Color Or Black And White Photography | What's Best

A colorful view of the famous Lindarbakki turf house in the village of Bakkagerdi in Iceland.

I photographed this fairy tale like house in the village of Bakkagerdi in Iceland. As you can see the sides of the house are covered in turf. I find that aesthetically charming, but it's also a highly efficient form of insulation.

Here are two versions of the same image, one in color and the other rendered into black and white. What's you favorite?

Are We Asking The Right Question

Personally I feel the color is the easiest to connect to as it's a more realistic representation of the way the house actually looks and, therefore, the way most folks would remember it. However, there may be more drama and detail in the black and white rendering.

I think it's safe to say that the color image more than adequately represents reality while the black and white rendering evokes notions of nostalgia and the passing of time.

The question as to which one of these images is better is, to my mind the wrong question. It's more a matter of which one is more appropriate to the story you want to tell or the mood you wish to explore.

Where Color Wins, And It's A Surprise

If you're wanting to explore composition then, in the case, I think the color version is the best option. That's because the triangle formed between the chimney and the left and right sides of the building, via the color orange, is really pronounced in the color version.

A black and white rendering of the famous Lindarbakki turf house in the village of Bakkagerdi in Iceland.

Black and White Photography for Sombre Drama

But it's not that simple. I think the black and white version sits more quietly, with its own gentle power. Let's consider some of the other subtle reasons why the black and white rendering might be worth considering.

  • The texture within the grass that envelopes the house seems heavier and more powerful
  • The tonality within the photograph is more defined, as is the old-world mood
  • The orange, while great to look at in reality, is a little overpowering in the color photo
  • The background buildings draw the eye away from our main subject more in the color version than they do in the black and white rendering

Sometimes it's really clear as to whether color or black and white is the most appropriate option for a particular photo or series of images. In this case I don't think the choice is so obvious. Overall I think I prefer the black and white rendering. But each to their own.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru