When a black and white photograph is done right it's so good! But when it's not, I find myself concentrating to much on the edit rather than the image itself and asking - why was it even converted in the first place? I'm going to share with you what I personally look for when choosing to convert an image from colour to black and white.
First I just want to say, that I am in no way an expert on this, and still always have something new to learn, but when it comes to black and white photography, I'll either love it or hate it and I have learnt over the last couple of years a few things that I specifically look for when it comes to making the conversion.
The first thing that will get me to convert almost every time is MOVEMENT. Clear crisp movement. So the spinning and twirling of dresses, the frozen motion of water and water droplets, and the swishing of hair or the wind blowing through the hair. These are all examples which I have portrayed below and I love how a black and white edit will help to emphasise the statement of that particular movement.
The second thing that I look for is LIGHT and CONTRAST. These two both kind of work together. The light has to be strong enough in that particular image to be able to create enough contrast. Window light is awesome as long as you can see where it falls off. If the window is large and the fall off doesn't seem to be happening in your frame, you may wish to close the curtains slightly to get more contrast within the image. As well as window light, I love to convert my images that have harsh light. Light from the midday sun, whether indoors or outdoors it can create some awesome shadow play and seems to respond quite well to a black and white image.
The last key word I use for my black and white photography is EMOTION. What do I want the viewer to feel and where do I want to take them? In my opinion, I tend to find that black and white photography can bring out the emotion really well, as long as either movement or light and contrast is already apart of the image.
I do also want to make a quick mention about white balance and colour casts, because I know how easy it is to just convert an image to black and white because you can't figure out the correct temperature and tint. I admit, I have also used a conversion to save an image where I could not do so via colour, and an example of that is the fourth image below - 2nd row, 1st image. The water in my daughters paddling pool was flat calm, there was no wind blowing past, and with the full sun bellowing overhead it made for an awesome reflection - and this is what the photo is of; my daughters reflection. However, I could not for the life of me rid her body of all the blue that was her paddling pool during editing. This conversion did work though, because like with the key word, emotion, one of the other elements was present, this particular image had light and contrast present from the harsh midday sun. So again, as long as either movement or light and contrast is present, this idea behind converting here could be very hit or miss.
So there you have it. My two big contributors being MOVEMENT or LIGHT and CONTRAST to influence whether or not I choose to convert and image, and then lastly I will use a black and white conversion if there is a strong EMOTION that I also want to portray or that I feel will speak more loudly as a black and white image.
Please click on the first image and then scroll through to get a closer look at each image and see if you can identify which element or elements influenced my decision to convert.