Making photo's black and white can give them a new dimension, which can make the photo stronger - it will grab you with all the emotion in the photo - but it can also remove color distractions and make textures & contrasts come out. Personally I LOVE black and white photos, but I also value color a lot. Some photos are just really meant to be in black and white. If I think of 1 photo that became so much better in black and white, directly one pops up in my head. Below you can see the before and after of this photo. In color it wasn't really doing a lot to me, but when I made it black&white, and I upped the contrasts, lights and darks a bit... The photo started to speak to me, and that was exactly what I wanted. Because with the photo I want to tell the story that I experienced when taking it.
This photo was made of a homeless man in Aix-en-Provence, he came from Marseille. The man wasn't really speaking, he was very quiet but his face and eyes spoke a lot. He let me take a photo of him and the black and white version made his emotions, his story speak out way more than color could do.
Black and white does not only work really well for portraits, it does for many types of photography. Think of street photography, travel photography but also landscape and wildlife sometimes really work well. My biggest advice: Just follow your gut and try, try a lot of things. Due to trying out new things with different types of photos you learn what works for certain types of photos, you learn how you can bring out certain aspects in a photo better than they would be in the original photo and of course you get to know what your style is!
My 5 tips for making black and white photo's strong:
1. Photograph in color.
Some camera's have a black&white option, however, the best is to photograph in color. The camera's of today have millions of color tones and just a few hundreds of grey tones. This causes that you throw away a lot of information by photographing in black&white and you have less possibilities to edit and thus less control over your end photo.
2. Use contrast.
Contrast is my secret ingredient to strong black and white photos. Most of the great black and white photos that you see do have an extra portion of contrast. Contrast offers an extra factor in black and white photos. It makes the photo interesting. By using opposite (complementary) colours you create variation in your photo and can enhance contrast.
3. Make use of lines, shadows and shapes.
In black&white, lines, shadows and shapes stand out stronger. By paying attention to this, you can use it to make your composition stronger.
4. Make use of the weather.
Sad and rainy days can make for very nice black and white photos. I love them! I also used it in Paris and I loved the results! The soft light gives you the chance to show structures and contrasts better in your photos. Tip: On these days, a little post-processing can give your photo a great boost!
5. Don't worry too much about a high ISO.
Grain and noise in a black and white photo doesn't look as bad as in a color photo. Actually, sometimes it makes the photo better. It takes you back to that good old film look. However, it of course depends on the goal that you have with the photo. Do you like the old film look? Well this is your chance! If you like to have smoother/modern photos than take your ISO more in mind. :)
I hope that these tips have helped you to create your best black&white photo!
My fav quote about black&white photography, it completely sums up my goal with black&white photos:
"When I take a black&white portrait, it's not particularly meant to please you. It's meant to talk to you, it's meant to scream at you. It is a message."