Color or Black and White

What's your preference? I often ask my students whether they prefer color or black and white photos. I also ask whether they prefer gloss or matte prints. Actually, both these questions are loaded. The fact is that there are a range of things that determine our preference. It may be that we associate black and white with many of those classic images by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams and Yousuf Karsh. Conversely we might associate color images with the billions of 6'x4" gloss prints made from snap shots. We may associate black and white photos with notions of nostalgia, while identifying color photos with the relative hardships of our own contemporary lives. And does that flow through to your view of fashion photography? Do you associate black and white images with classic, romantic beauty and color images with sleaze? Does black and white suggest innocence, purity and hope, while color conjures up notions of guilt, sin and despair.

Of course the Wizard of Oz was shot in color, and that has a pretty positive ending. There are plenty of examples of gritty and sleazy black and white imagery. So I don't think either mode is any more pure than the other. My point is that its good to try to understand what factors might govern your own preference? We are all biased and our views and opinions are governed by a range of things including the following:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Life Experiences

  • Education

  • Travel undertaken

  • Home location

  • Religious beliefs

  • Political beliefs


Glenn Guy