21 Inspirational Quotes on Black & White Photography

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When you create a black and white photograph, you create something that is abstract and strikingly real at the same time. Black and white photography is strange that way. It is perhaps this abstractness that makes black and white images so intriguing and timeless.

Producing noteworthy black and white photographs often involves more than just converting a color photo to grayscale. An understanding of which scene would work better in black and white than color is crucial. Taking control of the tone during the conversion process is equally important.

In this post, we have put together some inspirational quotes on black and white photography by noted photographers and artists. We hope they inspire you to create your own beautiful B&W photographs!


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Photo by Thomas Leuthard

  • “Color is everything, black and white is more.” – Dominic Rouse
  • “Black and white is abstract; color is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world.” – Joel Sternfeld
  • “One very important difference between color and monochromatic photography is this: in black and white you suggest; in color you state. Much can be implied by suggestion, but statement demands certainty… absolute certainty.” – Paul Outerbridge
  • “I’ve been forty years discovering that the queen of all colors is black.” – Henri Mattise
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Photo by Thomas Leuthard

  • “I work in color sometimes, but I guess the images I most connect to, historically speaking, are in black and white. I see more in black and white – I like the abstraction of it.” – Mary Ellen Mark
  • “In the history of photography, we have many masterpieces in terms of black and white books. You have Bresson's ‘Decisive Moment,' Frank's ‘The Americans'… many masterpieces. But there is nothing to this caliber in color. Well, I think I'll waltz with my muse and hope that I might be able to produce something on this order in color.” – Ralph Gibson
  • “Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” – Ansel Adams
  • “I think it’s because it was an emotional story, and emotions come through much stronger in black and white. Color is distracting in a way, it pleases the eye but it doesn’t necessarily reach the heart.” – Kim Hunter
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Photo by Thomas Leuthard

  • “My philosophy, like color television, is all there in black and white.” – Monty Python
  • “Let’s assume that all the cassettes of monochrome film Cartier-Bresson ever exposed had somehow been surreptitiously loaded with color film. I’d venture to say that about two thirds of his pictures would be ruined and the remainder unaffected, neither spoiled nor improved. And perhaps one in a thousand enhanced.” – Philip Jones Griffiths
  • “Which is probably the reason why I work exclusively in black and white… to highlight that contrast.” – Leonard Nimoy
  • “There’s something strange and powerful about black-and-white imagery.” – Stefan Kanfer
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Photo by Dom Crossley

  • “Color tends to corrupt photography and absolute color corrupts it absolutely. Consider the way color film usually renders blue sky, green foliage, lipstick red, and the kiddies’ playsuit. These are four simple words which must be whispered: color photography is vulgar.” – Walker Evans
  • “In black and white there are more colors than color photography, because you are not blocked by any colors so you can use your experiences, your knowledge, and your fantasy, to put colors into black and white.” – Anders Petersen
  • “One sees differently with color photography than black-and-white… in short, visualization must be modified by the specific nature of the equipment and materials being used.” – Ansel Adams
  • “In the '70s, in Britain, if you were going to do serious photography, you were obliged to work in black-and-white. Color was the palette of commercial photography and snapshot photography.” – Martin Parr
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Photo by Vinoth Chandar


Create Better B&W Photos

If you are interested in learning how to create black and white images that stand out – with a step by step guide that will equip you with everything you need to know, do take a look at the best-selling eBook Better Black and White, over at Photzy. You will learn how to evaluate a color scene for tone and how to convert an image to B&W, in a step-by-step process, using either Photoshop, Lightroom or Elements. Click here now to check it out.

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Ritesh Saini

Ritesh has been photographing for about seven years now and his photographic interests have varied from nature and landscapes to street photography. You can see his photography on Flickr or on his website.

2 thoughts on “21 Inspirational Quotes on Black & White Photography

  1. Matt Messerli

    Black and white is definitely capable of much more than they are likely credited for. It’s use in everything from landscapes to portraits can have vastly different meanings. Ansel Adams had a way of taking a black and white photo and transforming it to a colorful story, laying out a road map in my mind to follow while absorbing it. It takes more consideration to properly implement a grey scale strategy and I have the utmost respect for those who can master the intrigue behind black and white photography.

  2. jean pierre (pete) guaron

    Like any of these discussions, these comments add up to “a point of view” – and everyone is entitled to have one.

    Some of these quotes bring back memories of my earlier years as a keen amateur photographer – surrounded by people who had taken to color and no longer had a use for B&W – and kitting my cam out with three magazine backs, one for color and the other two for “normal” and “high speed” black & white. B&W won out handsomely – the overwhelming majority of the photos I took during the first 50 years were B&W.

    Now it’s almost exclusively color. It’s where I am – I’ve BEEN B&W, now it’s color’s turn. I do have two remaining comments on this.

    One, that my lack of interest in color photography was a reaction to the rather unpleasantly vivid and unnatural colors so prevalent in color photographs a half a century ago – a failure which thankfully has been overcome in the digital era.

    And two – if we’re talking about “art” in the context of photography, why should it shun color? – is there someone out there who’d suggest all those “color paintings” are soulless, because they aren’t black & white? For me now – where I am, at this point in the cycle – photography is a study of a range of things – shapes, lines, relationships, light (as such – which is often – but not exclusively – a color-only issue), light & shade (which is a different subject matter), color, atmospheric conditions (which have a great influence over a number of the other factors), and so on.

    Eliminating color simplifies some aspects and makes others more complex – or does it? – if the most compelling argument in favor of “B&W only” is a focus on tonal range (as I’ve seen suggested in a number of articles), why is control or understanding of tonal range any less important in color?

    If I don’t want to shoot B&W, why is that treated as a heresy? If on the other hand, I do want to shoot B&W, why should THAT be a heresy? Why should I use a 30 second exposure to photograph a waterfall, if I’d rather capture the droplets of water cascading down – or vice versa? Why is it “wrong” to shoot with natural light? – or with a ton of lighting equipment, because it’s “unnatural”?

    At the end of all of this, I prefer my “creativity” without blinkers. There are too many preacher men out there, speaking out against too many “heresies”. Which just hobbles “creativity”.

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