Monday, 23 June 2014

Kim Ayres - Black and White or Colour?

Over the weekend I was at the Gatehouse Midsummer Music Festival and during a conversation a friend asked me, did I prefer black and white or colour?

My answer was, it all depended on the photo.

In some ways that seems obvious, but in other ways not so.

Local newspapers, for example, rarely accept black and white these day - they are convinced their punters prefer colour. A huge amount of art photography, on the other hand, is in black and white. Indeed, when colour photography first arrived there was much debate about whether a colour photo could ever be considered as art (and in some circles that debate still rages).

Sometimes circumstances can force your hand though. Very often when shooting bands performing on stage, the lighting is quite low and lots of coloured gels are used. Occasionally that splash of colour adds to the impact of the image, but often it detracts.

To give an example, here are a couple of photos I took of the lead singer of local band Sparo and The Yahs in both colour and black and white versions

In the first example you can choose which ever appeals to you the most. Personally I prefer the colour, I think that splash of magenta on his jacket and backlighting his face and hair add something which is lacking in the black and white.

(You can click on the images for slightly larger versions)

In this next example, however, the light is just making everything a bit too pink. There's not a great deal of contrast in the colour, but there is much more of a contrast between the light and dark, creating interesting lines. So as well as converting to black and white, I've also adjusted the levels/curves/contrast so the lines and shadows become much more exaggerated, making it darker, moodier and a bit more iconic

Do you have a preference - are you generally drawn more to bright colours, muted colours or black and white photo? Feel free to leave a comment

Kim Ayres


  1. I find I'm often drawn to the black & white images Kim, perhaps its my artists eye, i love the tonal contrasts and the drama that can be created, sometimes colour in a photograph feels distracting. ps: thanks for the tip, loved trying out black & white on my images from Saturday!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Ruthie. And I'm glad my tips helped with your photography. Just give me a shout if there's anything else you'd like to know :)