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Why Do You Need Black and White Headshots?

Once the norm, black and white headshots can sometimes be seen as no longer relevant in today’s world of colour.

Yet they continue to play an important role, so should you perhaps consider one yourself, if you are planning to have a professional headshot taken in the near future?

Take a look at some of the best black and white portraits and you can often discover a certain something that seems to be lacking in colour photography.

Black and white (monochrome) portraits have been popular since the birth of photography almost 200 years ago. Colour photography was possible even from the very early days but was complicated and expensive; it didn’t really come into its own until about 90 years ago.

Yet despite colour’s seeming advantages, monochrome photography for portraits has remained popular and still does to this day.

Here are our thoughts on the current relevance of black and white headshots for today.

Who Uses Monochrome Headshots?

One of the most popular users of black and white headshots are actors. Traditionally in the UK, all actor headshots were in monochrome, although this is starting to change. The recommendation for actor profiles now appears to be having half in colour and half black and white.

Interestingly, actor headshots in the USA are traditionally in colour.

Black and white photos force you to see the person, rather than just a wash of colour – being a ‘purer’ image, it can reveal more raw emotion, which is why many actors favour them.

For this reason, more executive headshots are now being taken without colour – as are a lot of legal portraits and other notable professions. They display more drama and capture the attention of the viewer.

Social media profiles are seeing an about-turn on the colour/mono 

Why Take a Black and White Headshot?

There are several reasons to consider having a monochrome headshot instead of a colour one.

The first is simply to make a statement; a good quality, well taken black and white headshot will stand out in a way that a colour one does not; as we are so used to seeing full-colour images daily, something different grabs our attention more. That itself is a good reason to think about monochrome, but there are several others.

Take a moment to study the above photos, then answer the question below:

Coming Soon
Which photo do you think has more emotional impact?
Which photo do you think has more emotional impact?
Which photo do you think has more emotional impact?

Although this is a little subjective, most people will answer that the face of the subject in the black and white photo stands out more. The face in the second (colour) image is competing for attention with the blue shirt, the tie and even the background. 

The photo on the left – even with his hand in place – emphasises the face due to the contrast in the picture. This illustrates another difference – monochrome accentuates emotion and captures feelings in a way that colour often cannot. Bearing in mind the purpose of a headshot is to convey the ‘real you’ in a single image, that can be a big plus.

These images also highlight another key difference between colour and monochrome – the difference in lighting in the photograph – more on that in a minute.

Another reason for their popularity is that black and white images bring out different textures and skin tones; in short – you can look better! So, while the image is still clearly you, it’s a slightly improved you. Good news for a lot of us! Lighting in monochrome reveals depth and textures that are lost in colour.

Finally, a monochrome headshot is somehow timeless – the pictures tend to age better than with colour photos, meaning they stay relevant for longer.

How to Take a Black and White Headshot

Black and white photography is a skill in itself; you will certainly need a professional photographer to get a good result. The photographer must know in advance if they are shooting for a monochrome image, as they will be looking for very different things through the camera lens than with colour photography.

One advantage of them is that with experience you can get excellent results from more challenging light situations; that can be useful if you are having your photoshoot away from a studio – even with portable lighting. But the key is the experience of the photographer and their knowledge of how the available light will affect the outcome.

For more advice on booking the right photographer, read our guide about the portrait photography process.

These days, most photography is done digitally, so photos are shot in colour and then adjusted in post-production editing to make them monochrome. This means that the editor has even greater control over tone and contrast than shooting the photo using black and white film.

This means that for you, the customer, they can get exactly the ‘mood’ or feeling from the photograph that you want – darker and more serious or a little lighter in tone. So long as you explain to the photographer what result you are wanting, they should be able to produce it for you.

There is much more scope for the photographer to take advantage of contrasts in the photographs and produce a more striking image.

Compare the two images below (which are of the same person):

Coming Soon
Which photo do you think has more emotional impact?
Which photo do you think has more emotional impact?
Which photo do you think has more emotional impact?

lso, for black and white portraits of any kind, just as much thought needs to go into what you are going to wear. Although colours won’t be showing, textures stand out far more in monochrome and this gives you a great opportunity to wear something that perhaps would not work in a colour shot.

Read our Guide to the Ultimate Profile Image for more great tips.

 

In today’s media-rich world, you will want to use every possible means to stand out in your headshot – and the best black and white portraits do just that.

It may not be for everybody, but when you have your next headshots taken, ask the photographer to try a few in monochrome too – you just may be in for a pleasant surprise!

With headshot photography prices varying widely, you need to know that you are going to get only the best results from your photo session. Book a professional with experience and with a good headshot portfolio already established – and don’t forget to ask if they have a portfolio of monochrome headshots too!

Splento have experienced professional headshot photographers for a fixed hourly rate – just £99 – which includes retouching and editing.

Take a look now at their portfolio for some great examples of professional headshots , where you can also find out how to make your own booking for a headshot photo session .

What is your opinion of black and white headshots?  Comment below and let us know what you think.