When black & white portraits work best

Once you have taken a shot you are happy with there are many post-production techniques that can enhance your image even further. Shooting in or converting to black and white (or monochrome) is a popular technique amongst portrait photographers. Let's look at why that is.

Here are two examples of a portrait taken in colour and then converted to black and white afterwards. Which do you think works better in black and white?

In the top example converting to black and white brings out the intensity of the model's eyes and the old textured background takes on a different feel in monochrome. However, the colour of the model's hair and the background make a nice colour match that is lost in black and white.

In the second example the black and white image has a much more urban feel. The colour version feels a bit more modern but potentially has distracting colour in the metalwork. Which do you prefer?

Black and white images generally work well for portraits; the often-cited reason is that the absence of colour reduces distraction and focuses the attention on the subject. However colour can also bring life and interest to a portrait. Shooting or converting to black and white is a personal choice. If you are new to black and white photography, a great way to start is to shoot in colour and convert some of your favourite images. Learn what works best for you and your style of photography.

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