Black and white portraits are a classic that will never fade away.
Even as time goes by, black and white portraits will remain a popular choice. You know, black and white portraits are not only a great deal of fun for the customer or the person getting the shot taken. It’s also a lot of fun and a whole new photography experience for the photographer. Why, you might ask? I am sure if a photographer is reading this sentence as we speak, they can already come up with a million reasons. I invite my photographer readers to post their reasons below in the comments!
Ultimately, there are many reasons why black and white photography are more fun or more difficult for some photographers.
I for example, see a change when I shoot black and white portraits. I focus on things differently, I have different types of messaging. And somehow, I tend to get more captured into the photo itself. I really have seen a change in my work, and this is coming from me shooting in colour for years. Let’s explore the reasons behind this together!
Colours tend to set parameters for the photographer, that’s why black and white portraits are more popular. By that, I mean, if there is too much red for example on one side, the photographer will look towards a colour to complement it and balance it out. Otherwise, the photographer can use the colour red to highlight a specific emotion or action.
I mean, think about it. What comes to your mind when you think of the colour red? For me, I think of fast cars. Not sure why. I also think of love, romance, passion, but also aggression. So depending on the subject of the photograph, if the photographer will have a specific colour present, it will limit him or her as to the outcome or the theme of the portrait itself.
The pink car
Plus, I rather think, that colours can sometimes be very distracting. Imagine doing a family portrait, and you’ve just captured the ultimate shot of your life where even the dog looks directly at the lens. However, there is a pink car in the background that just ruins that perfect picture. Hence, colour can sometimes be super distracting to eye, and can bring you further away from the focal point of the portrait. It can totally influence and disturb the relationship between the subject of the composition and the background. Therefore, too much colour or too little colour, or just even having the wrong colour can create that horrible disbalance.
With black and white portraits, you won’t have such problems.
Especially, not the one with the pink car in the background. In contrast, black and white portraits allow you to focus more on the composition, lighting, theme, message of the photo. Rather than just creating that visual balance in colour. The beauty of black and white photography is, that it actually makes you think in advance!
When you have colour photography, you tend to perceive light in a different way. Plus, we tend to emote with the light in a way. For example, I love that sunset lighting the most, especially on a beach. Nothing is more beautiful than that light, as it brings me a lot of warmth in pictures. With black and white photography, you won’t be able to have this in your portraits.
The black and white portraits will be therefore a bit more complicated in terms of lighting, as the light has to be perfect.
You have to think of the person’s angles, shadows, highlights. In my opinion, once a person masters black and white photography, he or she can do any type of photography there is.
Because I truly believe, that black and white photography is the most complex to understand and execute.
With black and white portraits, you’ll be focusing on the amount of lighting, quality and also the angle and direction of lighting. I bet you don’t think of these so much, when it comes to normal colour portraits!
With colour out of the picture, emotion is one of the main things that comes up in black and white photography. This is purely because the colour is not there to distract you. In contrast, the lack of colour is to make you focus on the subject. Therefore, black and white photos make us develop a certain level of connection with the subject, as we tend to search for something.
Let’s take the example of a facial portrait. With a colour portrait, you will immediately look into the person’s eyes, or freckles or blemish areas. Or if the person has red hair in the portrait, then you’ll look directly are the hair. Whereas, in a black and white portrait, none of this will matter, and you’ll be looking for something deeper than colour.
Black and white photography highlight beauty for sure!
This can be seen with famous black and white portraits, like Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe. It’s not only because back then, they didn’t use colour in their photographs. Black and white portraits really do highlight beauty.
Today, if you look at the look book of any supermodel, you’ll notice that they’ll have several beauty shots, most being black and white portraits. With this type of photography giving you a vast amount of tones and shades to play with, skin blemishes and imperfections disappear. Black and white photography also highlights inner beauty, which I think is even more important.
So, are you convinced to do a black and white portrait? The best thing is, you can do anything with it. Whether it be for professional use, or just to have a gorgeous photo of you at home in a frame. Anything is possible with black and white photography.
Don’t worry too much about make-up, as this will fade in in terms of tonal range. If I’d a black and white photoshoot tomorrow, I’d probably practice my angles in the mirror and see which lighting is best for my face. Every person has different angles! You’d be surprised by supermodels practice this in front of the mirror a few times a day even!