Meant for black and white?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Markok765, Jun 12, 2012.

  1. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

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    Hey all,

    I grew up shooting black and white film(i'm 19 now) and now, irregardless of if i shoot film or digital, I can't for the life of me shoot a good colour photo. All the while I can take good BWs all day long.

    I don't know if this is something ingrained in me now, or what. Whats your take? Do you find this to be true too? I don't look at light as much now that I've been shooting colour, need to get back to that.
     
  2. Roger Cole

    Roger Cole Member

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    It's a very different kind of seeing. My rule of thumb (borrowed from Bruce Barnbaum's book which I know many don't like but I think Bruce has the right idea here) is to shoot color where color is an integral part of the scene, black and white otherwise.

    It can be very helpful to take the same shot, or as close as possible to the same, in both black and white and color. While you're at it, take the same shot in black and white several times with different colored filters, and use the color shot to remind yourself of colors in the scene and how the filters affect their tonal renderings in black and white. It's one thing to read it and even see published examples, another to see what it does with your own materials in your own style of photography.
     
  3. Prof_Pixel

    Prof_Pixel Member

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    Interesting. I've always felt that shooting B&W was more difficult than shooting color.
     
  4. LJH

    LJH Member

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    Marko,

    I find the same thing!

    I've decided that it's due to my red/green "colourbindness". Regardless, I don't fight it. IMO, the vast majority of photos taken (regardless of technology) are in colour. As such, if I can produce a killer B&W shot, it will stand out form the crowd. And I think that there is some kind of subliminal connection between B&W and "fine art"...
     
  5. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    If you can shoot Black & White well you can shoot color well.
    If you can shoot color well you may not necessarily shoot Black & White well.

    Ansel Adams shot both but he preferred Black & White because he could do more with it.
     
  6. Terry Christian

    Terry Christian Subscriber

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    When presented with what my brain recognizes as a potential image, I ask myself what it is about the scene that attracts me. Is it the hues of color present? Then I shoot it in color. Is it the geometric pattern or the contrast? Then I shoot it in B&W.
    I also wholeheartedly agree with Roger Cole's suggestions above.
     
  7. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Too many people shoot color...too few use color as an element of composition and as an element of emotion.

    I have the book Ansel Adams in Color. Some images work well. The ones that usually do not work as well are where he set up for a B&W image and then decided to also shoot a sheet of color -- the cover is a classic example. It is not the color that will make an image, it will be the use of color that will.
     
  8. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    Exactly, what I learned was that the subject of a color photograph is the color itself. It's not an accident that professional photographers use a monochrome viewing filter to compose a photograph. By stripping away the color you see form, light. shadow, texture, etc that might have been missed.
     
  9. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    Sometimes color just doesn't add anything to the image. In fact, it can distract from it. The key is to know when to use color instead of B&W and vice versa.
     
  10. albada

    albada Member

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    Interesting question. I've found that I should shoot color when color is important in the scene; for example, a colorful blouse or a painted pipe. Otherwise, color contributes little and may be distracting, so B&W will be fine. Or, to put it differently:

    Shoot color when color is the subject. Otherwise, shoot black and white.

    Mark Overton
     
  11. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    I agree, Mark. The human brain can process only so much information. When color is an important part of the image then we need that information in the final image. If color is not an important factor then grayscale is often the better choice because, with color cues missing, our brains are free to concentrate more on light/shadow, form and texture. Including color cues can sometimes distract our brain's processing power from those visual factors that really do matter. Do color when it adds to the image. Do B&W when color subtracts from more powerful visual cues.

    ETA: Color hues can be extremely subtle and subdued but none-the-less very impactful. Intense color contrast isn't the deciding factor. It can be but it can also be a huge distractor. Sometimes making the decision between color and grayscale is a tough choice but I often think the image isn't powerful enough if that choice is really that difficult.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2012
  12. Diapositivo

    Diapositivo Subscriber

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    Our natural vision is in colour. My "normal" way of imagining a composition is when colour is an integral part of it. Actually this is already a statement that suggests an overthinking which isn't there. Colour is your normal environment. Colour photography is a description of your environment. It's less "compositionally involved" than B&W so to speak.

    A subject works better in B&W rather than in colour when you want to stress shape, contrast, geometrical relations between the elements of the compositions, perspective, whatever. A subject works in B&W when it has a "graphic" quality.

    With B&W you stress those elements of the composition (shape, geometries, lines, shadows, contrast), and your composition works just because you stress those elements. By taking away colour, the rest of whatever makes an image is more "stressed" than it would be with colour.

    So B&W is, in a sense, more "abstract" than colour because with colour you take a portrait of a certain portion of reality as it is, while with B&W you use what you see in front of you to make a composition where geometry, shape, lines, contrast, shadows etc. create the picture "regardless" so to exaggerately speak of the real subject of your pictures.

    So my advise is: think less "photographically". Look around you. Get an interest in "things". When shooting colour, composition is merely a way to better describe the "thing". Your subject is the subject, not the various games played by geometries, lines, shades, "pendants" etc.

    The railing of a gate could make an interesting subject for B&W (for pattern, repetition, perspective, contrast, games of light) and a boring subject in colour because colour stresses more "the railing" rather than the patterns and the viewer sees a boring railing rather than a "composition".

