A few weeks ago, my children watched The Wizard of Oz for the first time. I had told them long ago that they could watch once they finished the book. That day finally came and they excitedly settled themselves in for the movie. My nine-year-old son, after only a few minutes, was bored and wanted to turn it off. As he was about to give up all hope, the scenes turned to color and his attention was captured. Apparently he doesn’t see any value in black and white.
I, on the other hand, I love black and white. At least in my photos. There is something so stunning, so timeless, and so meaningful about a good black and white photo. While my kids might see the lack of color as a lack of interest, I believe that properly used, a black and white photo is so much more powerful than its colored counterpart.
I once shared about how to get better black and whites. Although I now use Lightroom instead of PSE to do my conversions, my love for crisp blacks and white whites remains. No muddy grey for me!
One question that scrappers ask is, “How do black and white photos work for scrapbooking? When is a good time to use them?”
In looking through my pages, I have found that there are five main reasons I choose to use black and white photo(s) instead of color:
1. When I want to use a kit that doesn’t match or is “busy.”
In this layout, I loved all the color of the semi-solid background and the big red hearts. I felt that the colored photos would compete with the fun page. By contrasting all of the color with black and white photos, both the photos and the page get to shine.
I love this kit by Kristin Cronin-Barrow and Zoe Pearn (actually, I love any and all kits by either designer, solo or collab!) I wanted to use the great colors and patterns but my photos didn’t match at all. My son’s outfit was royal blue with spots of red and I knew it wouldn’t work with this kit. By making the photos black and white, I got to use the awesome boy kit and the photos I loved.
This layout is another example of me wanting to use a kit that didn’t match my photos. I adore this flowered paper but it wouldn’t have worked with my daughter’s purple shirt.
2. When the quality of the photo(s) is poor.
I firmly believe that black and white photos are more forgiving when it comes to exposure, color casts, and white balance issues. When I lack high quality photos, I often just convert to black and white to solve the issue.
In these photos of my sweet niece, there were awful color casts on the photos due to multiple lighting sources. No matter what I did to try and fix them, they just seemed off. By changing the photos to black and white, I solved the distracting problem and was instead able to focus on her absolute cuteness.
The photos in this layout were taken in Photobooth on my computer. Their quality wasn’t great, but I loved them anyway. The black and white conversion took photos that were only okay and made them great.
Despite what Pinterest-worthy professional photographs seem to imply, newborns aren’t really known for their smooth and peachy skin. I loved this serious-faced photo of my son but his red blotchiness was not easily overcome. Making the photo black and white helped the layout feature his sweet boyness rather than his oh-so-red face.
3. When I am afraid that the story of the layout will get lost in a sea of color.
Sometimes, photos are just too precious to allow them to get lost in the midst of lots of color. This is especially true when the photos themselves are “busy,” as is often the case during events. When I feel like the color in the photos is doing nothing to add to the story, but rather, it is taking away, I take it away. I want the viewers eye to be drawn into what I am trying to communicate through the photos rather than be distracted by the rainbow of visual fluff.
The birth of my son was an incredibly special event. I love all of the photos that my husband took that documented our special day. Having these photos in color, though, would have been distracting. Instead, the black and white pictures tell a beautiful story.
Within a few hours of the birth, our hospital room was flooded with visitors. My five other children couldn’t wait to meet their new brother. My sister and her family arrived from out of town and my aunt and uncle came as well. I love seeing all of these people enjoying our new little one and wanted a layout to remember it all. Because there is so much going on in the photos, I felt that the black and white helps the viewer focus on the on the photos rather than get distracted by competing colors and patterns.
4. When my children’s clothes don’t match.
Now don’t laugh. I can’t be the only mom who lets the kids dress themselves, resulting in some interesting color combos. Sometimes, a photo is so precious that there is no way I am going to let some crazy mismatched patterns and wild colors keep me from using it.
Take this photo for example. We were getting ready to leave the hotel and my kids piled on the bed for a photo. Every time I put my youngest son down with his siblings, he immediately crawled away. I love the photo and I smile every time I see it. When I scrap it, though, I will most likely use a black and white photo so that the crazy colors don’t distract from the priceless expressions.
5. Because I like it!
Sometimes, there is no great reason to use black and whites photos other than the fact that I love them.
These photos were simple enough that they could have been used either in color or in black and white. I tried them both and just loved how the black and white popped against the fun colors and patterns.
Likewise, this photo was pretty in color. However, after playing around with it for a bit and trying both versions on this layout, I decided I like the black and white. It draws me in to the photo, which of course is the whole point of the page!