Black and White Portrait Photography
If you are old enough, you may have shot in black and white using film. It was cheaper than colour, easier to develop and was the predecessor to colour film. There are so many iconic images taken in black and white. James Dean, Marilyn Monroe are two examples of how the story of the photograph can be told without the distraction of colour. Black and white has it’s place and taken properly can be as striking and engaging as any colour photograph.
Click the image below to see a gallery of beautiful black and white portrait photography
Great black and white portrait photography is not a simple matter of taking a colour photograph and applying a black and white filter. Contrast becomes very important, more so than colour. The luminosity or brightness of the light and the shadow, the ratio between them takes on a bigger role in black and white portraits. In a way, it is easier to shoot in black and white with the “distraction” of colour removed. Colour, in photography, has three components to be concerned with, hue, luminosity and saturation. The eye can be deceived between hue and luminosity ( brightness ). For example a yellow can look brighter than red when processing a photograph and understanding how the colours can alter the other colours near it, tricking the eye into seeing a colour that is not there. Black and white does not have this issue…. just shades of grey.
So, it is easier to shoot, perhaps, in black and white, but not the subject has to be strong. Without a strong subject, most photos fall into the general “blah” category. The photographer needs to spend much more time composing the scene, working with the subject to create an image that transcends colour.
Many photographers are technically excellent and can create technically perfect images. Black and white portrait photographers require a not just a technical skill, but an ability to see the subjects values and uniqueness and bring that out in the photograph through artistic vision, understanding their subject and bringing out the story or the essence of their subject.
Don’t let anyone tell you that black and white portraits have no value in a portfolio. If not for artistic value, a well shot black and white portrait photograph will standout well over a poorly shot colour photograph. I encourage all models, actors to include at least one black and white in their portfolio. For art to be put on the wall, nothing outshines a classic black and white photograph.