Help Needed With Portfolio Decision

August 20, 2016  •  2 Comments

Should I go Black and White Only, or not?

When reviewing my portfolio it will become clear that I have quite a preference for black and white images: two thirds of all images are black and white and just less than one third are in color.

Reflecting on this I found that the main reasons for my preference for black and white images are:

  • Since there are no distracting patches of color in the image, there is a better focus on the subject matter;
  • The impact of black and white images is more dependent on the right use of lines, forms, and texture and as a consequence I am (need to be!) more focused on these;
  • Lately I am leaning towards creating more abstract images, which to my opinion have a bigger impact when in black and white;
  • For me it is easier to create a moody feeling in black in white;
  • In general I like the look and feel of black and white images better.

To be honest however, sometimes color just works better. Some subjects need to be viewed in color; sometimes color is key to creating the right emotion and feeling in the image; sometimes color is needed to guide the viewer's attention to the key elements of the image.

colorful flag with a blue sky backdropFlag, 2005colorful flag with a blue sky backdrop

Can all color images successfully be converted into black and white? Definitely no. And since I have several color images in my portfolio that I really like, I am not sure yet that I should abandon these.

So here is where I need your help: have a look at the examples below (and if you would like at all pictures in my portfolio) and then let me know what your preference and advice is. Should I go "full black and white" or continue with color images also? Please share your remarks and observations in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

Black and white photo of Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach on the Oregon CoastHaystack RockHaystack Rock at Cannon Beach Color panorama panorama of a rock formation near Cannon Beach, OregonCannon Beach OregonRock formation near Cannon Beach, Oregon

Black and white photo of a look through several canal bridges in the Dutch city of AmsterdamCanal BridgesCanal bridges look through in Amsterdam Color photo of a field of orange tulips in HollandTulipsColorful field of orange tulips in Holland

Black and white photo of a pile of rocks on the Cornish coastRock MosaicMosaic of loose rocks on the Cornish coast Detail of a rusty chain found on a beach in CornwallShip's Chain, 2005Detail of a rusty chain found on a beach in Cornwall

black and white picture of Saint Marc's Square in Venice, ItalyPlaza San Marco, 2006black and white picture of Saint Marc's Square in Venice, Italy

Glass house in Retiro park in Madrid, SpainRetiro Glass House, 2007Glass house in Retiro park in Madrid, Spain

black and white image of mountains jutting out into the ocean at Cape Of Good Hope, South AfricaCape of Good Hope, 2011black and white image of mountains jutting out into the ocean at Cape Of Good Hope, South Africa

Sunset near Exmouth at Australia's north-west coastExmouth Sunset, 2009Sunset near Exmouth at Australia's north-west coast

black and white image of a wheatered and twisted tree trunkTwisted Tree #3, 2016black and white image of a wheatered and twisted tree trunk

a red and yellow flower left behind on a tree stumpForget Me Not, 2012a red and yellow flower left behind on a tree stump

 

 

 

 


Comments

Manten|Photography
@ Richard - thanks for your thoughtful observations and comments.

I agree with you that eventually it is the photographer who will, and should (!) decide on the portfolio. I also think that while the photographer in first instance creates images to realize their own vision, there in addition is a drive to create images that appeal to a specific audience. Hence the search for feedback.

In hindsight I realize that my question probably was triggered by the fact that I currently am reviewing my published images in order to more precisely define my 'style'.

Your advise makes a lot of sense: although I generally prefer creating b+w work, I also would have quite a difficult time to totally abandon color. As I mentioned in the blog, some photos just can't be converted into b+w because color is of essence to make these images 'work'.

So yes, you're input was really helpful. Thanks!
Richard Pickup(non-registered)
Big question! Portfolios are hard (the choices) and ultimately we as photographers stand alone - if we don't decide for ourselves (on what makes up our portfolio) then how is the work truly ours? That said, we can and should take counsel, as your question assumes.

So I offer my opinion with the proviso that it's really up to you in the end (no doubt you already appreciate that). To my eye you have some fine colour work, and I think it would be a pity to leave it out. You have surely produced more in b+w, with strong work there too, but why limit yourself? Portfolios are very elastic and will support a broad range of work.

For the time being, why not concentrate on including simply the best of your work, colour or b+w. If you continue to favour b+w as you shoot - and really feel you've left colour behind - sure, go b+w.

Hope that helps!
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