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Colour or Black and White?

 

Deciding how portraits should appear on your website is a knotty problem: do you go for black and white or is colour better? Whilst there's no 'right' answer for every organisation there is a right answer for your organisation.

 

Understanding how images are read will help you decide on the type and style of your portraits. This article will give you some food for thought:

Black and White

 

Culturally, we tend to accept black and white images as authentic. It's because for many years news images were only available in monochrome. So we have grown up with the classic images of Don McCullin, Robert Capa and more recently John Decker. There is almost an innate belief (albeit unfounded) that the images have not been 'messed with'.

 

So monochrome lends a cultural gravitas and importance. No matter that we know all images can be manipulated, we retain an emotional belief in black and white's authenticity.

 

One of the major benefits of monochrome is its neutrality. A team of colleagues, all dressed in different outfits and colours, can create a messy, untidy look on a single web page. Removing colour gets rid of any distracting or clashing colours.

 

There may also be technical benefits for inexperienced photographers. Modern cameras' automated colour balance can wreak havoc with skin tones (especially if the sitter is wearing strong colours or has dark skin). Rendering images in monochrome can reduce the worst negative effects of a camera misreading the colour temperature.

Headshot
Headshot

Black and white images are often considered 'more artistic' than the full colour equivalent. Whilst this is questionable, there is a growing trend (fashion even) for monochrome corporate portraits.

 

Monochrome can be very artistic and edgy but a good full colour image does not necessarily make an excellent black and white. Monochrome is strongest when care is taken over form and composition.

 

Colour

 

Benefiting from a richness of information, colour is often the preferred format for portrait photography. Modern editing systems enable sympathetic adjustment of tones. So portraits can co-ordinate with your website.

 

The extra detail and flexibility of colour is important in creating mood and re-enforcing your brand or company values. Light sparkling colours impart energy. Rich golden tones provide reassurance and warmth. Articulating your company's core message through imagery is not simple but a vital component of your marketing. And colour can be a powerful tool in achieving your objectives.

To unleash its power, colour needs management and communication: staff need to be briefed on style and appearance for the shoot. Equipment has to be calibrated: rendering skin tones consistently and correctly needs experience, skill and technique. You cannot allow the camera to 'think for you'.

 

The right format?

 

Strong portraits do not happen by accident and aligning imagery with your organisation's values is not straightforward. You need to appreciate how form, texture and tone are used to communicate meaning. Agree what core values you wish to communicate: talk ideas over with marketing, your design agency and photographer. It is worth the effort. After all, if your staff are your business, then shouldn't their portraits reflect your business?