All You Need To Know About Black and White Or Color Photography

two hands and the color contrast between them

Can you claim that when you look at old and black and white photos of your family, you don’t go back to your past memories with those people?  

Can you remember those memories only with color photos?

In fact, it can’t be claimed that one of these two types of photography is superior to the other.  Each of them has its own efficiency and position.

In 1886, physicist and inventor Gabriel Lippmann created the first color photograph without the aid of any color matter.  In 1906, Lippmann showed his work with color images of a parrot, an orange bowl, a flagpole, and a stained glass window.  With this discovery he won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

color photograph taken by Gabriel lippman

But Lippmann had another idea in his experiments.  Selecting subjects for his photographs that are not only inherently colorful, but also strongly associated with color in the human brain.  Lippmann may have been one of the first photographers to draw the line between color and black and white photography without realizing it.

color photograph taken by lippman

Today, despite the proliferation of color photography, we can still see the use of black and white photography that has been used in various places.

Now the question is, when shooting, which one should we choose between black and white and color?

Let’s find the answer to this question!

colored and black and white cat

One way to better choose between these two types of photography is to first fully understand their benefits.

What are the benefits of color photography?

christmas tree and gingerbread
  • The color element in this photography can be a great and powerful tool for composition in the image.
  •  Each color is associated with different emotions, for example, yellow raises morale.  Blue is soothing and pink is associated with love.
  •  Color is used to highlight the subject, for example, the color of the subject is lighter than other colors in the photo, which leads to more attention of the audience towards it.
  •  By using the color wheel and the relationships between colors, such as complementary and similar colors, the viewer’s opinion can be attracted.
  •  Using the colors of the photo, you can identify the time of the photo, for example, at sunrise, the photo was taken or at sunset.
  •  Using color can create a mood in the image, for example, cold colors can induce a sense of sadness and loneliness, and vice versa with warm colors can show tenderness and happiness.

You can drown more in color photography.

What are the benefits of black and white photography?

black and white image of a match between women
  •  These types of photos, due to their monochrome, are simpler and can be used even in interior decoration.
  •  This is the best way to depict beauties, because when you erase the colors of a work of art, you can see its beauty. The same goes for the photo.
  •  Removing the color makes it more difficult to detect the exact date of the photo.  And over the years, it still conveys the same dramatic message.

These photos are more durable than color photos.

  •  These photos can attract a lot of attention due to their creativity.
  •  This photo reduces distraction because there is no color, so the viewer pays attention to the concepts and not to the colors.
  •  These photos have a lot of shadows due to the contrast. As a result shows the subject in detail.
  •  This photography makes you think.  Because the world is in color and its representation in a single color makes you think about it.
  •  Removing the color in the photo makes the viewer focus on the emotional state of the subject.

You can get more information on black and white photography.

Which of the two types of photography should we choose?

Before shooting a scene or subject to choose between these two types of photography, you should ask yourself these questions:

1.Is not the color in the picture affects or not?

Color can add or subtract the appeal of an image. Before shooting, ask yourself, is this image color dependent? Or is there an attractive case for replacement instead?

When color is the main element of your story, take color pictures. For example, when you want to shoot a rainbow.

As you can see in the image below, after converting the color photo to black and white, you will see that almost no rainbow is found.

colored and black and white sea with rainbow

It is very important to pay attention to the relationships of colors, complementary and contrasting colors. In this case, color is the best choice.  

For example, the contrast between red and green, In a color image, it is quite clear, but in a black and white image, these two colors are indistinguishable due to their similarity in tone.

colored and black and white anemone flower

But when color is not a strong point in the image, you have to turn it black and white. If the image has a similar color range, it will show itself better in black and white.

monochrome flower

Sometimes you have to turn it black and white to avoid distractions due to the odd colors in the image.

In general, keep this in mind as a general rule:

Subjects that have a variety of colors should remain the same color.

2.Is there attractive light and contrast?

