Why Not Color?

Both Josh and I learned photography in a black and white, chemical process darkroom, so we are partial to the medium. Don't get us wrong—nothing compares to beautiful, natural looking, vibrant color. However, occasionally there are instances where color becomes distracting—a red shirt, a blue light, an orange cone—and the image becomes stronger in black and white. Black and white can emphasize texture and composition; leading lines and repeating shapes become stronger without color. It also isolates expressions and gestures to create a more emotional image during heartfelt moments. And we cannot discount the nostalgia factor. Black and white's yesteryear vibe creates a sense of timelessness; modern monochromatic scenes give the viewer the sense that some moments are universal and could have happened today or generations ago.

In our pre-wedding planning consultations, we always ask our clients how they feel about black and white and if it is ok to include some in their final collections. Almost everyone replies enthusiastically, yes, they want black and whites in their wedding photography collection. Interestingly, it is sometimes our older clients who don't want the black and white. Perhaps it is because they grew up in an era where color was advanced as the superior alternative. Or perhaps they fear it will make them appear older themselves?

I've always felt that the conversion to black and white can sometimes elevate a simple wedding image to a work of art strong enough to stand alone, divorced of its context. Look no further than wedding photojournalism websites (like FearlessPhotographers.com or WPJA.com) to see examples of photos that could stand side by side with a Weegee or Cartier-Bresson photo. A friend of ours had her wedding photographed by the great Larry Fink and he shot entirely in black and white, often on a medium format camera that allowed him quite literally to shoot from the hip and capture candid moments with subjects unaware. Check out this Vanity Fair article with a collection of his party shots that could easily have been wedding photos.

What do you think of black and white? Do you feel it has a place in photographing modern celebrations?