Documentary photography has traditionally been a black and white medium, though that tradition began due to the relative ease of lab processing for black and white film when compared to color film. Among today’s photographers, with film and lab processing mostly removed from consideration, color would seem to be the preference—certainly it’s the most common choice—but is that because our world is so much more colorful, or because the technology is so simplified and so readily available?
There’s another key consideration, perhaps the most important of all for anyone who photographs with the intent of storytelling. It’s this: The most effective medium for telling the image’s story should carry the most weight. Shouldn’t it?
There is no doubt that black and white simplifies, and even strengthens, an image, and hones in on its story. Its ability to clarify comes from its cleansing simplicity. But color brings a rich texture that brings out the deeper, less obvious meanings in an image; and the use of color in a photograph is often the most immediate way for an image to command attention.
The most effective medium for telling the image’s story should carry the most weight. Tweet #iPhoneography
When the subjects of my photograph(s) were young, color photography wasn’t much of an option to capture this cross-generational moment. They would have been sharing each other’s company then, rather than staring at their iPhones. And because there weren’t iPhones to stare at, I wouldn’t be sharing their image, captured with my iPhone 5s. Ironically, my iPhone photograph was colorfully vivid when I made it, and to see it in black and white, all I had to do was choose the appropriate filter from my iPhone’s editing app.
But the ease with which I could do all of that, and the pleasure I’m taking in the irony, doesn’t negate the actual question about how photographs are presented: Does my image tell its story better in black and white, or color?
That is a question I leave to you to ponder, and hopefully to answer, in the comments section below. ♣
Does your criteria for shooting in black and white or color match mine?
Find more iPhoneography tricks and photos HERE. See more creative ways others are using their smartphones at Sally’s Lens and Pens Black and White Phoneography challenge, where each week is a new smartphone photo adventure. And please get in touch HERE to buy my custom prints, from $45.