Life evolving behind the lens

Status Update: Black and White

Nikon recently asked their Facebook fans what subjects they like for black and white photography. I must admit I’m kind of “meh” toward black and and white photography, but I have done it. Like a lot of people, I tend to favor black and white more for portraits. The more I think about it, though, I realized that my preference is even more detailed than that. I like black and white portraits of blonds and redheads. For some reason people with darker hair just look more dynamic in color; I just don’t have quite the same enthusiasm for brunettes in black and white photos. I find that darker hair loses so much of its nuance in black and white. Let’s take a look at these two pictures of myself.

myself in 16 million colors
myself grayscale

Yes, I realize that they are at two different angles (roughly). However, you can see that my auburn highlights (evident in the color photo) don’t show up at all in the black and white portrait (which, incidentally has more light to emphasize the various shades in my hair for color photos). I only used the sun for my light source, thus I do recognize that under the right conditions darker hair’s nuances can be depicted in black and white. Even so, the amount of light needed would infuriate every environmentalist on Earth. With lighter hair, less light gets absorbed. That means less effort to depict nuances in hair.

Now why am I going on about hair when the portraiture is about faces? There are two reasons. First, I am a a bit of a hair junkie. I am the type of person who notices hair before just about anything else, be it seeing someone in person or in a picture. Second, hair can make all the difference in the composition of a portrait because it’s so variable. With black and white, the eye tends to be drawn to the darker shades first, so in a lot of cases hair will be the first thing the viewer will notice. This leads to a harmonious transition to viewing the faces of blonds and redheads. With dark hair, though, the eyes better have it. Otherwise, the hair will hog the spotlight because it’s so dark.

Will I get to capture photos of blonds and redheads to test this theory myself? Probably not anytime soon. I actually have the lightest hair color out of anyone on my dad’s side of the family. My mom’s family trends toward somewhat darker hair as well. The same goes for my husband’s family, and I have more friends with dark hair than not. So if I want to capture any portraits like the black and white number I linked in my previous portraiture entry, it will be a long ways off.


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