Black and White Photography


Documentary photographers sometimes alternate between black and white and color images depending on what effect they’re after. Likewise, UNCG will use color in some situations and black and white in others. It all depends on whether you’re communicating “Why, How” or “What” messages that support the “Why-How-What” Strategy. When your headline and lead text is expressing the call to Do something bigger altogether (“Why” we do what we do), use black and white photography.

Images that support “Why” messaging will be conceptual, emotional and inspirational in nature. Your subjects should appear as if they are curious about the world around them and ready to challenge themselves to make a difference. When color is removed, elements in the photograph are reduced to their essence. For this reason, black and white images can best express ideas such as wisdom, awareness, perseverance and confidence — all of which are reflective of UNCG’s core values and brand personality.

If you are addressing the many ways UNCG brings learning to life (“How” we do what we do), use images that show how we connect theory to practice in a supportive, engaged learning environment. “How” images can be either black and white or color. They might capture a faculty member working in the lab or studio, or perhaps sharing a significant moment with a community member. Consider, for example, a mentoring relationship between a student and faculty member or a lively moment in a collaborative community project.

All UNCG photography will use a documentary approach, reflecting true moments in time. We want our communication to not only be true to who we are but to also provide the viewer with an authentic look on what they might find at UNCG.

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1. Environments should feel real and subjects unposed. Find a location where your subject is comfortable and try to capture a spontaneous moment. You may need to spend some time with your subjects until they are relaxed enough to ignore the camera.


2. The subject should not make eye contact with the camera. In some cases, faces may be shown in profile or not at all. Photography should capture a moment in life.


3. Look for opportunities for interesting lighting. Natural lighting is best; therefore, seek out times of day such as the early morning or late afternoon. Contrast between light and dark or lighting that suggests a feeling of illumination can help portray the emotions you want to convey.


4. Take photographs in a location that shows a distant horizon line, road, pathway or an open doorway. This can suggest a sense of expansiveness and possibility. Shoot low to the ground to help emphasize this idea.

5. Avoid stock photography. Authenticity also means photographing real places and people associated with UNCG. If you don’t have the resources to shoot customized photography for your needs, visit the UNCG Image Collection for images you can download.

Incorrect uses of the black and white photography style

Black and white photograph should be neutral in tone.  Do not use duotones, sepiatones or tint photography in any way (left).  Make sure your photography uses the documentary style described above — don’t simply make any photo black and white (right). 


The entire photograph should be black and white.  Do not use cut-outs or other graphic techniques.