What makes black and white photography all that?

beautiful and artistic - black and white
@vega83 (6346)
Bahrain
April 8, 2007 8:40am CST
Have you ever noticed this, a colorful photograph, no matter how good it is will always look just excellent or beautiful. But when it is in black and white, it will look like art. Last year, the world press photo exhibition came through here, and I loved going to the mall everyday then, just to see that.I mean these are the best works of the world of journalism, so who wouldn't enjoy that? Anyway, what I noticed is that most of the best photos were in black and white, and honestly those looked the best to me. What is it about a black and white photograph that gives it that aesthetic, artistic feel? I don't know a lot about photography, but I do know that I can take some good pictures, I have a good eye with that, but my knowledge is limited, so I would like to know what your take is on black and white photography and what according to you, makes it so artistic?
5 people like this
20 responses
@Erinlpx (179)
• United States
8 Apr 07
Well I don't have a technical answer for you or anything, but here is my feel on it. A photograph, or more - the art of photography is capturing a moment in time and immortalizing it. When we look at the world, we see it in color, vivid and vibrant shades - and we don't see in still pictures - we see in "video". So when you take a still shot, and look at it you have a moment frozen in time, and then when you remove color - you add an air of mystery. What color was her dress? What was the weather like that day? etc. I think it's the timelessness (remember, B&W was around long before color) and the mystery.
• Australia
8 Apr 07
I would say that, that answer is actually fairly technical and makes perfect sense. I think we all know why we like black and white photographs more, but its not until its pointed out that you realise you have thought that all along. I just read your post and thought "yes, thats exactly what i think!" but its not something that ever entered my mind when i first saw the topic.
3 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
8 Apr 07
I think you nailed it Erinlpx, and jaywhiting, i agree with you that it's only after you physically hear it that you realize that that's exactly what you thought but you just didn't have the words to describe it. And it's so true, that because we see the world in color, a black and white still provides us with something different and more mysterious and we associate both of those things with beauty and art. And you said it wasn't technical......, get outta here, stop being modest, you know your stuff, even if you don't know about the technicalities of it.
2 people like this
@Erinlpx (179)
• United States
8 Apr 07
Awww, thanks you guys! I tend to get awfully rambly when posting, especially when it's something I feel pretty strongly about, and I'm quite passionate about photography. I'm by no means a photographer, but I am very interested in learning more, and practising more (once I can afford a better camera).
2 people like this
@sensesfail (2251)
• India
9 Apr 07
Indeed, black and white snaps have their own looks.The main reason to this is because first there were only black and white snaps.People so got used to seeing snaps this way.Then as times past by,then came color.This was a major advancement in the field of photography that people started to migrate to it already. Its been abound 30 years past that we're used to color snaps, that the look of those black and white snaps appear new and unique.Moreover the camera that come these days capture a whole lot of details that enhance the look of those black and white snaps. My brother is a photographer not by profession but he does it cuz he fancies it.He's mainly into taking b&w snaps and he's good at it.There are actually 2 different types of these black and white ones: 1)Grey scale and 2)Monochrome Grey scales are those snaps that first came first during the early ages of photography and monochrome snaps are taken these days.The advantage of monochrome snaps is that these reveal the perfect mix of the magnitude and direction that is captured by the camera.Thus giving out those beautiful black and white snaps that you and i marvel at.Nice discussion btw and congrats for making it to the top discussions once again.
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
wow, that's a whole lot of good information, especially since I'm really interested in photography and would rather like to know the perspective of each person than just study about it online or something. Yes, black and white photos these days are more striking and breath taking because of the better cameras, and it keeps getting better and better. Thanks for the great response and the information as well. P.S: I didn't know I made it to the top discussions, I never know actually until someone tells me, i don't think we can see our own discussions when we visit that page even if we are on it. Thanks for letting me know.
• India
9 Apr 07
lol.I'm very sure i saw you on the first page of the top discussions.
1 person likes this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
Cool! See, I don't know when my discussions are on top, as I don't go on that page and I don't think I'll be able to see my discussions there even if I did. Perhaps you could tell me whenever you do see one of mine up there and I'll do the same for you, just because I'm curious to know what people really like to talk about.
• Singapore
8 Apr 07
That's because you are living in the modern era. If you were living many years back, you would say instead that every black and white photo will always look just excellent or beautiful. However, any color photo will look like art. :P
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
8 Apr 07
I guess you do have a point there, but that is only if you're talking of a 'what if', what if i born in that era, I'm talking about now, now that we have both and we see them both, and to me clearly, black and white is more superior, I just wanna know if others feel the same way, and if they do, then why is it that we feel that way about it?
