If you have spent any amount of time looking through my site you will have realised by now that I like black and white photography, especially black and white wedding photography. There are several reasons for this I think, other than just the obvious ‘black and white suits documentary wedding photography‘ which of course it does, so I thought I would take a moment to discuss the reasons here and have a look at why black and white wedding photography can be especially powerful.
Thinking back to the pictures I looked at growing up, the pictures that have resulted in me becoming a photographer and taking a quick scan at the photography books on my shelf it’s clear to me that a lot of those pictures are black and white. Most of those photographers that influenced me to pick up a camera with intention in my early teens worked predominantly in black and white. I’m thinking here of the likes of Duane Michals, Bill Brandt, Mapplethorpe and so on. When I think about the other two areas that influence me most, cinema and painting, there are similar trends happening there. While of course most contemporary cinematic film is produced in colour, if I had to pick a top ten favourite films the ones that come to mind first are black and white; Goddard’s Alphaville and Breathless, Tarkovsky’s, Solaris and Stalker. That leaves 6 spots in a top ten and somewhere in there I would have The Third Man, The Last Picture Show and Wings of Desire, all black and white – as I say there’s a trend emerging here. With regards to painting, while I can’t think of any black and white painters off the top of my head – it’s fair to say that most of the works that appeal to me use a very limited range of, or muted colours to great effect. Vermeer and Rothko spring to mind as favourites. So why is this?
For me one of the main reasons for all this is simplicity. Colour can distract and dissipate the viewers focus. Black and white simplifies the language of an image and allows the viewer to concentrate on the important elements. Sometimes the colour is an important element. Sometimes an image can be all about the colour only. But often by removing the colour you can highlight the moment or the emotion, the graphic elements and the composition. Black and white images are classic. Black and white wedding photography in particular takes on a classic timeless air, it’s elegant and carries with it a sense of romance and sometimes nostalgia. All stuff you want particularly when making images like a collection of wedding images that have to stand the test of time. Black and white is also as far as I’m concerned far more memorable. As an example think of the film Breakfast at Tiffanys. Chances are that you bring to mind the classic black and white images of Audrey Hepburn with the cigarette holder and black dress etc like this one. But the film itself was shot in colour.
When I shoot a wedding nowadays I’m using digital equipment, though I have toyed with the idea of bringing my old film cameras to the party as well and I may well do it this year as an experiment. Because I’m shooting digital all the images can be black and white or colour. Sometimes I will deliver both and I will always lean towards which ever the couple prefers in the final set, but there is usually a good mix of both. A wedding is about people, emotions, moments, these pictures are often stronger in black and white, but there are also things like the flowers, the cake, the decorations and these things sometimes cry out for colour.
If you particularly like black and white wedding photography and you’re looking for a wedding photographer then get in touch, I may be perfect for you. If you want it all in colour, don’t fret you can have both, it’s all part of the day after all.