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Colour or black and white photography, which is better?

I never used to like black and white photography, but recently I have started to change my mind. (If you want to learn more about why I changed my mind check out this blog.) I always thought that it was just a matter of opinion what was better, but now I am starting to understand why some photos just look great in black and white and others look better in colour. In this blog I am going to explore some of those reasons:





Images in colour obviously have a much wider range of colours, tones and hues than a black and white image, therefore they can add more to the story. Colour can be used to highlight an object or make it blend in. It can be great for showing off the bright colours of a sunset or how the green hills contrast against a bright blue sky. From the tone of an image we can tell things like the time of day or even the time of year. But most importantly colour can have a huge impact of what we feel when we look at an image. Different colours evoke different feelings, red is often seen as a warm colour, whilst blue if usually cold. If you want to learn more about how colours can tell a story let me know in the comments.


Colour photos tend to be seen as more modern as it has only been around for a few decades compared to black and white photography that has been around since the late 1800’s.


Red Rose
Red Rose


Black and White


Black and white images have a much lower range of colours, black, white and all the tones of grey in between. This simplifies the image and can removes anything which could be distracting to the viewer. However the more tones of grey that appear in the image the more detail that is shown in the image, meaning that you can still tell a narrative with black and white photography. But simple shapes also work really well in black and white and can help to add an abstract view to your image.


In some respects it is also easier to shoot in black and white as poorly exposed images can be brought back with less problem. Noise grain and blue don’t look as bad in black and white and can often add something to the images. You also don’t need to worry about the white balance of the image as there are no colours.


Finally black and white can make a scene seem like it was taken a long time ago. This is simply because we all know that black and white photography was invented before colour and therefore just associate black and white with the past. For this reason black and white photography is often also seen as more serious than colour.


Black and White Rose
Black and White Rose




So which is better for you? Well it still really is up to personal choice. Think about what you want to be sharing in your image. Look at your scene, are there elements that would appear better in black and white. Consider what you want your viewer to feel when they look at the image.



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