All digital cameras shoot in a color mode known as RGB and are tuned to capture and show color the way the human eye does. But cameras and software also have the capacity to take or make black and white images. And the question I get from time to time is, "Why shoot in black and white?" It's a good question that isn't always easily answered. And perhaps the first pair of photos exemplifies the challenge of doing the right thing.
The color version of Megan is one of my favorite portraits. Her red hair complements her dark green sweater perfectly. And, of course, her radiant smile and eyes don't hurt.
In the black and white version Megan's eyes and smile remain, but I've taken the color away. And the photo has a different impact. In this case, I'm not sure if the change is good or bad. So the choice here is a somewhat complicated aesthetic one. You be the judge.
Sometimes, however, a black and white conversion is important because it helps shift the viewer's focus. Consider Jessica's portrait:
In the color portrait, I didn't like the way my eye was drawn away from Jessica's beautiful face and eyes to the blue necklace and the light blue top she was wearing. And so I converted to black and white. There is still an aesthetic choice that needed to be made but for me it is easier to accept that the b&w version is better.
Consider one more example:
This was a photo that I took in Tokyo on a less than perfect rainy night but when this solitary man walked into view, I knew I had a potentially good photo. I will say that the color version is interesting, especially in how the color is reflected in the wet pavement. But my subject is the businessman in the foreground and I think the black and white version does a better job of focusing attention him. Thus, for me, this one that ended up being published in black and white.
In closing, I would say that some of my decision making is driven by my age: I grew up taking black and white photos. Also my role models were people like Karsh and Weston and Adams. And they all shot in black and white.
I'd love to know what you think. All you have to do is type in the "Comments" box at the bottom of the page. :-)