Some clients prefer black and white for their headshot expressions versus color, which is very much the current standard for headshots.
While black and white used to be the headshot standard in the early and mid part of the 20th century, in the last decades, the shift to color has been steady and is now the norm.
The shift to color headshots was fueled by shifts in technology and tastes.
In the past, black and white, or duotones were initially the only easy option. Color portraits may have required hand painting or other post processing techniques on the prints, negatives and substrates used in days past.
The shift towards color headshots beacame more the norm or new standard throughout the end of the last century. Technology played a big part in this shift to color. Whereas film cameras either with loaded with black and white or color film initially, digital cameras typically capture full color data with every exposure. With film photography, color was more expensive and trickier in almost all steps in the photographic process.
With digital photography, the conversion to black and white occurs after the initial image data is already captured and is handled in software or firmware. There are no added costs for color. In fact, black and white requires additional processing, in programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, Nik Silver Efex Pro and others.
Further, there is no ‘one true’ black and white expression. There are literally infinite ways and adjustments to the initial digital color image when converting to black and white.
This makes black and white more of an art form. The final output in black and white, depending on how the conversion is done exactly, can drastically effect the feel and impact of the final image.
When black and white is done well, it is still a very powerful way to present a headshot.
The two headshot examples here, are both of the very same image, one is color and the other a black and white expression. See how each headshot has a very different feel?
In the past, the one or two or few color headshots would stand out from a sea of black and whites, with the occasional duo tone sepias.
Today, with so many color headshots, a strong black and white headshot can be the unique stand out.
Really, it is kind of a personal choice whether to go color or black and white.
Also, some images just work better in color or some in black and white. This is not often clear until both options are explored with the particular image in question.
Practically, the main difference typically is black and white has more ‘mood’ than color.
What ever your headshot’s intended audience, whether it is for business, dating, social media, an ego portrait and so on, if the black and white has the more appropriate feel, it may be the way to consider going.
If you do decide to go black and white, do consider a few black and white options. As stated, there are multiple black and white options for EVERY color image. Each option can create a mildly or wildly different feel, for the same image.
Which ultimate expression you select must consider how the particular black and white treatment you decide to go with conveys the message and feel appropriate to your headshot’s intended purpose.
To view what this image looked like before any editing, click here.