture, can all help tell your story. When we convert to black and white, some details can be lost and others can be enhanced. When you convert your image to black and white, consider the details that are being lost – are they important to your story? Do you need them? Then consider the details that are being enhanced – are they important to your story? Do you need them? Thinking about how the little details look in your black and white will help you determine if the image is a good fit to convert.
Color is one of the main details that gets lost when we convert to black and white. When you specifically set up a shot with the colors in mind (having a pop of pink, complementary colors, monochrome, etc.) then it might not make sense to convert to black and white. When color is part of the story, you want to keep that element of your image to enhance your story further. But when color isn’t part of the story, converting to black and white can take that shot to the next level. One thing to keep in mind is to not use black and white as a crutch for instances when you didn’t plan your shot or when the colors are extremely distracting (it’s still OK to convert your shot in this instance, but what I’m trying say is don’t use it as a last resort type thing).
I love showcasing emotions in my photography, but specifically in my black and whites. The emotions are so beautiful in black and white. I love converting images of joy, sadness, mad, contemplative, all the emotions! I believe the black and white conversions can help tell the stories of emotion even more. Black and white adds a level of timelessness to a photo which can help the emotions shine when a photo is converted. Also, added bonus, tears are a small detail that are usually brought out even more when converting to black and white.
When we focus on the emotions we are trying to portray as a viewer looks at your photograph, it might help you decide if you want to convert or not. What emotion are you trying to portray in your image? Is the emotion more evident when it’s in color or when it’s in black and white? Why?
Light is important in all things photography, but I feel like it’s especially important in black and white. I see it time and time again that someone converts their image to black and white because ‘the light was flat’ or ‘the colors were wrong’ or ‘I couldn’t get the white balance correct’. While it’s ok to convert an image in this case…it’s even better to convert your image to black and white when all of those things ARE correct. When they all work together.
So, when I’m looking for a good image to convert to black and white, I ALWAYS make sure my image has beautiful light in it. You need to always be searching for the light. You need to always be using the light to your advantage. There’s never an instance where you can’t work the light and make it work for you. Less than ideal lighting situations can turn into fun and creative ways to make the light work.
What kind of mood are you going for in your story? For example, if you are wanting a moody image like the image above, then your light should also be moody. These two elements help tell the story better. So, think about what type of emotion and story you want your image to portray before you ever pick up your camera.
Black and white photographs have such a classic feel to them, they can really help you tell your story better. So, what are you waiting for?! Go convert some images!
Awesome post, Aly!!