When photos are in black and white they're often moodier, have more feeling and provoke an element of nostalgia. Is this purely because it is in black and white? I'm afraid not!
The skill in taking black and white wedding photos used to be visualising how a scene would look with no colour (in the days of film).
With digital wedding photography the skill is judging which photos would look good in mono, and knowing how to achieve the best results in post-production. The main thing I look for when converting a colour photo to B&W is the light. Photography is all about light, even more so when there's no colour.
A lot of B&W photos are dull, lifeless and flat. This is because of the lack of contrast, caused by lack of directional light. (I like to think of contrast as being the seasoning you add when cooking - it gives flavour and spice to photos!)
Perhaps because I live in the fog of San Francisco, I get really excited by rich, vibrant colors in my photographs. Naturally, one of the most frequently asked questions I get from my clients is: “Do you shoot only in color? What about black and white wedding photos? Do you do those?” Since I’m escaping the fog to shoot a wedding in LA this weekend, I thought I’d flip the script with a quick post about how I approach black and white wedding photography. The answer is, of course, yes. I love black and white photography and you can certainly see examples of B&W photos on this very blog. Today’s high end digital cameras shoot everything in color, and black and white conversion happens in my digital darkroom. Not all photographs are conducive to black and white…usually, if something has rich color to begin with, why get rid of it? However, I’ve found that candidates for black and white photos have a certain “timelessness” to them, even abstractness in some cases. Generally, photographs with strong contrast (pronounced highlights and shadows) are perfect for black and white. Black and white also offers the ability to use different filters, that screen for certain colors, such as red, yellow, green or blue, and achieve a very dramatic effect. Ever see those National Geographic photos with dramatic, almost black skies? That’s a red filter in front of the lens. Fortunately for us digital photographers, this kind of effect can be applied seamlessly and precisely in the digital darkroom. Check out the “fish” photo from Alla and Pavel’s engagement session, and see if you can guess the technique! So, the bottom line is, in my work, converting photographs to Black and White just for the heck of it doesn’t cut it. Whether it’s wedding photography, an engagement shoot, or a portrait, black and white images need to be purposeful in order to achieve a striking, timeless look.