Making powerful black and white photos is a skill separate from that of creating color photos, with the photographer needing to think about tones, lines and shading, alongside how colors translate into grayscale.
But you don’t get a black and white photo by only changing an image from color to grayscale, you have to attempt to see the scene in front of you in black and white to start with.
Learning how to see in black and white is a skill that it can take time to master, as you have to be able to discount the color information that your eye sees and instead think more about form and detail.
This article is full of quotes about black and white photos, with the hope that these black and white photo quotes inspire you to create your own stunning images, and explore the possibilities of black and white photography.
Inspirational Black and White Photo Quotes
“Our lives at times seem a study in contrast … everything seen in absolutes of black & white. Too often we are not aware that it is the shades of grey that add depth & meaning to the starkness of those extremes.”Ansel Adams
“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
“For black and white landscapes I concentrate on the graphic elements of a scene, and the nature of the environment, whether it is stormy or tranquil.”Antonia Deutsch
“There’s something strange and powerful about black-and-white imagery.”Stefan Kanfer
“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
“While the absence of color may contribute to our appreciation, at the same time it is important to assert that black and white is not photography minus color. Not at all.”John Beardsworth
“Black and white photography has the potential to make any photographer a better photographer.”Rob Sheppard
“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
“Black and white creates a strange dreamscape that color never can.”Jack Antonoff
“I think every subject deserves to be treated as just what they are, an individual. It’s quite often I will think ‘this is going to look great in black and white’ though. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a black and white photograph and thought ‘that would look great in color’.”Dean Sherwood
“My experience of learning in the darkroom with black-and-white film had limitations that were helpful. There were fewer choices.”Annie Leibovitz
“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
“Black and white photography erases time from the equation.”Jason M. Peterson
“Black and white are the colors of photography. To me, they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.”Robert Frank
“There are some locations I go to and they scream black and white to me because of the ambience. For me, great black and white images fall into two categories: very dramatic with stormy skies and bold compositions and at the other end of the spectrum a calm and minimalist composition.”Helen Rushton
“When images are in black and white, they seem timeless. When you see Carrie Otis in an ad from 1989 next to an ad with Klara Wester from 2009, you don’t see a 20-year difference between the pictures.”Paul Marciano
“With black and white photography, what you have to say counts more than the way you say it.”Gian Marco Marano
“To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.”Andri Cauldwell
“When shooting a portrait in black and white you are not distracted by the colours and it is much less confused; this allows me to capture the character of my sitter. My portraits are very calm and, I hope, timeless. I strive to make each portrait a true reflection of the individual.”Antonia Deutsch
“I’ve been forty years discovering that the queen of all colors is black.”Henri Mattise
“Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.”Elliott Erwitt
“One very important difference between color and monochromatic photography is this: in black and white you suggest; in color you state.”Paul Outerbridge
“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
“Architectural photography allows me to tame cities of iron and concrete and find a ‘charm’ within them. With my studio photography shooting plants and flowers, I can keep some affiliation with nature. These two themes often recur in my work and complement each other: the cold, sharp aesthetics and straight lines of architecture are opposed by the delicacy, curves, sensitivity and poetry of nature. These themes have influenced me to switch to the world of black and white to accentuate this darker but more poetic theme.”Guy Gagnon
“Black and white is abstract; color is not. Looking at a black and white photograph, you are already looking at a strange world.”Joel Sternfield
“When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls.”Ted Grant
“Everything always looked better in black and white. Everything always looked as if it were the first time; there’s always more people in a black and white photograph. It just makes it seem that there were more people at a gig, more people at a football match, than with colour photography. Everything looks more exciting.”Jack Lowden
“The most colorful thing in the world is black and white, it contains all colors and at the same time excludes all.”Vikrmn
If these black and white photography quotes have inspired you to create your own pictures, then take a look at my free black and white presets for Lightroom, or see some of my related articles below.