It feels counterintuitive that transforming a photograph from full color to black and white would actually help to bring out more of the detail. But in many cases, it does exactly that.
Take this photo from last night of an ordinary street as the sun is nearing setting (inset). The sunlight is creating beautiful color and shadows on the street. And, for me, that is where I’m drawn – to the bright yellow and orange light. But when converted to black and white, I experience a greater depth in the photograph – no longer does the brightest or boldest color dominate but instead other aspects stand out – the texture of the asphalt, the curves of the street, the manhole cover in the foreground, the single leaf on the road at the bottom.
It feels like a B&W photograph is far more egalitarian – allows the breadth of the photograph to speak and share rather than just the brightest and boldest. It allows the smallest details to stand out in ways they might not otherwise. Even something like a manhole cover can be beautiful.
There are some beautiful quotes about black and white photography that I saved a while back that speak to this. Take these in.
I think it’s because it was an emotional story, and emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Color is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn’t necessarily reach the heart.Kim Hunter
To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.Andri Cauldwell
What I love about Black & White photographs is that they’re more like reading the book than seeing the movie.Jennifer Price