Why so Black and White? When (and when not) to go greyscale.

The feel and tone of an image is key in how you perceive it. The use of light and colour can stir up a great deal of emotion. An image can make you feel warm or cold. An image can give you a sense of mystery or happiness.

Images can be very powerful things, so it’s important that they’re used properly.

For instance, take the image below, it can either be vibrant and exotic or quite dull and boring. It’s the same photo, the only difference is how colour is used.

I think you’ll agree one image fits much more so with your expectations of ‘exotic’ than the other.

I think you’ll agree one image fits much more so with your expectations of ‘exotic’ than the other.

Often in commercial photography, the image is all about people. Whether that be a headshot, a press release or the story of an event, the focus is on an individual or a group. So, the first question to ask when thinking about photography is how you want your company to look - because after all, biggest asset to any business is the people, isn't it?

People Photography

Quite often, the answer to this question will include words such as professional, approachable, friendly and down to earth. For some the answer could even extend to fun-loving, relaxed and happy.

Needless to say these are all positive characteristics, and support the old saying that we buy from those we know, like and trust. Professional photos need to show people in a likeable and trustworthy manner.

A headshot which fits with expectations and is relateable, whether consciously or not, immediately appears more trustworthy.

hs1.jpg
Headshots work better in colour because the individual looks much more ‘human’. More relateable and friendly. Your eye is drawn to the colour image much more so than the black and white.

Headshots work better in colour because the individual looks much more ‘human’. More relateable and friendly. Your eye is drawn to the colour image much more so than the black and white.

Getting the mood right

So, what's my point?

Well, I think the decision of how you use an image is key in achieving the desired feeling that someone will have when they see it. Specifically, in this case, the colour.

To appear 'approachable', 'friendly' and 'trustworthy' I think it's crucial to use full colour images as that's how we see everyone around us everyday. Someone's character will always look more appealing in a colour photo, it's almost easier to make a connection with a colour photo because it's more relateable. You don't see the world, or it's people, in black or white, so why convert colour photos into black and white?

A good news story just wouldn’t work as well in black and white as you can see, so why use a black and white headshot?

A good news story just wouldn’t work as well in black and white as you can see, so why use a black and white headshot?

Where black and white photos fit

Now don't misunderstand me, black and white imagery absolutely has its place. I just think it's a different place (and feel free to disagree!) I believe black and white imagery is much more at home in the art world, where a photographer is trying to convey a particular mood. Black and white imagery is often more thought-provoking because of this. Sometimes the dark shadows on an image can convey a sense of mystery, fragility or even loneliness. The problem is, those words don't really fit with professional, approachable and friendly do they?

Often the intention of a black and white headshot is to convey a more classic look, however, I believe it detaches the viewer from the person in the photo.

Black and white works beautifully well when you want to be a little artistic, particularly with street photography.

Black and white works beautifully well when you want to be a little artistic, particularly with street photography.

Positive images for positive people

So, ask yourself “how do I want my business to look?” If you answer with positive words - I'd go for colour images every time! Don’t be afraid to look vibrant and bold - it’ll help you to stand out!