One of the decisions I struggled with when I first picked up a digital camera was when to edit a photo as black and white and when to leave it as color. I thought I was being artsy and creative by making my photos black and white but what I was really doing was making a mediocre photo even more boring. I'll give myself a pass though since I was 17 and the bar for whether or not something is a good decision when you're 17 is much lower than when you're 29. If you don't believe me just ask my mother. She witnessed several instances where my 17 year old self decided something was an excellent idea and was quickly proven wrong. Now that I'm thing about it an alarmingly high number of these instances involve car fenders and trees. Not sure why.
Anyway so what does this have to do with you? Glad you asked. Have you ever ordered photos online through a service that gave you the option to convert them to black and white? No, ok well then do you use Instagram? Still no! Ok then, how about a smart phone that lets you edit your photos. Uhhhhhhhhhhve course you do. So how do you decide when to use that black and white filter and when to go for a color filter? Well, that's a good question and sometimes you just have to try it and see which you like better. There are however, a couple times when you should go black and white.
When the colors are distracting.
When I first looked at this shot of Kayla and her mom I really couldn't focus in on the sweet moment happening between them. I was too distracted by the stuff on the vanity, the red and green tiles on the mirror behind them, the cherry color of the vanity, and so on and so on. My eye was landing on everything except what it was supposed to be landing on. I knew what I was taking a photo of and still I had trouble honing in on my subject. In this case it was because there were too many colors. Literally, there were a million! It could also be though that there is one distracting color. Say your wedding colors were lilac and mint green (I don't know why I picked those. Don't judge me I'm playing with an 18 month old while I type) and everyone in your family photos is wearing either lilac or mint green. . . except Grandma. She wore red. Ok, so who do you think is more noticeable in the wedding photo? The Bride? Nope! The Groom? HA! Nope again, it's Grandma's red dress. Solution, make it black and white and suddenly the focus is back where it should be, the happy couple.
When the subject has nothing to do with color.
This one is a little tougher. You have to know what your subject is. In this photo of Kayla and Joseph I wanted to convey the intimacy of their first dance. Of course you could still see that with color in the photo but with it gone the emotion becomes the star. Abstract concepts like emotion or space are sometimes easier to see when you remove some of the irrelevant information.
Next time you snap a photo and what you had in mind isn't jumping out at you from your phone screen try it in black and white.