Digital Photography offers many ways to express our artistic inner vision. Decisions we make, from field capture to post-processing, help communicate the message we intend for an image. One key decision is whether to render the scene in full color, partial color, or no color at all.

The default shooting mode of modern digital cameras is of course, full color, so why would anyone choose another interpretation? The three main reasons why I occasionally use selective- or no color, are: 1: increased, more dramatic contrast, 2. another way to direct the viewer’s attention and 3. fewer distractions.

The first (better contrast) should be obvious enough: the “tonal” difference between dark and light regions of an image are easier to see and adjust than, say, the difference between red and green. This is especially so in the case of someone suffering from color blindness, or simply using an un-calibrated, or poorly calibrated monitor.

Likewise the use of selective color to direct viewer attention is a familiar practice in either still or cinematic imagery. The girl in the red coat, in “Schindler’s List” comes to mind.

The third reason (minimize distractions)… Well, let me put it this way: I have lost count of the many discussions, over the last ten years, on whether or not a sunset or sunrise was *really* that color. Such discussions effectively distract the viewers from enjoying the image for its own merits, and lead them into pointless, irrelevant, and un-resolvable, arguments about “truth” or “deception” in art.

This is hardly a new situation endemic to digital photography. Here is what Ansel Adams had to say about the same issue, in 1981: “The question of ‘true color’ arises in discussion of the comparative qualities of color film and prints. ‘True color’ is a fiction, a false assurance that the sky was ‘that shade of blue’ or this portrait shows ‘correct’ flesh colors and values.”

No such distractions or arguments in a black & white rendition, which is clearly an artistic interpretation of a colorful world.

Below are two versions of an image where I started with a color capture, then converted to black & white. Note the different mood conveyed by each version; hence the choice.

The main point here is that as digital artists-photographers we have a choice on how to render an image. We do not need to always accept the generic decisions engineered into our cameras.