1 person likes this
• Singapore
8 Apr 07
Sure. :P
1 person likes this
@aissha (2036)
• India
9 Apr 07
same with me dear i also don't know much about photography but when i take one it comes out good and hey i agree with u black and white photos look like art and every one look younger and better in black and white photo.i also don't know the reason but the fact reamins...lol
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
yeah, when i started this I thought only the photographers would answer this one, glad to know that this appeals to everyone else too. On the lighter side, yes everyone does appear better in black and white pictures, and if you read through some of the great responses I got on this one, then you'll know why too. Thanks for stopping by.
1 person likes this
@emskoneko (806)
• United States
9 Apr 07
I, too, enjoy black and white photographes. For me, I enjoy how it is a picture of our world yet it is not. The black runs smoothly into grey and white. It is also classical and pictures with too much color is just so much to absorb. A black and white photo usually has one focus that captures the mind of a viewer.
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
I like the way you put that, "it is a picture of our world, yet it is not", everything is there, yet it is different from the colorful world we see and that's what attracts us to it, to see our world through a different eye, in a different way. And I totally agree about the one focus thing, I also mentioned something like that before, that black and white photography is all about the subject and the focus on it.
@steney (1418)
• Philippines
8 Apr 07
I'm no expert, but I'm an artist-at-heart(or so I believe). I'm also fascinated and drawn to black and white photographs. Maybe what makes them look more artistic is that because there is so much drama and some kind of mystery to them. the look is classic. We all have color photographs nowadays and we find them too commercial and common that's why the black and whites stand out.
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
Well, as long as you believe you are an artist at heart, no one can deny it. 'Classic' is a word not used yet in this topic and I think that it describes black and white photography accurately. And 'drama', that is a good way to put it too. See, you are an artist, I totally believe you.
@Dumpertaker (1188)
8 Apr 07
Monochrome photography is totally amazing, and the main reason for this is that there is no colours to distract. Black a white phots have a lot more impact that colour ones.
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
yup you got that right, no colors to distract, all the focus is on the subject,whatever that might be in the photograph, and monochrome photos have a distinct ability to draw your attention towards them, to get a 'closer' look.
@palonghorn (5485)
• United States
8 Apr 07
I have always preferred black and white photography over color. I used to develop my own film and pictures. Black and white gives you depth, and shadows that you don't normally get with color. Although I mainly use color photos in my work, I try to use black and white when I can.
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
oh, so you're a photographer, that's the first one here, and I'm glad to know your point of view. I always dreamed of having a dark room and developing my own pictures. But I'll have to get a camera first, he he :)
@seamonkey (1981)
• Ireland
8 Apr 07
I think it is the moody quality that makes black and white photography so appealing. You can really play with the light and make it broody, or dark and sinister or very soft. I think one you get the hang of it, for certain situtions (I particularly like shooting black and white by the sea) it is the only film to use.
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
Yes, it does give a moody feel to it. I also think that black and white by the sea is amazing because there are so many different shades of light and shadows of the waves that it makes a really interesting moment. But the best is shooting in fog, because fog really plays on the light in its own weird way and that looks great on the camera.
• New Zealand
8 Apr 07
I don't know much about photography (I wish I did! haha) but I think its easier to take black and white photos. The colours don't have to be good, and it'll probably look arty no matter what the light is like. Also, seeing things in black and white is different to us. Its like seeing things at nighttime, when they lose colour, and things always look more artistic at night time as well. I like seeing things in black and white though, as much as I like colour, its a different take. Black and white are so complimentary of each other that it just makes a photo look really emphatic if only two contrasting "colours" are used.
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
That's odd because people here who said they know nothing about photography have actually come up with really good responses on why they prefer greyscale photography. Like you. But I would disagree with you on one thing. Not ALL black and white photos look arty. There is still some effort and some more magic to capture that perfect monochrome moment.
@brokentia (10396)
• United States
8 Apr 07
I love black and white photography. And I also really enjoy putting just a spot of color, hand painted, on part of the subject. It seems to me that when it is black and white, the person viewing the picture is not distracted by all the color blending. It creates the ability for the person to see more of the emotion rather than the action. This is why I think black and white is more artistic. However, say you have a baby in a wagon with a pumpkin. The photo is black and white...but the pumpkin is colored orange. This sorta makes the picture pop too!
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
8 Apr 07
like this one - black and white with a splash of color
yeah, I know those photographs you're talking about, like a picture of a woman in greyscale and only her lips are red or her eyes are blue or some other colorful detail, that looks awesome. Or a picture of a beautiful black and white sky with a colorful rainbow across it, like in this one.
1 person likes this
@feris0604 (303)
• Malaysia
8 Apr 07
Eventhough I love colours, and taking colourful pictures has been my passion, I won't deny that black and white pictures still capture my attention. There is a certain mysterious in any black and white picture. I grew up in the 'black and white' years before I saw myself in colour pictures! I still find those 'greyscale' pictures lool beautiful and artistic! Of course, they were all taken by my dear father who loves photography!
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
8 Apr 07
oh that's nice, I don't have any picture of me in black and white, and the ones that are digitally done just don't have that quality, it's the best only when shot with a black and white camera, makes all the difference.
1 person likes this
• Australia
8 Apr 07
I have noticed this too, we do digital photography and black and white photography. And the black and white photographs always seem to look better, the black and white just gives the photo a more artistic feel because if you think about it, its abstract. Its showing something in a way we do not usually view it, the world is all in colour, so when we see a colour photograph, we dont see it as anything too special. That being said, there are still many good colour photographs out there. Dying a photograph a single colour still keeps it with an artistic feel, just think about the dyed photographs you've seen. For example, i think a yellow or brown photo has a nice look to it.
2 people like this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
8 Apr 07
yeah, I think they call that sepia, that yellowish or brownish look. And hey I totally agree that a photo in color can be beautiful and that there are lots of good ones out there, but if you take the same photo and make it black and white it just changes the whole look of it, and more important it changes the whole feel of it.
1 person likes this
• United States
27 Apr 07
yea i guess it's just the fact that u have to imagine the color. and it's just how some peoples minds are. then again when black and white photography first came out it made painting an art and so on i guess when 3d photography comes to the public it will make color photography art too.
1 person likes this
@wildhorse (1293)
• Egypt
10 Apr 07
Yes colors makes any photo catchy and good, it just represent nature in it's fully colors and glory but with black and white it's not easy to make good photos with light and shadows, just shades of gray, I think it's hard to make perfect photos in black and white but the good ones are just great and outstanding, I guess it has this abstract feel to it and you can concentrate on the subject and shades of light without the glamorous colors.
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
10 Apr 07
really? I think it's more easier to get a good black and white photo than a colored. Of course both can s*ck if you don't know what you're doing, :)
@Pigglies (9339)
• United States
10 Apr 07
I think color photos can also be very artistic. And some black and whites are just snap shots. It all depends. However, one of my favorite "artsy" things to do with my photos, is to do part in black and white, part in color.
1 person likes this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
10 Apr 07
yeah, black and white with just the right splash of color, but I do still think that b/w really stands out, and most of them are better than just snapshots. And agreed that color photos can be outstanding but I still find b/w photos more artistic.
@jhongz (42)
• Philippines
10 Apr 07
Same here, I also like taking black and white pictures. Pictures like that for me gives something else. For me it makes the photo a little more dramatic and artsy.
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
10 Apr 07
yeah, dramatic, Another great word to the list of words to describe b/w photographs. They just keep on coming.
• Canada
9 Apr 07
I think Black and White adds a mysterious feel to a picture. It can look haunting and beautiful. You wouldn't get that feeling if the same picture were in color. I love looking at photos and the ones in black and white are able to hold my attention far longer than color ones.
1 person likes this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
'haunting', another perfect word to the list that describes monochrome photography. I like that word and it has a deep association with b/w photos, I guess because we usually associate the word 'haunting' with old, and b/w photos are also in that olden era, so it blends well together. They do have the ability to grab your attention lot longer that colored ones, that's so true. There's just something about it that you can't look away.
• United States
9 Apr 07
I'm a photographer. Lately, I work digitally, in color. I much prefer analog black and white though. When you see color, your brain is inundated with all that color, distracting from details. In B/W, you can focus on texture, and brightness, on the picture. You're not looking at the bright colors, the meaningless info. You see only the subject. Black and white just feels more real. It's visceral. It has depth. Also, the b/w darkroom is a helluva lot more fun than being glued to a chair and giving Adobe all your money.
1 person likes this
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
Yeah, the whole fun part is the developing, and black and white photographs and our love for it, will make sure that doesn't become obsolete. It's no fun developing your pictures on the PC, takes away the whole charm of photography, but I guess it's more convenient and faster. But I still prefer the old ways in this one. That's what catches the real depth of a picture.
1 person likes this
@crickethear (1420)
• United States
9 Apr 07
They look elegant for sure. I think it has to do with photography originally being black and white, and they always look rich and classy. I think in addition, it focuses every thing out but the image you are trying to capture. Nothing else to distract. I make a lot of my pictures black and white.
@vega83 (6346)
• Bahrain
9 Apr 07
Elegant, rich and classy, sounds like my wishlist, he he, just kidding, I just like the 'rich' part. But, seriously, I think you hit the spot with this one, there is a certain elegance to b/w photographs, that color photographs can manage but not all the time, colored photographs do distract from the main image and that's where it loses it appeal, at least to me, although I do realize that are a lot of breath taking colored photographs too, but none as elegant as the b/w ones.