We often look for that perfect light hitting our subjects, hoping for the best scene setup hence getting that beautifully lit photograph. Unfortunately, shooting outside on the streets in real life conditions, we do have to deal with unfavourable lighting most of the time. Sometimes, the lighting is so bad that no matter how good the subject is, it was just not worth shooting.
I encountered such situations from time to time, I do admit often I just walked away. For example, the following portrait of a stranger.
What was wrong with the above photo? The man was standing under red canopy, hence his skin tone was overpowered with red cast, which was destructive and made the overall impression of the portrait rather uncomfortable to look at. Lighting was flat and not flattering, creating an uninteresting portrait. No matter what magic you perform in photoshop it is almost impossible to fix this photograph in color. The only option was to go black and white. Color was not the important element in this photograph, it was the look in the stranger's eyes that caught my attention, it was his willingness to be photographed, the sense of friendliness and that mystery of wanting to know who he was, that compelled me to shoot him. Colors played very little role in this particular shot, hence leaving colors behind was not such a big deal for this one.
Turning the image black and white solved the ugly red color issue. Also, no color means no distraction and the main attention can be drawn to the eyes of the man, then emphasizing his friendly facial expression. Since the image was relatively flat to work with, I boosted the contrast to add sense of depth, and having the background overblown in highlight to show the feeling of being in a very bright place.
I think I will keep the second black and white version.
Do not get me wrong, I am not saying that you can fix failed color shots with black and white conversion. However monotone is a very beautiful way of conveying the world of photography, and I sure hope more people can see that!