I love color photos. If you take a look at my San Francisco photography, I almost always shoot in color. It’s how we see the world and for me, color portraits feel so much more natural and relatable than black + white. I rarely even think about changing a photo to black + white. Recently this changed when I was challenged to post 5 B+W photos for 5 days on Facebook by my friend, Arash.
It was a fun challenge, and it got me looking at my photos in a different way. And, as I was looking through my thousands of photos I got to see rather quickly which color photos are good candidates to turn into B+W. For showing photographic detail in contexts such as wedding portraits and architectural, this can be stunning. But for the most part, I found that very few of the winners in this black and white competition were natural portraits that would be used for profile pictures.
5 questions before switching to B+W
1. Does the photo have contrast?
This is super important. If the photo is soft and monochromatic, changing to B+W will turn the photo milky gray and make it hard to distinguish detail.
2. Does the photo look busy with too many colors?
A color photo works well when there aren’t too many colors. So if you have a busy colored outfit and several colors in the background the photo is a great candidate for black + white. It brings the focus back to you.
3. Was it taken in B+W?
If the answer is yes, and you love the photo you don’t really have another option.
4. Does it look current?
Be careful, Ann Pierce of Photofeeler says that a B+W profile photo can look dated or even make you look older. With current online dating photos and business portraits for LinkedIn, we don’t want anyone wondering if this photo was taken years ago.
5. Do you want it to catch someone’s eye?
Think of someone scrolling through a whole bunch of online dating or LinkedIn profiles. A pop of pink or turquoise will definitely catch their eye over grays.
At the end of the day, it is really all about your personal preference. But I strongly encourage you to ask these questions before turning your next social media profile photo into black + white.