There’s an unwritten rule of photography that states you should shoot in black and white if you’re aiming to convey a particular mood or emotion. That is doubly true when it comes to portraits. After all, a good portrait is meant to perfectly capture the essence of the subject. Many will tell you that it’s all about the eyes, and there’s something about them that really pops once there’s no color taking up the frame. There’s also an inherent classiness that comes with black and white pictures these days, and the end result will easily stand out from the norm.
If you want a portrait that seems to truly convey the personality and essence of who the subject is, black and white helps by making the eyes appear to be the brightest part of the photo. It almost seems counter intuitive, but the reflective nature of the irises makes them stand out when the rest of the color has been removed. We’re naturally drawn to the brightest part of photos, and your portrait will be ten times more effective at capturing the person if that focal point happens to be their eyes.
Of course, a nice black and white photo also has a natural classiness to it that isn’t always easy to achieve when dealing with flat colors. You can more easily play with the lighting and contrast in subtle ways to enhance the mood as well. No one wants a portrait that feels as if it was low rent. By just taking out the color, you’ll have a quick and easy means of getting a photo that actually evokes a bit of fanciness. That’s a vibe that’s not always easy to pull off when it comes to everyday photography.
This leads right into the next big advantage of black and white portraits; we’re all so used to color photos that black and white actually stands out. This manages to make a picture without color seem outside the norm, and therefore inherently special. That’s precisely what you should be aiming for when it comes to a portrait. It should capture the person in that moment of time as perfectly as possible. By dialing back on the color, you can more easily make sure the end result is a truly standout portrait that the subject can be proud of for years to come.
If you happen to be shooting your portraits via traditional means, you’ll even save some money if you go the black and white route. Color film stock is considerably more expensive than black and white. It’s not quite as big of a deal in regards to photos, but the expense of color vs black and white is one of the biggest reasons why you see so many independent films shot without any color. Most pictures are obviously taken digitally these days, but black and white is the most cost effective means of enjoying it if you’re a stickler for the warmth that actual film provides.
With all of this considered, it should be more than apparent why you should consider shooting black and white portraits. They are fantastic at bringing the focus right to the subject’s eyes, thereby really making them look their best and capturing their essence at that point in time. The tangible boosts in classiness and actually standing out also provide a significant advantage. Being able to save a bit of money if you’re still shooting traditionally is also a serious win. In the end, shooting in black and white is a sure way to get a portrait that looks amazing across the board.