Last updated

A black-and-white photo of a breadfruit, c. 1870 Breadfruit.jpg
A black-and-white photo of a breadfruit, c.1870

Black-and-white (B&W or B/W) images combine black and white to produce a range of achromatic brightnesses of gray.



The history of various visual media began with black and white, and as technology improved, altered to color. However, there are exceptions to this rule, including black-and-white fine art photography, as well as many film motion pictures and art film(s).


McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana - Ansel Adams - Taken between 1933 and 1942 Looking across lake, "McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park," Montana., 1933 - 1942 - NARA - 519873.tif
McDonald Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana – Ansel Adams – Taken between 1933 and 1942

Contemporary use

Since the late 1960s, few mainstream films have been shot in black-and-white. The reasons are frequently commercial, as it is difficult to sell a film for television broadcasting if the film is not in color. 1961 was the last year in which the majority of Hollywood films were released in black and white. [1]


In computing terminology, black-and-white is sometimes used to refer to a binary image consisting solely of pure black pixels and pure white ones; what would normally be called a black-and-white image, that is, an image containing shades of gray, is referred to in this context as grayscale. [2]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Color</span> Visual perception of the light spectrum

Color or colour is the visual perception based on the electromagnetic spectrum. Though color is not an inherent property of matter, color perception is related to an object's light absorption, reflection, emission spectra, and interference. For most humans, colors are perceived in the visible light spectrum with three types of cone cells (trichromacy). Other animals may have a different number of cone cell types or have eyes sensitive to different wavelengths, such as bees that can distinguish ultraviolet, and thus have a different color sensitivity range. Animal perception of color originates from different light wavelength or spectral sensitivity in cone cell types, which is then processed by the brain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cyan</span> Color visible between blue and green on the visible spectrum; subtractive (CMY) primary color

Cyan is the color between blue and green on the visible spectrum of light. It is evoked by light with a predominant wavelength between 500 and 520 nm, between the wavelengths of green and blue.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Photography</span> Art and practice of creating images by recording light

Photography is the art, application, and practice of creating images by recording light, either electronically by means of an image sensor, or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film. It is employed in many fields of science, manufacturing, and business, as well as its more direct uses for art, film and video production, recreational purposes, hobby, and mass communication. A person who makes photographs is called a photographer.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">CMYK color model</span> Subtractive color model, used in color printing

The CMYK color model is a subtractive color model, based on the CMY color model, used in color printing, and is also used to describe the printing process itself. The abbreviation CMYK refers to the four ink plates used: cyan, magenta, yellow, and key (black).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cinematography</span> Art of motion picture photography

Cinematography is the art of motion picture photography.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monochrome</span> Composed of one color

A monochrome or monochromatic image, object or palette is composed of one color. Images using only shades of grey are called grayscale or black-and-white. In physics, monochromatic light refers to electromagnetic radiation that contains a narrow band of wavelengths, which is a distinct concept.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Color photography</span> Photography that reproduces colors

Color photography is photography that uses media capable of capturing and reproducing colors. By contrast, black-and-white or gray-monochrome photography records only a single channel of luminance (brightness) and uses media capable only of showing shades of gray.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grayscale</span> Image where each pixels intensity is shown only achromatic values of black, gray, and white

In digital photography, computer-generated imagery, and colorimetry, a grayscale image is one in which the value of each pixel is a single sample representing only an amount of light; that is, it carries only intensity information. Grayscale images, a kind of black-and-white or gray monochrome, are composed exclusively of shades of gray. The contrast ranges from black at the weakest intensity to white at the strongest.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Grey</span> Intermediate color between black and white

Grey or gray is an intermediate color between black and white. It is a neutral or achromatic color, meaning that it has no chroma and therefore no hue. It is the color of a cloud-covered sky, of ash, and of lead.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Indian-head test pattern</span> Television test card

