I have a love-hate relationship with black-and-white photography. I want to note up front that I’m not talking about people who enjoy darkroom work as a hobby and therefore shoot black-and white. I’ve done plenty of that in my life, and it’s a lot of fun.
I’m talking about everyone else. Virtually all photographers shoot digital these days, which means they shoot in color. If you see a black-and-white image, it’s almost always a color image that’s been converted. This bugs me for a few reasons. First, shooting black-and-white is different. It’s not just color but without the color. Second, there’s often a bit of pretentiousness to it. Shooting black-and-white because that’s what’s available is one thing, but doing it even though you have an original color image is sort of annoying. Third, most photographers don’t really know how to shoot black-and-white these days. (I emphatically include myself in that.) Fourth, shooting in black-and-white seems to encourage a fascination with abstract shapes and shadows. This is occasionally interesting when done by someone really talented, but hardly ever when the rest of us do it.
On the other hand, nothing beats black-and-white for that gritty urban look. If that’s what you’re after, I’m all for it. It’s also magnificent in the hands of someone truly talented—both artistically and technically. I do still sometimes see some really good black-and-white photography, and it’s hard to beat.
But judge for yourself. Here’s a picture of a deserted country road at night. Below it is the same picture converted to black-and-white. I deliberately did nothing to try to enhance it. I just did the best I could to match the tone and levels of the original. Everyone has their own taste in these things, but I’ll take the color version.