Distractions. They are everywhere.

It seems harder than ever to focus on what really matters. As I sit and write this article (which, by the way, has lingered on my to-do list for well over a month), text messages, tweets, Facebook notifications and calendar reminders chime in on my phone, in a seemingly constant effort to derail my focus. If I succumb to that Siren’s Song, I will fall into a social media rabbit hole of wasted time.

backlit photo of family walking down a brick road by Sarah Rypma

Simply put, we have too many distractions. The minimalist movement and mindfulness meditation are gaining mass popularity for a reason. They require us to focus on the present and rise above the din of our distracted lives. It sounds easy, but it’s actually quite hard to turn off the “monkey brain” and breathe (insert yogi pranayama breath here). However, it is clear that when we remove the clutter, we feel renewed and centered, and we can focus on what matters.

Focus is an essential aspect not only to life but also to photography. For the purposes of this article, I am not talking about “nailing focus” in photography. Albeit, knowing how to nail focus is essential, I am referring to focus as in the main purpose or intention of the photograph. What is the emotion or connection the photographer is trying to capture in the image?

big brother holding little baby in yard by Sarah Rypma

mom holding daughter by the water by Sarah Rypma

Despite my undeniable love for vivid color images soaked in soft golden hour lighting, I sometimes think color can be a distraction. Often, our eyes might take in a rich, beautiful photograph, but emotionally we do not connect to the subjects. In newborn photography, maybe it’s the safari crib sheet that pulls us away from the mother-daughter connection; in portrait photography, perhaps it’s the magenta headband that distracts us from the person wearing it. If we strip away the color, the subject emerges and we are able to connect.

As a family photographer who specializes in lifestyle work, my main goal is to document the everyday moments and candid emotions for my clients. Ultimately, I want to create images that make my clients feel.

girl hugging baby doll by Sarah Rypma

Ted Grant said, “When you photograph people in color, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls.” I have always loved this quote because it sums up exactly why I love black and white photography.

After the editing process is done and I deliver my final galleries to my clients, I don’t include every image in black and white. I don’t think every image converts well to black and white. I use a monochrome edit when I can identify an image with good lighting, contrast between highlights and shadows (a true white and a true black) and a powerful emotion or connection in the image.

family photo with newborn by Sarah Rypma

big sister looking at baby in bassinet by Sarah Rypma

When I identify these criteria and convert the image to black and white, I find black and white photography isolates emotion in a way that color cannot. It’s then that I am free to feel the human experience on a much deeper level. Those are my favorite images.

I find black and white photography isolates emotion in a way that color cannot. It’s then that I am free to feel the human experience on a deeper level.