~Black & White vs. Monochrome~

There is that continual question of whether or not Black & White Photography, or Grayscale as it can be termed,  is the same as Monochrome.  Is it?

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B&W, No Saturation

I came to explore this issue when I got involved in the 7 Days Of Black & White Photos and discovered a number of Monochrome shots being posted under that title of Black and White.  I have never really mixed the two and have always thought that there is a defining category for each on their own.  I got a bit confused so I went on a defining subject search so to speak for my own good.  Since I like working in this arena with tones, sepia, B&W and monochrome colors, the quest to find out exactly which way to categorize photos is a question I thought worthy of exploration.

First thing I did was hit Google and hit: “Images”.  Most images were in grayscale, a few had colors such as sepia or purple.  After seeking out further reading, opinions, and arguments, I figured the reasonable place was just to go and define these subjects.  It is not so cut and dry as I may have thought.

According to Wikipedia, Monochrome is defined by the following:

Monochrome[1] describes paintings, drawings, design, or photographs in one color or values of one color.[2] A monochromatic object or image reflects colors in shades of limited colors or hues. Images using only shades of grey (with or without black or white) are called grayscale or black-and-white….Wikipedia

…and here is a definition of Black & White according to Wikipedia:

Black and white, often abbreviated B/W or B&W, and hyphenated black-and-white when used as an adjective, is any of several monochrome forms in visual arts.  Black-and-white images are not usually starkly contrasted black and white. They combine black and white in a continuum producing a range of shades of gray. Further, many monochrome prints in still photography, especially those produced earlier in its development, were in sepia (mainly for archival stability), which yielded richer, subtler shading than reproductions in plain black-and-white….Wikipedia

So, what do we have here?  Do you see a difference?  I do, however, the “difference” is by definition of each other’s definition.  So for most people reading this, there is no difference.  Despite how I look at things, and from reading more about this, there is an understanding that they are the same and be that as it may, acceptable as both Black & White and Monochrome in categories on their own, and all together as Black & White or Monochrome…*I like rules… and then I don’t*.

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For myself, I have always relied on the old school of thought from back when my brother Peter used to cook B&W photos in the basement black room decades ago.   It was a rare occasion when a colored tone photo would develop out.  It might have been a little bluish or purple because of the greys, but that was only because of the process  *we played a lot in that room with negatives, I’m not sure how we got out alive sometimes*.   Black and White were simply B&W.  Now, it seems, after investigations, I have been upgraded in thought and the road gets wider and longer for artistic abilities.

I like the play on B &W photography.  B&W has its own mood.  Many times, it is the only way to get an emotion across in the photograph.  Using B&W has a soul gone past and I often find myself with the preoccupation of looking and getting lost in old photos.  I think we lack that today with heavy photoshop use (however I do like that venue also, I am not knocking PS in any way).

11-12-17-10 (1 of 1)The bottom line is simply this:  it is up to the photographer.  The artist holding the camera is the one who determines such from his or her viewpoint.  Especially these days with the digital arena and the use of software components taking an original photo to the depths of only a place where the photographer’s mind exists during that shot and, through the development of that shot.  It really is a creative mode of advancement to devour.

How about you?  Do you take B&W or Monochrome photos? I’d like to hear more on this, so give me an earshot in a comment.

All in all, the ultimate concluding decision for myself is that I just may combine the two… or not…

Til next time…

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Note:  I chose Wikipedia to post here because of the definitions of explaining and pointing one into other directions of research.  It is also a widely used general “go to” by population and updated regularly. 

Categories: Black and White Photography, Blog, ~2017~


27 replies

  1. I would die without colours, so I make sure I don’t do that by mostly staying away from b&w (monochrome is a word I only discovered while blogging and I don’t own it enough to use it). I adore good b&w photography of others though.

    When I did my 7-day challenge, it was always a surprise to see which photos (taken in colour) make good b&w’s after conversion. Mostly it was opposite to what I’d thought.

    This is an intriguing post. I feel even more out-of-the-know now. 😀

  2. I didn’t know there was a difference . . or maybe more like, how can any pic with any amount of color be considered black and white?

  3. Absolutely adore B&W. I, too, did the recent FB 7-day challenge, from which spawned my present creative writing WIP as it happens!
    Well done for finding out more on the matter!

  4. I really enjoyed our black and white theme. It truly has a timeless look and feel to them.

  5. You are very talented and I love the drama in the photos. As a writer, I understand the different “shades” of meaning, for you in this one B&W vs Monochrome in your photos. For me, a true writer plays with words and shades of meaning without seeming to, while someone else just writes words. A discerning reader intuitively knows the difference just as an admirer of photography would know the same in your realm.

  6. I don’t like black and white photos. I would rather see color. Maybe because I grew up with black and white TV and pictures. Then when they came out with color, it was Wow. So pretty and it is still so pretty to me.

  7. Lovely Black and white pictures 🙂

  8. I’m not a photographer but love playing with my digital camera, and the camera on my iVIEW. I like you was confused for a long time about the defining terms of B&W & Monochrome. This was enlightening and have to say I enjoy B&W rather than color. It makes more of a statement… what ever the message the photographer is trying to show us.

    • Keep playing with that digital and you phone cam too! That phone is underestimated and can open the doors to some great shots. The view finder on the phones are large and easy to see AND have a setting for black and white. Have fun and make your own expressions!

  9. I’m not a photographer but I’ve always enjoyed B&W and monochrome photos. There’s a soulful depth in a complex simplicity that tickles the emotions not found in color. Your use of the word ‘Mood’ says it all.

    • I think it may be a nostalgia we have missed in just shooting away photographs in color. Its all too common to not get into the photograph while shooting. In B&W, one has to use imagination a little when not only taking the picture but viewing it too.

  10. I still prefer pictures in color. My granddaughter loves the B/W!

  11. Maybe it’s an age thing? When I was a child, all our photos were black and white because it was cheaper. I think i’m about 9 when our family photos are in colour. So I would still think of monochrome as something different, of which b&w is a sub-set. As another amateur phone photographer it’s not something I use, though i’ve occasionally played around with it in PS and other apps. By the way, I’ve written a couple of articles for Wikipedia and I was impressed with how rigorous its standards are. It’s a great starting point as you say.

  12. I nevet knew black and white was so complex . Thanks for the info I learned something today . I am just an amatuer with a camera phone

  13. Thanks for stopping by. Not sure how the pingbacks work without a comment but thanks for the notation. 🙂


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