I am part of a private community of photography-enthusiasts consisting of people who have travelled with us on photography tours. It is usually abuzz with some interesting images, events or topics of discussion related to photography. In the last week the focus of discussion was on making Black and White images, and the subject of some B&W experiments were images from a recent photography trip to Varanasi. I raised a few thoughts in the discussion, and thought it is worth sharing those points here.
I see a lot of considerations that would have go into making an image BW. Some of them here, according to me –
1. If the colour brings life to an image–it does to many images–it is perhaps best left with colour. Images of shining earthen lamps that create a warm glow, for example..
2. If the colour is a distraction–it often can be in intense portraits and many other situations–perhaps it is best to get rid of it.
3. In many occasions, colour images loose the shine in high-contrast or challenging lighting situations. But as luck would have it, these are situations that work very well for BW images.
4. Making BW is not just desaturating. It requires very careful consideration of available tonalities, colour channels and contrast and subsequently identifying and enhancing the subject/story. A BW image can be really brought to life with good quality processing. And this is the reason why most professionals during BW film days used to develop their own images, to have full control over final results.
And most importantly, it is worth planning your shoot with the end in mind (that is, final processed BW/colour image). This is something that even Ansel Adams had proposed strongly (in shooting BW film).