The original films that earned the film noir label were black and white movies from the 1940s and 1950s. Some modern film noir pays tribute to these early inspirations by producing film in black and white.
As film noir developed stylistically, though, filmmakers learned to use color to create the same moods. Noir historian Lee Horsley describes color films like Taxi Driver (1976) and Reservoir Dogs (1992) as neo-noir, films heavily influenced by film noir. You can even see neo noir in graphic novels, such as Frank Miller's "Sin City," which uses bright red to emphasize certain objects within its black and white images [source: Horsley].
For your own film noir creations, don't restrict yourself in terms of color. Get ideas on how to use light and color from productions similar to your own. Black and white films offer a high contrast between dark and light, and they pay tribute to classic film noir. Color adds depth to the mood you're creating, such as blue hues to add a chill or a red glow to convey a sense of danger.
Fortunately, you can also use video editing software to adjust the color in your photography during post-production. Don't think of it as cheating; think of it as creating the perfect shot without relying solely on the camera and lights. In video editing software, you could simply remove all color saturation to leave a black and white image. You can also adjust specific hues within the shot as if painting a mood into the picture.
So far we've covered tips on lighting, camera settings and color adjustment. Our final tip adds the final touch to that film noir effect.