Interview Series by Pete the Poet – Q 2

Hey Batt, what do you consider when deciding if a photo should be in black and white or in color?

-Pete the Poet


Hi Pete the Poet. It is just intuition. I know right away when to go black & white. I’ve never changed my mind or later compared the transformed photo to the original color version.

A Better Story

Maybe I go black & white when I have a hunch that it tells a better story, or brings a clearer focus to a subject. Sometimes color can distract from your subject. I’ve gone black & white even when the colors are very rich and interesting—but maybe these intense colors distracted from the photo’s story.

Sometimes black & white looks more spooky—which is cool. Or looks older. Sometimes it looks humble, or other times it looks stark. It can often look silent. These noble attributes are all valuable. I think it is good on occasion to feel that the ground below our feet is gone. It’s scary, but sometimes that’s what we need. Art can be a safe way for us to experience and learn from that feeling. Black & white photos can do this for us in interesting ways.

Is It Black & White?

Some of my favorite photos are ones that are color, but you can’t almost tell. I’m attaching such a photo to this post. First glance, you think this photo is black & white! These photos are rare flowers to me. I’d never fully desaturate such an photo. That small bit of color carries a nearly hidden message. That message would never be revealed if such an image were forced to pure black & white.

Back when I took film photos, when I purchased black & white film I’d have a different experience. I’d go to graveyards, into the woods, out to see abandoned farms. Street alleys. These are some of my favorite memories of photo taking. So when a color photo has a certain feeling to it, like the photos I took on those earlier black & white photo-adventures, I just switch to black & white!

empire builder line amtrak
This is not a black & white photo!

Pete the Poet co-edits the online poetry journal