Shades Of Gray

By Valerie Lemke

April 17, 2009 5 min read


A balance of black and white to color is great for photographs

Valerie Lemke

Creators News Service

Black and white versus color photography has been called "the great wedding debate." But actually, there's no debate at all. Today's savvy photographers are tuned in to the disparate nuances of both techniques when making memories.

Images in color and black and white speak to you in very different ways. "The allure of black and white is that it zeroes in on the actual scene, bringing it down to basics," said Tiffany Stern, proprietor of Tiffany Photography in Los Angeles. "If you're shooting a really emotional photo, the viewer's attention will focus on the actual image and what it is saying."

Moving moments are plentiful on a wedding day: a father offering his daughter's hand to the groom, the couple repeating their vows, the flower girl asleep in daddy's arms. For these scenes, "color may be distracting," Stern said. But she doesn't downplay color.

"Color is fun, vibrant and can be creative itself," she said. "Sometimes, capturing the colors literally makes the photo."

For example, Stern will look for a vividly colored wall and poses the bride in front of it. "Say she has an orange bouquet and I can find an orange wall. This really livens up the picture."

Capturing the day for posterity in living color is also important. From the bridal bouquet to bridesmaids' dresses, floral table arrangements and wedding favors, a lot of time and energy is spent selecting colors. Those careful details deserve to be visually recorded, she said.

A scant 50 years ago, black and white photography had no competition, but it virtually disappeared from the scene in the ensuing years. Recently, it has come back to be a part of many photographic packages.

"Black and white is classic, timeless and artistic," said Stern. "It has become extremely popular. No one wants everything in black and white, however.

"I usually offer proofs of five or so black and white images. The bride and groom have the option of selecting those or not. They generally do."

Fortunately, the happy couple doesn't have to worry about making an irreversible decision between color and black and white.

"There have been incredible changes in wedding photography over a short period of time," she said. "I began using a digital camera in 2004 and by 2006 most photographers were shooting digitally. It had pretty much become the industry standard.

"The vast majority of photographs today are created with digital cameras. The advantages far outweigh those of shooting film."

It includes the ability to shoot all images in color, but convert any of them easily into black and white using new technology.

Other positive changes have gradually worked their way into wedding photography. Taking the bride and groom away from their guests for stilted posing sessions is becoming rare, for example. Today's photojournalistic style is more natural, less posed and more relaxed for everyone.

"We capture the events and moods of the day," said Stern, whose favorite part of the celebration is the pre-wedding activities -- when bride and bridesmaids gather privately for the final touches to veil, gowns and flowers, the groom and groomsmen straighten ties and are affixed with boutonnieres, and extended families take time to greet one another before the ceremony. "There's excitement in the air. Everybody looks great -- it's a lot of fun."

When deciding upon their wedding photographer, Stern said, "Be sure to look carefully at the samples from the photographers you consult. They should have several photos of both color and black and white in their albums. Then the bride and groom can get a lot to look at and decide which they prefer.

"And if the photographer is shooting digitally, which is almost guaranteed, the couple needs to remember they have the option to request any print be made in black and white or in color."

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