Everyone Looks Like a Model in Black and White

I’ve noticed a number of ads in magazines where someone who is really not all that good looking is photographed in black and white, and because of that, they look like a model. Usually these photographs are “caught in the moment” shots of the celebrity casting a wayward glance while walking past hoards of photographers.

The thing is, if you used the same photographs in color, the person looks normal again. It’s the black and white that makes them look like a model. Let’s try it on an actor famed for being non-handsome, Steve Buscemi:


Here’s Buscemi in color. Normal guy, great actor, a face that says, “Are you really not going to eat the marrow out of that chicken bone?”

Let’s add the model filter:

Wow, who is that?! He’s clearly a model. He smells fantastic. His rugged cheekbones make angels swoon. He makes tighty whities look good.

But don’t take Buscemi’s word for it. Let’s try it on me:


Here I’m an old man, tired and distracted by the glint of light that was my youth. I’m alone at a table with five empty drinks.

Now I’ll model-ify myself:

Wait, is that the same guy? He looks rich and sophisticated. He bought a round of drinks for his five friends, all of whom are busy taking his picture. His clothes are made of llama eyelashes, and his sultry gaze makes Dame Judi Dench want to play Young Queen Elizabeth instead of Old Queen Elizabeth. His tongue adds sugar to sugar-free gum. He can even talk to girls at bars.

Go ahead, turn yourself into a model. It’s worth it.

14 thoughts on “Everyone Looks Like a Model in Black and White”

  1. Brilliant description! I might argue that Steve Buschemi actually looks like a zombie in black & white, but I like the concept of black & white improving the looks of the average person.

  2. 100% agree.

    On a related–though not entirely similar–topic, I cannot picture the 1940s and 1950s in color. I can only picture it in black and white (or sepia tones when picturing WWII). Maybe that’s why I find most women in the 40s and 50s far more glamorous than today. But when I try to picture my parents’ childhoods and my grandparents as young couples? All of those daydreams are in black & white. And the 70s? I think the 70s were totally orange-tinted. Not just the kitchen floors and living room sofas, but the air itself. I’m glad I didn’t live in the 70s. It doesn’t look like a pretty time.

    • I definitely know what you’re talking about. Although it depends on the time period for me. Like, if I think about the ancient Egyptians, everything has a golden-sand hue to it. I wonder what color the 1990s will appear in hindsight.

  3. Balck-and-white lets the viewer paint a more interpretive story of the about the scene (and in this scenario, the person being photographed). The world is far more harsh than that, with it’s reality, and shadows, and ugly sweaters. So the absence of color ironically makes the image more ATRISTIC.
    But I don’t think that it makes photos of people make them look like MODELS. Models use black and white head-shots. Your photo is pretty busy, and your body takes less than half the frame. Trim the top. Cut the Schlafley sign almost completely out leaving the lower right section of the circle in. Cut most of the glasses out too. Put your eyes right along a line that makes the top 1/3 of the image, and your nose on the line that makes the right 1/3 of teh image (utilizing the rule of thirds)
    I sent you a copy of my vision.

  4. Interesting concept, Jamey!

    I like black and white photography because it’s timeless and classic, and it almost freezes time in a way. I think it can be very elegant and moving, as it focuses on the subject of the photo, rather than color.

  5. This made me laugh out loud. Thanks.

    Also: I need clothing made from llama eyelashes. Can you ask the guy in the last photo where I can purchase some? And if the answer is “oh, this little place in Peru; you probably wouldn’t know it,” then boo to him.

    • Rebecca, unfortunately, I found my llama-lash outfit at a tiny flea market in Istanbul in ’64. You could try alpaca, but it’s not the same.


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