Black and white

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

Black-and-white (B/W or B&W) images combine black and white in a continuous spectrum, producing a range of shades of gray.

A picture which uses only the two shades of white and black would look similar to a silhouette. Therefore, calling a photo a "black and white image" is actually a misnomer.[1][failed verification][2][failed verification] The technically accurate term is "grayscale", or more specifically "grayscale monochrome". A picture which consists only of actual white and black pixels is a "binary image".[citation needed]


The history of various visual media has begun 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

Contemporary use[edit]

Contemporary photo of a Galápagos tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) on Santa Cruz Island

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.[3]


In computing terminology, black-and-white is sometimes used to refer to a binary image consisting solely of pure black pixels and pure white pixels; 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.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1], How to Photograph the Outdoors in Black and White, by George Schaub · 1999, page 93, published by Stackpole Books (ISBN 9780811724500)
  2. ^ [2], The Photographic Garden Mastering the Art of Digital Garden Photography, by Matthew Benson · 2012, page 108, published by Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale (ISBN 9781609610883)
  3. ^ Robertson, Patrick (2001). Film Facts, Billboard Books, p. 167. ISBN 9780823079438
  4. ^ Renner, Honey (2011). Fifty Shades of Greyscale: A History of Greyscale Cinema, p. 13. Knob Publishers, Nice.