Written by Clemens Lukasser, a volunteer on one of our wildlife photography projects in South Africa.
Why are black and white photos so popular?
Although we have been able to take images in color for quite a long time now, black and white photography is still a very common form of photography.
But why do we still use it when there is a possibility to represent what we see with our eye in a way that comes closer to reality? This is the beauty of color photography.
However, like Ted Grant once said:
“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls.”
This quote really resonates with me and my photography. From my point of view, the decision on whether to edit in black and white or color depends on what you want to express within an image.
Sometimes the color can distract from that.
If you take the color out of the picture, you take out a stylistic means. In this way, there is more space for the observer to interpret. There are more questions left open.
I find that portraits work pretty well as black and white photos because, this way, you focus more on the expression of the face, their movements, or emotions.
In images with more than one subject, you focus more on the relationships between characters, and they are often much better represented without color.
When it comes to photographing animals, black and white photography can be used in a lot of different ways to get interesting images. I love to edit photographs of elephants or rhinos in black and white to emphasize the structure in their skin.
Editing in black and white can also produce atmospheric images by using rim-light or playing with areas of light and shadow.
Curious about what a day in the life of a volunteer photographer in South Africa is like? Pietro Baroni from Italy made a video about his experience with us → Watch it on YouTube here ←
Taking color away can bring out the ‘essence’ of a photograph
I know most people would say it is much easier to take good pictures when the light falls directly on the subject, but I do not think that this is always true in every situation. Sometimes, you can get much more interesting shots when the light source is behind the object and it throws a shadow towards you.
There are not better and worse light situations, there are just different ones.
For me, this is the beauty of black and white photography. I love that it can express so much and strip an image down to just represent the emotion or drama of a scene.