    So in order to take good colour pictures you have to dismiss your "professional deformation" and stop thinking in terms of patterns, repetitions, perspective, contrast, correlations, pendants, shadows and just assume an attitude of mere "description" of the object you want to portray, for which you have to have and portray an interest which goes beyond the abovementioned composition elements.

    My 0.02 Euro

    PS I only use colour. My "avatar" is in B&W because it's a case where B&W works better than colour.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2012
  13. thegman

    thegman Member

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    Depends what you're shooting I think. If you're shooting city/urban street scenes. A colour photo can look like just another photo of a dude walking to work. In B&W it's "street photography" and you'll win awards. Shoot colourful nature scenes, and unless you're Ansel Adams, I think colour looks best. Nature has some amazing colours, like the blue of the sea etc. Seems a shame not to capture it.

    If you like B&W though, keep going with it, you don't need to make a lifetime choice, if you feel like colour one day, go for it.
     
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  15. dnjl

    dnjl Member

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    I don't think I've ever shot a decent colour photograph. I just do it for fun and leave the serious work to B&W.
     
  16. John Austin

    John Austin Member

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  17. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I agree John. Let's try to get his ball rolling.

    BW is the best, no matter what. Digital has saturated (literally and figuratively) the color scene so much, I couldn't imagine the purpose of shooting color film!



    ...there, that should get some cats hissing
     
  18. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    All of my comments can be found above. But I would like to add a personal note. I have found that seldom does color attract me when looking for subject matter. Most times I have trained my 'vision' to respond to busy-ness. I mean that when I am photographing I am attracted to lines and form and contrast and patterns. Not often do I catch myself wrenching around because a vivid hue caught my fancy.

    That to say this. A lot of it has to do with personal experiences and preferences. A good photographer can draw on his/her past and capture a wonderful photograph, regardless of medium or color/BW and whatnot. A great photographer knows when to use which tool to visually and emotionally convey a story or message and can do so with facilily.
     
  19. Dave Krueger

    Dave Krueger Member

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    I'm like Stephen Colbert. I don't see color.
     
  20. Old-N-Feeble

    Old-N-Feeble Subscriber

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    Dave / Stephen... I've always been curious and I hope you don't mind me asking this. For those who are completely color blind, or nearly so, can you look through deeply color filters and see the way panchromatic films such as TMX 100 will render an image with the same filter?
     
  21. mark

    mark Member

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    Are you at all color blind? Might be a factor. It is for me. But I like shooting color especially with saturated films. With saturated films I can see most of the colors I did not see in the scene.

    I see from reading that someone already mentioned the color blind thing.
     
  22. Brian C. Miller

    Brian C. Miller Member

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    Yes, it's true, you were meant for black and white. And then you got stuck in a color world. Ah, what cruel fates bestow upon us our fortune! I think the fates tend to be a bunch of jerks.

    Seriously, though, you've been training your eye for black and white. Spend some time looking at color photographs you like. Think about why you like them, and then try to find things that match that criteria.
     
  23. kevs

    kevs Member

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    I find I'm able to switch between colour and mono quite easily - but then I used colour film long before I took an interest in black and white. I do approach the two differently, probably because I generally use red filters form B&W, which does tend to be my primary medium - not that i do much photography these days!

    The way we see can become a habit; so many people make a habit of not noticing things around them - I suppose they're too busy doing other things. Try becoming more aware of colour in your everyday environment; really look at it and notice how it interacts with other colours, the way it changes in different lighting conditions, and the thoughts and feelings it provokes in you. Summer is a great time to see the deep blue sky, the brightly-lit greens of leaves and grasses, the subtle colours of dawn and dusk... I saw some lovely field poppies by a roadside today - and one was a beautiful deep red that I've never seen in a poppy before! The more you look, the more you'll see. Then use your camera to communicate your 'seeing' to your audience. You can apply this to black and white too, especially when you know how the tones and textures will record on your chosen film and filter combination. Then use your results to contemplate the colours you've recorded. Good luck; I hope you manage to break out of your 'stalemate' with colour. :smile:

    Cheers,
    kevs.
     
  24. albada

    albada Member

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    Here's a test:
    Do you remember scenes in B&W or color?
    That includes dreams: Do you remember dreams in B&W or color?

    My visual memory is B&W. So I'm insensitive to color, and it's taken me a while to become decent at shooting color. I remember somebody commenting on the yellow cast in my color print, which I hadn't noticed. But once he pointed it out, it was obvious. I didn't notice the obvious. I've had to teach myself to see color.

    Mark Overton
     
  25. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    To me b&w and color photography are two different mediums and I don't compare one with the other. I print b&w and pt/pd so that's what I shoot for most. Composition is the key for both anyways. Try taking only one when out photographing and concentrate on that instead of deciding which will work best and after a while it won't be an issue. You will know what works for either or both. Some images are effective either way. Having two camera backs one with color and one with b&w can make it easier.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  26. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Very interesting and educational thread...

    After shooting B&W almost exclusively for a year, I recently did some digital shooting and most of it was just awful - until I de-saturated some to B&W and they became decent photographs. Thank you all for making this understandable.