Question From a Reader: How Do You Decide Color vs Black and White When Editing?

Q: How do you decide to edit a photo in black and white over color, or vise versa?

My answer? It’s quite simple and broken into 3 different categories:

A: Gut instinct, lighting +/or the subject.

First and foremost I just want to say one thing: don’t lose sleep over this. I promise you it’s not worth staring at your computer for minutes on end, going back and forth on your decision. Instead, practice using your gut instinct and let that be what guides you.  I also use my gut for when I’m culling images.  I’ve had friends and family sit next to me while I’m choosing which images to keep, and each of them have said something along the lines of, “holy shit – you do that SO fast!” It’s true. I do. Because I’m letting my gut and my instinct guide the way.  If I immediately react to the image upon looking at it, I keep it. If it doesn’t make me feel anything, I don’t. No gray areas here.  It’s black and white. (super pun)

So when it comes to keeping the color of the image or turning it into black and white, I channel the same practice.  I always ask myself the question, “would I love this more in black and white?” if the answer isn’t an immediate YES, it stays in color. If I’m flirting with the idea, I’ll try on the filter and see how I react to that.  My suggestion? Create your own presets so it stays consistent. This will help make your decision 10 times easier since you’re not having to play around with a bunch of different filters to see which black and white or color version you prefer.

* I would say 95% of my images are color, 5% are in black and white.

Second, the lighting of an image can help you make your decision as well. This may sound like a cop out, but sometimes if I have my subjects doing something incredible and the lighting is just “blah”, I’ll turn it into black and white and it solves the image dilemma almost immediately.  Or if I have a really beautiful, sharp shadow hitting a subject on the face just so, I’ll know that will make for an amazing contrasted black and white photo.  If you’re just starting out with photography and don’t quite have your style nailed down yet, or are still playing around with lighting, then it may take you a little while to know when black and white will save you and what you can actually fix. Please don’t take this as permission to just throw a black and white preset on top of a photo to avoid learning and finding your style and voice.  It’s so crucial to put in the time, and I promise you’ll thank yourself later.

Lastly, the subject.  This is pretty straight forward, but I love highlighting unique and beautiful features from my clients.  If she has say, piercing blue eyes, I will keep the photos where her eyes are showing in color (feels like a disgrace to take away from them). The same goes for piercing red hair or a beautiful brown skin tone or the pink tone of a scar that the subject is proud of.  Focusing on your subject and what makes it/them unique will help your decision become so much easier.

I hope this answers your question! As always, if you would like something answered regarding photography, business, etc. don’t hesitate to email me at, or email me through the contract form on this website! You can also follow me over on Instagram and send me a direct message there. xx