Black-and-white is back because it’s part of the power of photography. In today’s color-saturated, manipulated-image world, black-and-white feels real. To many, it looks fresh. Black-and-white is back because brides want to see black-and-white photos in their wedding albums. Black-and-white is back because it’s still a great way to learn about how film “sees” light. The bottom line: Black-and-white photography is back because it’s beautiful.
Black-and-white is educational
The educational value of black-and-white film is not limited to making black-and-white images. Color silver halide images are actually made out of three (or more) layers of black-and-white images that interact with color couplers to produce layers of color dye. Viewed together, they give the illusion of a full range of colors. Whether learning to control color film and prints or even the different layers of a color image that has been scanned into a computer, the more you know about contrast, exposure latitude, and highlight and shadow areas of black-and-white images, the greater your color mastery will be.
Even if accomplished and comfortable working in color, you’ll derive great benefit from learning about black-and-white photography.
When you find a good store, you’ll find a variety of great black-and-white film in various speeds. The number that accompanies each film is its ISO or speed. The higher the number, the “faster” the film – meaning it is more sensitive to light. For most users, we recommend using a 400-speed film; and for low-light situations, we suggest trying one of the 1600 or 3200-speed emulsions.
There are other film stocks to consider, such as Kodak BW400CN. It’s a 400-speed, black-and-white film that can be processed in conventional color negative chemistry, a process technically known as C-41.
While we’ve discussed only traditional film-based materials, keep in mind any color photo can be converted to a black-and-white image on a computer. Several digital cameras on the market also allow users to capture images as black-and-white. How’s that for a comeback?