Colour or Monochrome

Andrew Beck Andrew 2 Comments

Despite what many people might think, converting an image into monochrome does not suddenly make it better.

With time and experience you’ll find that some scenes seem to shout out the fact that they are made for monochrome conversions. Elements that I look for when deciding on whether to capture a scene specifically for monochrome include:

  • Simplicity – less is almost always more and sometimes colour can be distracting too (check out this post for some thoughts on this)
  • Depth throughout the scene
  • Texture, patterns, shape and form
  • Contrast in terms of the light and the deep shadows (Check out this post for more info)

Ultimately, you should be able to identify and see a scene in Black and White and then “shoot for” monochrome rather than simply hitting “V” when viewing the image in Lightroom to see whether there is any potential in it.

That is all very well but I still find that there are times that even I am torn between the colour and monochrome version of an image – even one which I hadn’t originally seen in Black and white!

On Friday I shared a combination of a Monochrome conversion and colour version on Facebook and Instagram to see which people preferred. The feedback was split pretty evenly but I think there was possibly more of a preference for the colour version of the image. Here are the two images in a much better size and resolution…



Personally I feel that both are beautiful. However, the energy and focus is very different in each.

For me, the colour version with the saturated greens, yellows and hints of purples diverts focus away from the elephant bull and into the surrounding environment. Luckily though, the arrangement of the elements is in somewhat of a circular or arc-like pattern which helps keep ones focus in the centre of the frame.

When converting into monochrome and applying a subtle split toning effect to the image, the elephant bull with his bright white tusks unquestionably takes centre stage and becomes the focus of the image.

Essentially, the colour version allows the surrounding environment to play a part in the story where the monochrome version almost isolates the elephant bull.

Well, at least thats how I see it…

Would you agree?

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About the Author

Andrew Beck

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Very few people can tell you what their passion in life is. Even fewer will be able to tell you that what they do for a living is in fact their passion. My love for the bush and conservation took me on journey which would not only allow me to explore the continent which fascinates me so much, but to share my passion for photography and conservation with others. Be sure to check out my my website and instagram account.

Comments 2

  1. Jacques

    I agree with you.

    There are sometimes photos that is just made for monochrome. I prefer the colour photo of the elephant and just loved the touch of purple. Something I don’t often see in wildlife photos. Interesting observation when I was viewing the colour photo is that I started looking at the left hand corner, moved up to the elephant, followed the pattern of the purple, back to the elephant and exited the photo on the right hand corner.

    As you correctly stated ” …somewhat of a circular or arc-like pattern which helps keep ones focus in the centre of the frame”. Whereas the monochrome photo, my eyes where looking for something strong but could not find it. In the end I feel that the elephant is a bit lost in the monochrome photo.

    1. Post
      Andrew Beck

      Thanks so much for the comment Jacques.

      I alway find it interesting to see how others, with the emotional attachment aside, evaluate and read an image.

      I love both of these images but the colour image does having something special…

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