The Indian-head test pattern is a test card that gained widespread adoption during the black-and-white television broadcasting era as an aid in the calibration of television equipment. It features a drawing of a Native American wearing a headdress surrounded by numerous graphic elements designed to test different aspects of broadcast display. The card was created by RCA to be the standard image for their TK-1 monoscope, a simple video camera capable of producing only the image embedded within it. The pattern was introduced in 1939 and over the following two decades became a fixture of television broadcast across North America in 525-line resolution and abroad in 525- and 625-line resolution until it was obsoleted by the rise of color television in the 1960s.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Photographic print toning</span> Recoloration of black-and-white photographs

In photography, toning is a method of altering the color of black-and-white photographs. In analog photography, it is a chemical process carried out on metal salt-based prints, such as silver prints, iron-based prints, or platinum or palladium prints. This darkroom process cannot be performed with a color photograph. The effects of this process can be emulated with software in digital photography. Sepia is considered a form of black-and-white or monochrome photography.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Color solid</span> Three-dimensional representation of a color space

A color solid is the three-dimensional representation of a color space or model and can be thought as an analog of, for example, the one-dimensional color wheel, which depicts the variable of hue ; or the 2D chromaticity diagram, which depicts the variables of hue and spectral purity. The added spatial dimension allows a color solid to depict the three dimensions of color: lightness, hue, and colorfulness, allowing the solid to depict all conceivable colors in an organized three-dimensional structure.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tint, shade and tone</span> Mixture of a color with white or black

In color theory, a tint is a mixture of a color with white, which increases lightness, while a shade is a mixture with black, which increases darkness. Both processes affect the resulting color mixture's relative saturation. A tone is produced either by mixing a color with gray, or by both tinting and shading. Mixing a color with any neutral color reduces the chroma, or colorfulness, while the hue remains unchanged.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Black-and-gray</span> Style of tattooing that uses only black ink in varying shades

Black-and-gray is a style of tattooing that uses only black ink in varying shades. This tattooing style is thought to have originated from prisons in the 1970s and 1980s and was later popularized in tattoo parlors.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Monochrome photography</span> Photography in which every point in the image has the same hue but different intensity

Monochrome photography is photography where each position on an image can record and show a different amount of light, but not a different hue. It includes all forms of black-and-white photography, which produce images containing shades of neutral grey ranging from black to white. Other hues besides grey, such as sepia, cyan, blue, or brown can also be used in monochrome photography. In the contemporary world, monochrome photography is mostly used for artistic purposes and certain technical imaging applications, rather than for visually accurate reproduction of scenes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blend modes</span> How two or more digital photo layers are mixed together

Blend modes in digital image editing and computer graphics are used to determine how two layers are blended with each other. The default blend mode in most applications is simply to obscure the lower layer by covering it with whatever is present in the top layer ; because each pixel has numerical values, there also are many other ways to blend two layers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shades of white</span> Varieties of the color white

Shades of white are colors that differ only slightly from pure white. Variations of white include what are commonly termed off-white colors, which may be considered part of a neutral color scheme.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shades of gray</span> Variations of the color gray

Variations of gray or grey include achromatic grayscale shades, which lie exactly between white and black, and nearby colors with low colorfulness. A selection of a number of these various colors is shown below.

This article provides introductory information about the RGB, HSV, and HSL color models from a computer graphics perspective. An introduction to colors is also provided to support the main discussion.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shades of black</span> Varieties of the color black

Shades of black, or off-black colors, are colors that differ only slightly from pure black. These colors have a low lightness. From a photometric point of view, a color which differs slightly from black always has low relative luminance. Colors often considered "shades of black" include onyx, black olive, charcoal, and jet.


  1. Robertson, Patrick (2001). Film Facts, Billboard Books, p. 167. ISBN   9780823079438
  2. Renner, Honey (2011). Fifty Shades of Greyscale: A History of Greyscale Cinema, p. 13. Knob Publishers, Nice.