Trends come, and trends go. From filters to composition to style, photography has seen fads that catch on and others that don’t. But the one that has always captured our attention and our imaginations—since the very first photographs—is black and white photography. I intentionally shoot in black and white for three primary artistic and aesthetic reasons. Here you’ll discover why black and white photography is effective, and how implementing it in your work can unlock its magical and momentous nature.
The first images I ever took that didn’t come from a point and shoot camera were black and white. In my small town Nevada classroom, I took the 35mm camera they let us use and set off to fulfill the photo assignments. I labored over each frame of that 36 exposure roll and then hurried back to the darkroom. I couldn’t wait to uncover what I had created.
By the end of that year, I had my first portfolio, consisting entirely of black and white images. I was beginning to discover an alchemy of sorts. Between the effort of composing a shot with a manual 35mm camera, the film processing and then bringing the images to life in the darkroom, I suspected there was some magic taking place.
The black and white images I produced asked me to look at the world differently. They challenged me to seek different angles and, in return, they gave me a way to simplify the noise of the world.
Today, I still look to black and white to remove that noise and to ask the viewer to see past the color we are used to and look at the world differently.
Much of what drives my work is an effort to continue to simplify a photo. I consider myself a minimalist in life, from trying to consume and waste less, to removing unnecessary decisions. I frequently and intentionally opt for things that can stand the test of time versus the trends. And in my work, I’ve found that getting to the truth of something generally means taking away and not adding to. It’s the stripping away of unnecessary detail and distraction that answers why black and white photography is effective. Less is truly more when it comes to using black and white, and the simplification that results is what draws us in.
In a quest to create images that can stand the test of time, I’m often seeking the minimalist’s approach. I must ask myself: what matters most? What’s most important and how can I guide the viewer’s eye using composition, light and medium? When I’m seeking to create the most timeless images, black and white photos do something that color cannot. As Jason Peterson said:
And especially when it comes to wedding photography, erasing time is part of the goal. When you want to create a memory that will last forever, and an image that can travel through generations, black and white photography, by spanning all of time, escapes time.
The beauty of black and white film has always enchanted me, and while I still leverage it often in my business, I also wanted a way to bring this magic to my digital work. After years of working with my editor Marta, we created Lightroom presets that bring the magic of some of my favorite films, like Ilford 400 to digital images.
Today I use these finely-tuned presets to capture the magic of black and white film and apply it to my digital works. From using the mobile presets on the go with my iPhone, to matching my digital work to my film frames for clients, I continue to relish and benefit from the magic of black and white photography in a modern world.
In a practical sense, there are concrete reasons why black and white photography is effective. Maybe it’s that you’re not focused on the color of the clothing, or the scene at hand. Maybe you’re less distracted by extraneous or dated details.
But there’s an ethereal quality to black and white photography that continues calling me back. Instead of seeing color, you see into the minds and hearts of the subjects. Instead of seeing familiar shapes and objects, you’re transported by new forms and perspectives, beaconing you to another glance.
Whatever the magic, I’ll always be chasing the power of the black and white photograph.
've spent the past decade capturing love and chasing beauty across the globe, and I believe every story like yours is different and special, and deserves to be told exceptionally.
Drawing on years of experience in the fashion and editorial photography industry, my photographs are graceful, honest and boldly natural, while completely intentional. Whether it’s the opportunity to narrate the retelling of once-in-a-lifetime wedding days, or the ability to communicate issues of global importance, or all the stories in between, I look at photography as the method by which I get to leave the world a little better than I found it.
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