Personal thoughts on the Colour Vs Black & White debate.
I was chatting to a couple a few days ago about the use of colour and black & white in wedding photography.
I’m the first to admit that whilst black & white often suits my documentary style of wedding photography, you cannot beat a bit of colour to bring things to life!
The way in which colours work together in a wedding photograph is just as wonderful as the ability that black & white has to create a more simple image.
My personal view is that when most of us think of documentary photography, the image that springs to mind is usually in black & white. You see, over the last hundred or so years the world saw and still do see black & white news photographs printed in our newspapers. We have grown up in a world that is led to believe that reportage, photojournalism and documentary stands for black and white.
Firstly an admission. I love black & white and I find it suits my storytelling of most aspects of a wedding day. By removing colour from the photograph it alters the way that an image is viewed. It seems very simplistic but it takes away the distraction of colour. It allows your eyes the freedom to concentrate on emotion, composition and mood captured within the black & white photograph.
At moments of emotion, for instance, the wedding vows, or the nervous preparations before the wedding, or even the laughter and tears during the speeches, black & white is often ‘king.’ Monochrome can be used to enhance these strong emotions. But this doesn’t work at every wedding. This is the beautiful challenge of wedding photography. Whist many weddings often follow a similar sequence of events, there is no one recipe that suits every wedding. Saying I only photograph in black & white is a non-starter.
Colour has the great ability to intensify a photograph, especially when colours compliment each other. The wedding day is full of colour, often rich vibrant colours and so much planning prior to the wedding goes into every aspect of the day, the dresses, the flowers, the venue etc… Colour plays a part in all of the decision making. When you’re choosing the flowers for your wedding day, the selection is made on the colours and whether they compliment the wedding dress or what the bridesmaids are wearing. I have not yet heard of a bride choosing red flowers because they’ll look good in black & white!
I photographed a wedding in Yorkshire last summer and the bride arrived at the church aboard a red double decker bus. A red bus has to be red! When the image is converted to black & white it is just a bus.
Personally speaking, ‘documenting’ a wedding or telling the wedding day story means recording the colours of the day as well as everything else. Sticking rigidly to the notion that documentary photography means using only black & white seems rather narrow-minded. We live in and are surrounded by a world of colour and that can’t surely be totally ignored.