I have one simple rule for deciding whether to make an image black & white or color when I’m editing a family photography session: If color makes the image stronger, keep it in color. Otherwise, it’s black & white. But enough talking! Let’s look at a few examples. I’ll go over one image I like more in color, and one I like more in black & white:

Family Photography: Round 1

Family eating pancakes during session

Family eating pancakes during session

This family was eating some pancakes for Saturday morning breakfast during our Day in the Life family photography session. I like the black & white much more for a few reasons. First, in the color version, the flowers in the upper right corner of the frame are distracting. I don’t want to crop them out for the sake of the rest of the image, and thankfully they disappear in black & white. Second, the kitchen in the background is distracting in color. I want the viewer’s focus to be on the girl in the foreground. She is much more the focus in the black & white. Black & white is the clear winner for me.

Family Photography: Round 2

Family photography session in color

Family photography session

I like this one in color. The blues all look great together, for starters. The little guy’s face also gets lost a little bit in the white of the bed in the black & white version. Keeping him in color fixes that problem. Now, I know I said earlier that I wanted to look at one example of each, but let’s look at one more:

Family Photography: BONUS ROUND!

Baby on a bed

Baby on a bed

I like the color version of this one. The warmer color of his skin looks nice next to the blue he is wearing, and the color keeps a nice separation between little Theo and the bed. He melds with the bed a little too much in the black & white version.

This is how I choose between color and black & white for any given image. If I’m editing an entire set of images that go together, I may make other choices. This photoshoot was mostly black & white, although images were so much better in color I had to keep them that way. This shoot has some images that could have gone either way, but I kept them in black & white for the sake of consistency across the entire shoot.

And there it is! Let me know what you think on Twitter!


Kevin McGladdery is your standard standup comedian/college instructor turned professional photographer, specializing in family photography and headshot photography in the San Francisco Bay Area.