What photos make good black and white images and which ones do not? The short and simple answer is: the ones you like in black and white are the best ones to make black and white. Shuh! That’s quite simple isn’t it. Well, yes it is. I contend that beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder … If I like the photo, then that’s good enough for me. And I support your decision on what you like as well.
The longer answer is really just ideas that we as photographers have floating around in our heads. I contend that black and white makes it easier for me to SEE and STUDY the subject at hand, without the distraction of color. Black and white makes it all bout the subject. Period!
But I think there are certainly times when color is just THAT much better … (not just obvious things such as photos of the Northern Lights) but subtle things. Take for instance the two images below. When I first saw the color shot I loved it— the juxtaposition of the small red building with the man in the yellow jacket against this HUGE landscape. Then, when I then saw the same image and black and white, I loved it MORE!! — Because of the contrast of mountains against the snow really made it stand out. But as I studied the subtleties of the small person and building I now prefer the color version. If it were just a landscape with no person, I prefer the black and white. What do you think?
5D Mark III with 70-200mm f4 lens at 95mm f5.6 1/800th second ISO 200
Now this photo below, shot in the same area is another story. I think the black and white makes the image better. A LOT better. The light was not all that interesting to me in the color version, but the Black and White makes it all about the subject–the mountains–and eliminates the color distraction. I would contend that the color version is barely worth showing off. The Black and White, while not STUNNING, is more appealing.
5D Mark III with 24-105mm f4 lens at 24mm f5.6 1/640th second ISO 200 w/ Singh-Ray circular polarizer