Black and White Wedding Photography

Over the past few weeks I have been drawn to black and white photography over colour photography, especially in my wedding work.

I have been reviewing wedding venues in Newcastle recently and I photographed many of them in black and white rather than colour.

In part this is because I am using a Fuji X-Pro2 and Fuji X-T1 and they both offer in camera black and white film simulations. The Acros simulation in the X-Pro2 is especially good.

Another major influence is that I am reading three books on Magnum photographers at the moment; Magnum Magnum, On Being a Photographer and Magnum Contact Sheets.

When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!
— Ted Grant

There's an element of truth in the quote above. Colour can sometimes be distracting as it catches the eye of the viewer and might take their eye away from what you intend to be the subject of the photograph. Black and white photographs strip that level of distraction away and the photograph is reduced to it's bare essentials. In wedding photography this often means that the emotion can shine through.

I also think that black and white photography feels more authentic and real than colour photography. It has a sense of gravitas and class. The reason for this, I think, is that the history of photography is largely steeped in black and white imagery. This was due to technical considerations; in the days of film, it was far easier to process black and white film than colour film, and virtually all newspapers and magazines printed monochrome photographs. Most people, especially of my generation or older, when asked to think of a famous photograph they remember and can picture in their mind, will think of black and white photographs rather than colour ones. Nowadays, virtually all cameras take photographs in colour and pretty much everyone has access to a camera. The majority of photographs shared on social media are therefore in colour. Only those with a keen sense of history, or those familiar and willing to post process their photographs, will bother to make a black and white photograph. 

Of course, black and white photography isn't more authentic than colour photography - most people see in colour after all. It's just that we have become so accustomed to seeing monochrome images, that it has become the norm. It is especially connected with documentary and photojournalist subject matter which lends it even more legitimacy and trustworthiness.

Black and white photography has a timelessness. As long as you stay away from over the top filters, your photographs would be indistinguishable from those taken fifty years ago, other than the fashions and hairstyles of the subjects.

Without colour, a photograph emphasises light and shadow. It's more about the composition and geometry. These are the things I am currently preoccupied with. I plan to shoot a lot more black and white photographs in the 2016 wedding season.