high contrast wedding photography black wihte

Black and White Wedding Photography | Is It Right for You?

Black and white photography has been around for quite some time, but it still remains one of the most popular types of wedding photography today. It’s timeless, classic, and can be used to create some beautiful images. Some wedding photographers include black and white images in their final galleries for their brides and grooms while others avoid it all together. This article will provide you with some inside information, from a photographer’s perspective, on black and white wedding photography. In particular, we’ll cover what goes into the decision making process when determining which images to turn black and white and provide you with some stunning examples from our award winning photographers.

When Do Photographers Use Black and White Processing?

While all photographers have different approaches to black and white photography, here are some of the primary reasons photographers decide to utilize this timeless technique.

Artistic Vision and Simplicity

A common theme in regards to black and white photography is “simplicity.”  A variety of colors in a scene can draw attention away from the subject and purpose of the photograph.  Notice how the “simplicity” of the black and white palette helps the overall interest and artistry of the images below.

 

Christi Jason Wedding SS

Photo by Darien Chui

NorthSide

Image by Jay Henington

To Focus on Emotion

Another common reason photographers decide to turn an image into a black and white photo is to increase the impact of an emotional moment.  Similar to the “simplicity” mentioned above, by eliminating color from the image, the viewer is drawn deeper into the photojournalistic moment.

mhart photo

Image by Marlies Hartman

Marisa Joy Photography

Image by Marissa Joy

To Minimize Distracting or Muted Colors

If an image has bland or muted colors, black and white processing can make the image more interesting and aesthetically pleasing.  For example, if you look below, the image on the left has muted tones that don’t pop out or add any value to the overall moment. Also, the lights above the overpass are also casting a green tint on the surroundings and the engaged couple.   These characteristics make it perfect for black and white treatment.

black white engagement photo

Before and After Example

A common scenario for black and white photography is a wedding dance floor.  DJ lights often cast strong colors onto the skin tones of the subjects which can be unflattering or distracting.  In these instances, turning the images black and white can often “save” an image.

black white dance floor

Image by Lin and Jirsa Photography

 

The Different Types of Black and White Styles

Not all black and white photography is the same.  While black and white photos are monochrome, they can still be processed with varying amounts of contrast, grain and other post processing effects.  In any image, the photographer can choose to lean into the shadows or highlights for a more “constrasty” look or minimize them for a more “muted” look.  Here are a few common styles of black and white wedding photography:

Bright or High Key Black and White

The photos below illustrate the differences between a standard black and white photo (left) and a bright or high key black and white photo (right).  High key black and white photography fits in well with a romantic, bright and airy style of photography.

 

High Contrast Black and White

A photographer might also apply a high contrast, high impact black and white style to your wedding photos.

In contrast to the bright style mentioned above, another common style is dark or moody black and white photography.  This style plays with shadows to achieve the photographer’s artistic vision.

 

black and white lightroom presets

Dark Black and White Photography

Vintage Black and White

One major appeal of black and white wedding photography is the timeless, vintage feel that it can have.  For this reason, some photographers choose to add grain to the photo and keep the contrast low for a faded, old-timey classic feel that simply can’t be replicated in color.  Vintage photo effects can be reproduced with the addition of a little Grain and Fade, and lifting the shadows to produce a more matte finish sends the image back in time, and gives it an aged effect.

 

vintage black white wedding photos

Vintage Black and White Photography

 

The Cons of Black & White Wedding Photos

The primary “con” of black and white photography is that the effect is irreversible, meaning that applying color to a black and white jpeg or png image is difficult to impossible without the original RAW files.   This can present issues when designing spreads for wall art or albums since images in spread should have similar editing styles and color tones.

Should you ask for black and white photos?

Our advice is to trust your photographer and his or her artistic vision.  Most professionals aren’t just randomly applying this editing style to their images, and if they think an image should be black and white, then it’s usually for a good reason.

If you really love the black and white style of photography, be sure to ask your wedding photographer about his or her process.  Do they do black and white processing?  If so, do they provide a copy in color?  If they deliver an image in black and white and you prefer to have it in color, can you request that the image be delivered in color as well?