Church Photography: Why You Should Shoot Black And White

A key element of church photography is how you edit your photos, and a prominent question you will most certainly face at some point is: should this photo be in black and white?

In general, there are four reasons why photographers shoot in black and white; it creates focus on the subject, emphasizes textures, creates contrast and develops the mood of the image.

Keep reading as I explain each of these and how you can use them to take impactful photos.

Focusing On The Subject

The first reason to shoot, or edit, in black and white, is that it can create focus on the subject of the photo. This is because the lack of colour pushes the viewer to focus on the form of the subject. Any distracting, out-of-place colours in the background won’t be an issue if you decide to shoot in black and white.

The photo above is an excellent example of how to use black-and-white images to focus on the subject. The majority of the image is bright, while the subject is dark, essentially just a silhouette. This makes it easy for the viewer to identify and examine the subject.

Black-and-white also can develop an emotional connection between the viewer and the subject. Let’s take a photo of a person as an example; taking the colour away from the image causes the viewer to focus on the subject’s emotion and expression. This creates intimacy and connection between viewer and subject, driving emotion in your image.

Developing emotion in your photos is essential, which is why I wrote an article explaining how to capture emotion in church photography.

Emphasizing Texture

This photo features a weathered and torn poster on metal siding. The several different textures at featured make it interesting to look at.

The texture in your photos is an essential aspect of photography; shooting black and white helps to emphasize textures in your images. The lack of colour in images allows the viewer to focus on the different textures in the image. These textures create depth, add dimension to your photos, and make for a more interesting image.

When shooting, look for different materials such as; wood, stone, and leather. These are all great for texture. Another great way to shoot texture is to look for hard-cover books, especially older ones. As they age, they tend to dry up and develop small wrinkles that look perfect close-up. If you can find an old leatherbound book, take advantage of it. As leather ages, the oils in your fingers and daily wear and tear develop a “patina” on the leather that looks amazing.

When shooting portrait photography, black-and-white photos can bring out nice textures on the skin. Though some people would like their skin to be perfectly smooth, that’s not reality, nor should it be. Overly smooth skin in black and white images looks fake and plasticky. Don’t smooth out your subject’s skin too much; leave some texture as it adds a more genuine feel to your image.

Creating Contrast

This photo is perfect to showcase how black and white images create contrast. Pay attention to the different shades of grey on the windows of the building. Also, look at the contrast between the sky and the outline of the building.

Contrast is an interesting tool in photography that becomes significantly easier to create when shooting in black and white. Rather than focusing on the relationship between colours in your image and how they complement each other, the viewer now focuses on the relationship between light and dark. Now, this can be symbolic or literal; that’s up to you as a photographer.

One way to create contrast in your black-and-white images is to use light strategically. Let’s use worship photography as an example. You might try shooting one of the worship team members backlit to separate the subject from the background and to create a nice light roll-off. You can also shoot them side-lit for a harsher contrast between light and dark.

Another way to create contrast in your black-and-white images is to use negative space. In these images, negative space could be entirely black or entirely white. Negative essentially tells the viewer not to look at that part of the image, which means you can guide them toward the subject of your photo.

Negative space is just one compositional technique a church photographer should master; check out my article outlining how to use composition to improve your church photography.

Develops Mood and Atmosphere

Developing and controlling the mood and atmosphere of your images is an acquired skill. Once you’ve practiced, it’s a beneficial skill that conveys emotion. Black and white images allow the viewer to focus on the tonal values of your image. These images also create a feeling of nostalgia, bringing the viewer back to a time when photos were only black-and-white.

To understand tonal values, it’s easiest to picture a spectrum ranging from black to white. Tonal values are essentially where a particular colour is placed on that spectrum. This is a very simplified explanation, but it’s enough to understand the general concept of tonal values. In high-key images, the average colour on that black-to-white spectrum we discussed is closer to white. Low-key images will average closer to black on that spectrum.

Black-and-white photos have a timeless feeling to them that can’t be replicated with colour. Think about photos from all throughout history; the gear those photographers used was way less advanced than what we have now, but their photos have way more impact and atmosphere. Try it out with some of your photos to see a complete shift in mood. You can go from a bright and cheery landscape to a moody mountain range by removing the colour.

Jeremy Goh

Jeremy grew up volunteering at church and has also worked in a church setting. Along with working as a freelance creative, Jeremy is studying for a business degree in finance and international business.

Similar Posts