There is a certain timelessness and elegance that comes with black and white photos so when I take a less-than-perfect shot, converting it to black and white is sometimes the easiest way for me to save it and still get to show it off to my clients!
Yeah, you read that right – mistakes happen! Even the most professional and sophisticated photographers have memory cards sprinkled with soft images and I know that when it happens to me, I get discouraged because I hate deleting images. While the technology we have available today is really helpful in recovering lost details and fixing color casts, sometimes the damage is done and we can either do our best to salvage what is left or send it on to the trash bin for deletion.
This is when I call in the big dogs…
Okay, so not big dogs necessarily, but desaturating an image certainly feels like a feat when it seems to save an image that was otherwise destined for rejection.
So what are some reasons to convert an image to black and white?
Color Cast or Competing Colors
Maybe you are shooting JPEGs on your phone and can’t go in and edit the details you could in a raw image or maybe you’re shooting RAW but there are just too many colors and no amount of split toning or HSL adjustments can fix the problem you’re experiencing – time to convert!
I can’t even tell you how many reception photos have been saved by converting them to black and white! Once everyone hits the dancefloor and the lights are flashing & changing colors, it can be extremely difficult to capture skin tones correctly and realistically.
Another situation that gets tricky is greenery. If the light is bouncing off the grass and trees, you’re likely to get a green color cast – even if it is slight – and that can be tricky to fix.
Sometimes, when colors are the issue in the photo, the best route to take is to remove them entirely!
In low light situations, I find myself bumping up my ISO to compensate and while you may or may not know what that means exactly, all that you really need to understand for this example is that the higher your ISO is, the more grain you will have in your image. Image grain isn’t bad by any means but it can be a distraction to some folks. In my opinion, image grain just makes a photo feel more like a film photo than a digital photo and I don’t personally mind it. Then again, there are times where I find myself shooting in a really dark location resulting in a lot of grain and converting the image to black and white plays into the film aesthetic in a way and almost makes the grain feel like a natural part of the image. Sometimes, I think it distracts the viewer from the grain completely because in a way, that timelessness of black and white photos is also there when it comes to grain since it was decently standard in film photography until recently.
When I capture an image that is slightly out of focus, converting it to black and white is my go-to move. Why? Again, I’m thinking film.
Back in the days of film-only photography (I say that because while we are mostly digital, there are still some amazingly talented film photographers and I feel terrible when they get left in the dust – they are the REAL DEAL!), photographers couldn’t immediately check their work for accuracy and therefore, not all of the photos were magazine perfect like we are used to seeing today. Sometimes they were a bit out of focus or there was some motion blur in the image but it was still acceptable because that’s just how photos turned out! Leaning into that in the digital age can save a lot of our images from the trash because when we go back to the root of photography as an art, it isn’t always about a crisp and “perfect” photo – it is about capturing a moment in time that cannot be recreated. With that being said, why in the world would we trash an image for a tiny imperfection!? Life isn’t perfect, and not all of our photos will be either!
Sometimes, I like to convert images to black and white for the simple heck of it. Whether it’s just to give someone the option of seeing their image in black and white as well as color or if it’s to help them unify a wall display, I love seeing images in black and white and delivering them brings me joy! You don’t always have to have a reason to do something – if it makes you happy, that is reason enough I say!
I hope this helps you to save some of the images in your deletion queue!! I hate seeing images get deleted so before you go to trash that recent photo of your white dog on your recent hike through the greenest woods your phone camera has ever seen, convert it to black and white and see how you feel about it!
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If you’re sick of relying on your phone for all of your photos and are ready to get some eye catching wall art of you and your family, reach out to me at [email protected] to schedule your session today! I’ll be sure to include some black and whites for you to sift through!