|In a world of high tech and high resolution images, why would anyone wish to snap pictures with Black and White film or convert their digital images into a gray scale (black and white)? With vivid colors and massive sizes dominating the media, how can an apparent throwback to the photographic era compete with this? The simple answer is black and white images have a special quality that no other image can possess and that is timelessness. Stark black and white images can add a level of uncertainty to the actual age of the image.|
Another advantage converting a color image to black and white is that is can help obscure damage that has occurred to the image over time. Many older physical photographs slowly fade or discolor over time. The aging paper and chemicals will degrade and distort the colors. For example, all the greens could fade to yellow as all the blues dyes breakdown over the years. Converting these color damaged images into a black and white can help preserve the image quality by fading the damaged colors into a gray scale that flows with the rest of the image.
Even some black and white photographs need to be converted to black and white to look like it did
originally. This is due to the oxidation of the paper. Paper is made from wood, which is made up mainly of white cellulose, but also contain a lot of a dark substance in it called lignin. These lignin molecules, when exposed to oxygen, will begin to change and become less stable. Scanning the original photograph in grayscale, or converting from color to black and white can restore the digital image back to and keep the timeless quality of the image.
Often people use black and white film to photograph their subjects. This film uses a different chemistry than the modern color rolls this often makes processing black and white film more expensive. There are some specialized color film (C-41) that actually develops into black and white film. These films work like any other C-41 film. The development causes dyes to form in the emulsion. Their structure is different. Although they may have multiple layers, all are sensitive to all colors of light, and are designed to produce a black dye. The result is a black-and white image. According to research, the black and white C- 41 produces a slight sharper image due to the fact that no silver is used in C-41, the film grains are much different between the two chemistry and not compatible.
Black and White images are easier to dodge and burn. When people talk about black and white photos, the name Ansel Adams comes to the forefront. His famous photos of landscapes were all photographed using black and white film. He developed and printed his world famous photos in the field using dodge and burn techniques. These techniques are easier to use with black and white film. Photographers, like Ansel Adams would hold back light to lighten an area on the print (dodging), or increase the exposure to darken areas on a print (burning). These techniques used with black and white film pushed his simple images to world-renowned works of art. People aspire to be as good as Ansel Adams using black and white film.