I shoot B&W photos. Here’s why I do it and why you shouldn’t care about it.

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Color photography was introduced in the ’30s

My colleague Rob recently wrote about the idea that if we had originally invented photography in colors, no one would have ever taken black and white photos. Nostalgia, he argues, is the main reason behind the continued existence of black and white images. To be candid, I don’t entirely disagree with his perspective.

But I think there’s much more to black and white than nostalgia.

B&W sensors produce higher-quality images.

In digital cameras, all sensors are black and white.

It might seem counterintuitive, but that’s how a sensor works: it only detects amounts of light. A color filter lies in front of the sensor to create a color image file. Each pixel in the filter allows only one color to pass, and the light intensity of that pixel is attached to that color in the file. A B&W sensor lacks such a filter.

As a result, it produces sharper images and has higher sensitivity.

Colors are subjective, more so in the digital age.

First, about 10% of people have some form of color blindness.

But beyond that, we all perceive colors differently. It’s also important to remember that the photographer had control over the color rendition through the development and printing process before the digital age. Today not so much, as everyone will see photos on different screens.

The perception of B&W photos is universal.

We don’t need to settle this debate.

If we had invented sculpture earlier, should we disregard painting?

Rob made one point that I wholeheartedly agree with: if you switch a photo to black and white to “fix” it because you didn’t like it in colors, it’d probably be better to trash it or edit its colors.

If you intentionally shoot in black and white because you prefer, keep doing so. Call it nostalgia or a different art form; these are just names.

A man who eats meat
Wants to get his teeth into something

A man who does not eat meat
Wants to get his teeth into something else

If these thoughts interest you even for a moment, you’re lost

— Leonard Cohen

One response

  1. Now I am glad that I posted my controversial statement, because I have learned something. I did not know that the sensors were black and white. That totally makes sense now. Is that also true for film? Does color film have some sort of filter on it?

    I really like the quote you chose as well.

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