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Black and White vs Colour

In the early days of photography black and white was the only option, but for a very long time, the choice between monochrome and colour has been a stylistic choice. So how does a photographer decide on which to use? In this post I am going to explain why I chose black and white over colour for one of my favourite images.

Something to consider when choosing between monochrome and colour is how will it affect the story, what the photograph trying to convey. Are there any bright colours in the scene, will these distract from the subject or will these make the image more impactful? These are just a few things I will take into account before I decide if an image will remain in colour or if I will process it in black and white.

This image was taken in 2012 when I first started to venture into street photography. Historically the genre of street photography is dominated by monochromatic images, but this is not a requirement or a rule, and even if it was, rules are there to be broken. I decided at the time that black and white was the way to go with this image, the background is somewhat busy and perhaps a little distracting when colourised. The way the light was falling onto the girl’s face also swayed my decision as it creates strong contrast with the shadows.

Even the black and white image you see today wasn’t the first version, my editing skills had improved and I decided to tweak it ever so slightly a couple of years later – you can leave a comment below to say which you prefer. The version you see today involves a tighter crop and more contrast whereas the original edit was a bit lighter, more greyscale.

Improving my processing skills over time has led to me visit some of my older images to try different techniques on them. This was an image I have revisited before as mentioned previously. This time I wanted to retry it in colour and as you can see above I produced an edit I was happy with but this is the first time I have shared it – it has been sitting on my hard drive for over a year prior to this post.

Even with the benefit of hindsight I still feel the colour distracts from what the image actually portrays; a girl looking bemused while rummaging around for something in her bag, with a duck sat alongside for company. An even tighter crop was required to cut out as much of the background as possible without compromising the composition.

While I do like the colourised version it lacks the overall impact that the black and white image has. This photograph is definitely more impactful in black and white, it evokes more emotions and tells a better story than its colour counterpart.

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