Colors vs Black White: which is better for wedding photography?
Something that I am often, too often, I dare say always, asked is:
“But why are your wedding shoots mostly done in black and white?”
I love it when people ask me this question. It implies an interest in my concept of wedding photography and shows me that, before coming to speak with me in the studio, couples have looked at my work and seen that, indeed, it is mainly in black and white. I find this positive because, and I’m not ashamed to admit it, I like thinking that this is why they chose me (and that’s not always expected).
Let’s see if I can write a comprehensive answer to this question.
But before give you my explanation, which is linked to the way that we “read” a photograph, let’s think back and try to remember some adverts:
very often, elitist products (perfumes, jewelry and even clothing, think of advertisements for Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Burberry, Replay and many other major brands) are advertised using entirely black and white images. So, thanks to the ease with which our brains create associations, in our collective imaginations the idea of “elegant and expensive” is now intrinsically linked with the absence of color.
We might not like the adverts but the advertisers, the good ones at least, really know what they’re doing, don’t they?
Let’s go back to the main point of the article and, together, let’s think about why you commissioned a photographer for the best day of your life. My favorite answer to this question goes something like this:
“To make the highlights of the best day of our life indelible, tangible and timeless, especially the expressions, the gestures, the smiles and the tears, or in other words all the emotions.”
If what is important to you is remembering the clothes, the flowers, the cars and the location, brochures, which are usually highly colorful for good reason, are all that is necessary. However, in order to relive the emotions and feelings of that day in a touching, personal and intimate way, color is not necessary and can actually be a distraction.
Just think of a standard photographic moment (out of the dozens that arise at a wedding): the bride with her white dress and, right next to her, her beautiful bridesmaids in lovely coloured dresses, in red, orange, yellow or green – what do you think our eye/brain will assign the most visual importance to?
I’m telling you, the bride will be the one who is looked at last and for the least amount of time compared to those in more colorful outfits, and that’s not what you want, is it?
The use of color, therefore, makes the most sense where there is a focus whose chromatic aspects should be highlighted: a beautiful green meadow, an indigo sky, the deep blue of the sea and so on. In my vision of wedding photography the main focuses, as I have already mentioned, are the feelings and emotions and these do not need colors to be shown.
The use of black and white on wedding photography has its own great power: it diminishes the surroundings, the position in the frame and the role that these things have, so we can be more easily led to understand the content of photographs (and not just what it looks like). When our “hunger for emotion” and search for meaning in a photograph we are looking at, are not fulfilled by color, they have to be satisfied in another way. That’s why our focus shifts to the content, the message and the emotions that are present, and that is why I love black and white especially in news reports and wedding photography.
This doesn’t mean I will never do color photography, that would be absurd, there are situations during weddings that call for and require it (and I shoot in color anyway, one of the advantages of digital) but there will always be less than those in black and white (on the album).
As a final clarification, what I have written is my personal way of interpreting wedding photography, it is not a single truth, it is neither relative nor absolute, it is simply part of my photographic style. The same goes for my choice to take wedding photographs in the style of a news story, it can’t and shouldn’t please everyone, otherwise, can you imagine how boring that would be?