Firstly I think it works better in colour mainly because you see the colour of his face, eyes and shirt which contrast well, I think you lose this in the conversion. In addition the foreground becomes indistinguishable in mono (it's not that distinguishable in colour).
This looks like an over the shoulder shot used in film and TV which is to do with screen direction, editing and telling the story. I like candids like this in landscape orientation with the subject's eyeline looking at the person he is in converation with (the shoulder). However there are too many distractions to make it work. The entire scene appears to be lit by frontal direct flash and the shoulder has taken the brunt of it, the shoulder is also too prominent in the frame. The background between them perhaps could do with toning down a little as I can't really see it serving a purpose.
Thanks for that. I intended to keep the shoulder in, to show that he was in conversation with someone. Yes I used flash on this, as I was struggling for light. the pub had really horrible dim orange bulbs and shades so the lighting was terrible. everyone was coming out looking like david dickinson or Dale winton! lol.
I don't object to flash at all but it here it's obvious that flash was the main light source so you lose all the warm incandescent lighting. Sure enough it's not always practical to photograph in those ambient lighting conditions, could you bounce your flash in future or is it a fixed position built-in flash? Perhaps you could incorporate the "horrible dim orange bulbs" in the shot to add some colour contrast.
I was bouncing the flash off the ceiling for most of the event, but in some cases I need to point it forwards. This perticular shot just wasn't light well at all when bounced.
Some of the shots were ok with the orange lights, but most of the time people were coming out looking like they'd been tangoed. I didn't want to end up with loads of shots that I may not be able to correct when editting, so opted for the flash.
Fair enough but I don't really see that as a valid reason to convert to black and white. Did you use the raw format and tweak the white balance after (another good reason to acquire in raw)? Bouncing off ceilings doesn't always work as you've found out, in addition it can create down shadows especially under the eyes. I was suggesting the flash as the main light source but mixing it with the background, ambient lighting to give a context and atmosphere.