Why Black and White Photography?

Why shoot in black and white when there is color photography?

There are many reasons but one important one is that without color you can focus more on your composition skills. This allows you to use line, shape, and the rule of thirds more effectively than if you had color to contend with.

Also black and white photography is still considered by many the only true art form, here are three of the most important photographers who worked primarily in black and white.

Ansel Adams
As an environmentalist and photographer, it is his work that created a love for the wild places of nature and helped save lands for future generations.

Edward Weston
A truly American photographer who photographed any and everything but created a truly unique vision that spanned a lifetime of work.

Henri Cartier-Bresson He was a French photographer who is widely considered the father of photojournalism and street photography. His phrase the “Decisive Moment” is one that many photographers know well. He was one of the first users of 35mm film.

Here are some real-world examples of the benefits of shooting in black and white.

Black and white photography allows you to focus on the things that tend to get lost in a color photo. There is nothing wrong with this image. It’s nice but . . .

This image won awards, a lot of them. The color of the leaves was taking away from the wonderful detail of veining and fuzziness of the leaves. Black and white photography took an okay image and made it wonderful. Color can be a distraction. Also black and white photography made this image compositionally stronger.

Scenes that make great black and white photos usually have some higher level of contrast to them, that is the difference between the dark and light areas. In color, this image is confusing because of the green grass. 

In black and white the focus goes on the seeds of the flower and the detail shines through.

Not a bad shot but not stunning either. The color of the leaves isn’t bad but the contrast is high here and we are losing the sheen of the water on the leaves

This photo is all drama and not only was accepted into many shows but won awards. The lack of color allows you to see the texture of the leaves.

Landscapes can benefit a great deal from black-and-white photography. This photo is nice but it’s confusing, what is the focal point. The green of the leaves is just a distraction in this image.

This is better! The lack of color allows you to see the pattern of the trees and enjoy the contrast between light and dark areas.

Let’s wrap this up.

So if your camera doesn’t have an option to see a live view in black and white that’s okay. If you have to add a black and white filter afterward that is more like what we had to do back in the film days. We only looked through our viewfinder and hoped for the best. If you are doing that method you may find yourself taking a lot of photos till you get one that you like. I personally do not use a live black-and-white view on my mirrorless camera. But I’ve been doing this so long that I can “see” in B&W now.

It can be hard at first to take good black-and-white photos. So give yourself time and don’t be afraid to take a lot of photos for one good one.

Take the next few days to practice taking only black and white photos.