In some quarters there has been some mumbling about Black and White wedding photograph being a bit ‘past it’. Some people think that now that wedding photographers have access to so much fancy digital kit the maybe black and white photography should be seen as something we used to do. In quite a snobbish way it’s seen as a bit dull and uninspiring. Some of the harshest critics of black and white photography claim that wedding photographers only resort to this form of photography to correct mistakes. The twisted logic being that it’s easier to correct technical errors made ‘in camera’ on your big day by simply converting the dodgy photo to greyscale.
I would like to think I’m a fairly modern man, and I think any accusations that black and white photography is old fashioned or redundant are missing the point. I still love working with black and white. Naturally the bulk of the work I do for my couples focusses on bright, vibrant colourful photography, but there are some scenes (and indeed emotions) that work better without colour.
Stepping aside from the world of wedding photography for a moment have a look at the work of the legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams www.anseladams.com). The work of Ansel Adams works so brilliantly in black and white. His photos of the vast open expanses of Yosemite national park showcase the drama that can be captured with black and white photography. One of his more famous photos shows the ‘Old Faithful’ geyser in full effect. If this photo that shows thousands of gallons of water shooting high into the sky was a colour photograph it would lose almost all impact. The powerful jet of white water would be shown against a pale blue sky, rather than contrasting so brilliantly against the palette of greys created by using black and white photography. White on dark grey has much more impact that white on light blue. One of the ways I might use a similar method when shooting a wedding would be to use a black and white photo to make a brilliant white wedding dress really ‘pop’ out of a scene.
Returning now to people photography, which is my professional focus, a black and white photo can capture the emotion of a moment with a lot more power than colour. There’s a softness to black and white photos that tells a story in a way quite differently to colour photos. I’m not saying that colour photography can’t capture these things, but it tells the tale in a very different way to black and white.
When getting preparing to present a newly married couple with the photo story of their special day I will use every weapon I have in my photographic arsenal to make sure their photos are emotive, personal, romantic, funny and genuine. And that’s why sometimes I use black and white photography.