Black & White Or Color?

 As we scroll through endless filter options on Instagram, trying to decide which is best for our image, what’s really going on when we’re making our selection? Why do we think one is better than the other?

Do you want black & White Portraits, or color? And How do you know what will be best?

There are endless filter options nowadays that we can all choose from for our images. That’s a lot a tackle, so let’s keep it simple for this post and consider a fundamental question – Will my image look better in black & white, or color…. and why is that?Working primarily as a portrait photographer I have to admit I have a real love for Black & White Photography. Early on in my career I wasn’t sure why,  and wondered if it wasn’t simply a personal preference. Pretty quickly, I came to realize that because most of the time a portrait is focused on a single subject –  by removing the color from the image, the eye is really drawn to the subject. Is this the case every single time? Of course not. But I like to take candid portraits, that are not studio-shot, meaning that when I shoot a portrait, it’s out there in the world, and so it’s likely that there’s always something going on behind the subject (as opposed to a studio-style single color backdrop). And that’s the case for most of us as we take pictures of our children, friends and family. So next time you’re looking at a portrait shot you’ve taken, and it’s a wonderfully bright colorful image, ask yourself honestly….what is this really a photo of…. and do all those colors enhance the person in the picture, or do they serve as a distraction?

There’s something about a black & white portrait that really seems to ‘strip down’ the image, and fully draws the focus to the subject of the portrait.

Sometimes the natural coloring of a photograph is simply not that flattering – most regular indoor lights aren’t that great to be honest. In some cases, you might have yourself a great shot, but the lighting makes for an unflattering skin tone,  and the transition from color to black & white is when you’ll really see the image come to life. Plus there’s something about a black & white portrait that really seems to ‘strip down’ the image, and fully draws the focus to the subject of the portrait.

Now it might sound like I’m making the case for black & white over color portraiture.  But that’s certainly not the case. It can happen – sometimes by design, sometimes by happy incident – that the color palettes really come together nicely, in which case the colors in an image can really make the individual in the picture stand out beautifully. Color is of course highly indicative of mood too, so when you have colors that really match the ‘tone’ (pun intended) of your photograph, then you’ll have something really special. If you want to find out a little more about color palettes,  then the movies is a great place to start – they’re fantastic for building knowledge on what colors go well together, and you can do it in front of the TV! Perfect!  Take a look at the article below to get a sense of just how much thought and attention goes into setting the palettes for cinema. Orange and Teal palettes are very common in Hollywood, but there’s no denying that the colors do sit well together!

Hollywood loves a nice bit of blue and orange


5 Common Film Color Schemes – Learning Cinematic Color Design


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