How Do You Know Whether a Photo Should Be in Color or Black and White?

One of the most fundamental yet impactful decisions you can make regarding the post-processing of a photograph is whether to render it in color or in black and white. The choice of which is not always clear for a given image, however, but this great video seeks to provide some guidelines for choosing between the two.

Coming to you from Denae & Andrew, this helpful video provides some ideas and tips for choosing whether to process an image in black and white or in color. While it seems plainly obvious for certain images, if you're anything like me, you've probably stared at a certain image for several minutes, clicking back and forth between the color and black and white versions, only to come away just as unsure as when you started. Personally, the best advice I have ever heard was that photos that convey information should be in color, while photos that convey emotion should be in black and white. Of course, that's a bit oversimplified and there will certainly be situations of overlap or exception, but I've found it to be a good general starting point. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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Brian Knight's picture

The way it makes you feel when you see it in BW. Or, you totally F'ed up the color, and still need to deliver the photo.

Kirk Darling's picture

Ideally, the decision for color or monochrome should be made before the shutter is released. Composition by tonal mass, juxtapositions of colors based on brightness rather than hue, use of patterns and shapes instead of colors--everything this photographer considered in post processing should have been considered before he pressed the shutter release while he had an opportunity to modify his composition for the better.

user-206807's picture

Why have to choose? Sometimes a photo deserves to have a color version and a black and white version.
Why two different interpretations of the same image should be a wrong thing?...

Choose it once in your career and call it your style.

Rick Nash's picture

Isn't B&W the go-to choice when an otherwise lackluster image suddenly emotes moodiness simply by switching to a monochromatic greyscale?