Before shooting, see if there are important colors in the scene or important lights and shadows?

two women with black and white skin

When you remove color from images, there is only one difference in color tonnage, in lights and shadows. And this creates good black and white photos.

monochrome of the face hidden in the shadows

When you see a subject or scene that shows sharp contrast and lighting or a certain shadow, it can be a good black and white photo.

Otherwise, you can take the photo in color.

black and white coastal rocks

3.Is there an attractive texture?

The texture can be understood by touching.  But in photography, the texture must be understood through the eyes.

Using black and white photography, you can show more of the texture in the images.

Textures in wood, metal, stone, plants, and human skin produce good black-and-white images.

Of course, the presence of directional lighting also shows the texture more.

But if the colors are more visible than the texture of the subject or scene. Take the photo in color.

colored and monochrome painting

4.Is the feeling you want to create important to you?

Have you ever been impressed by the feel of a photo when you see it?

In general, black and white photography has more effect on the transmission of sense than color photography.

However, the presence of any color can be associated with a particular emotion. Colors can also direct the audience’s eyes to the subject.  Using color, you can identify the time of the photo.

hand in the sea

But in black and white images, due to the existence of different tones instead of color, it creates a deeper feeling of colors that is not specific to a particular time.

a crying boy

5.Does it attract the audience’s attention?

There are colors around us, we use colors to attract the attention of the audience and guide them to the subject and the story we want in color photography.

But if the tones replace the colors, you can shoot in black and white, because many photographers tend to take the subject away from reality, so they shoot in black and white or tend to remove colors and use tones and shadows, causing focus.  

These cases attract the most attention of the audience.

interior architecture of the building

6.Are you looking for simplicity in the image?

You should not overuse colors in color images, as it can be confusing and distracting. You can use a dominant color or two complementary colors such as purple and yellow, etc. in color photography.

white building

But if you are looking for more simplicity, you can think of turning your images into black and white, because these images have a certain range from the blackest black to the whitest white and gray tones. Which makes the image simple.

monochrome of four stones stacked on top of each other

7.Are there specific shapes and patterns?

Color is the first thing that attracts the eye. We are usually attracted to bright colors. This is an important element for color photography.  Photographers use color to highlight an object.

But if there are certain shapes and patterns in the scene. It is much better to take that photo in black and white. Because they reduce distractions.

monochrome mountains

Is it possible to combine black and white images with color?

Adding color to parts of black and white images makes the images more attractive.

The opposite is also possible, i.e. color images, some of which are black and white.

You can do this using editing software.

Photographers like to use this effect because it gives life to the images.

Of course, you have to be careful when using this, because it may damage the original image.

combine colored bees with monochrome flowers

A few tips

Thanks to digital processing, it is also possible to change the image to black and white after shooting.

Before shooting, make sure the photos are in RAW format instead of JPEG.

RAW shooting allows you to turn it black and white or color it again after shooting. Because the color information of the RAW file is available.  But saving a photo in JPEG format destroys the color information.

Listen, don’t fall into the trap of turning a bad and mediocre image into black and white, to save it!

Photos that are out of focus or blurry, or have poor lighting. They will not be saved by turning black and white. But if they remain the same color, they look clear and distinct.

So this mindset, that turning any photo into black and white to save it, will not help you!


You realized that these two types of photography are not comparable at all! 

No color, it can replace black and white.  

Not black and white tones, instead of color.

Many times we convert a color image to black and white and see that it gets better and sometimes vice versa. Color is an integral element in an effect. A color photo is a photo from which the color does not separate and shows the facts.

But a black-and-white photo is a photo in which colors are transformed into black-and-white tones, in which the facts change, and the photographer’s mental perception is desired. This is the only important difference between the two types of photography. Ted Grant’s talk about this, makes it clear to you: “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls.” He says.

About Me!

I like black and white, but l am a very colorful person and colors are something I know better and do better.

What’s about you?

Share with me in the comments below!

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It's Nazanin. For me who loves the rainbow after the rain. What could be more beautiful than writing about colors ?! Well, I'm here now, in Dopely, to share my writings about colors with you and take you with me to the world of colors!

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