Problems "seeing" in color due to being a b&w shooter

Discussion in 'Exposure Discussion' started by rcam72, Aug 29, 2011.

  1. rcam72

    rcam72 Member

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    Up until a few weeks ago my film experience consisted entirely of b&w work. Any color photography was done digitally. When I did decide to shoot color film I didn't (still don't) feel at all comfortable trusting my ability to visualize the final image in color because I kept thinking in terms of black, grey, white. I should get over this if I keep shooting color, just like I managed to get used to thinking in greyscale, but I was wondering if anyone else had this problem when going from one format to the other?

    Thanks,
    Raul
     
  2. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Absolutely.
    I started my serious photography in a Community College based program and for about the first 2 years it was all b/w.

    When it came to color it was like I had a mental block for quite awhile but it does pass.
     
  3. wotalegend

    wotalegend Member

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    I have the opposite problem. Can either of you tell me how to "see" in B&W? I have been using B&W film for 40+ years and I still can't visualize things in tones of grey.
     
  4. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Wota, they do make a viewing filter that "approximates" grayscale.

    That is, if you're not being facetious :whistling:
     
  5. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I got a critical lesson in seeing color learning how to do C prints with an enlarger and color negs. The color theory classes in my painting classes helped too.
     
  6. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    You just have to practice a little bit to get used to "WYSIWYG." And learn how that will drastically change things compared to b/w, with which we become so accustomed to "translating" everything in our heads that it becomes more natural to us than WYSIWYG. (Just like looking at negative feels completely natural to us once we have printed a little bit, but "difficult" at first.) With color, there is no grayscale to hide behind. It is much more difficult because it requires much more attention to detail, IMHO. Many subjects that don't naturally lend themselves to color require a different approach than you would take with b/w. You might find that different compositions or technical considerations work better, for instance, moving in closer to an object, or using less depth of field for a certain subject than you would with b/w. But all it takes is practice. And if you print your own film, you will learn all the quicker.
     
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  7. ChristopherCoy

    ChristopherCoy Subscriber

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    I'd like to learn more about this if possible. I have the same issue as Wota...
     
  8. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    CC,
    I think the wratten # was 90 but I never used one.
    There is also several made by filter companies other than Kodak.
     
  9. rcam72

    rcam72 Member

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    Here's the link to Tiffen's b&w viewing filter:

    http://www.tiffen.com/displayproduct.html?tablename=filters&itemnum=BWVF

    I think part of my issue comes from having defective color vision to begin with. I agree that printing my own negs would probably be the best way to get through the block, but I'd have to get a new head for my enlarger. So in the meantime I'll keep shooting cheap color film and make judgements from negative scans.
     
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  10. jbl

    jbl Member

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    I also have a hard time visualizing in b&w, but I've done a lot less of it. I did try the #90 filter, but haven't found that it helps much, maybe I'm not understanding how to use it. Colors still come through, so it doesn't totally render light brown.

    I know this thread started on color visualization, but if anyone can recommend anything for b&w, I'd appreciate it. Maybe just years of practice :smile:.

    -jbl
     
  11. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    Thinking in B&W has become such a habit for menover the years that I must force myself to think and shot in colour. You are not alone in that regard. For me to load a camera with colour film means that I will have film in that camera much longer than if it were B&W. Obviously I see in colour but when I am looking for subjects to shoot everything seems to render to shades of grey so needless to say I don't load much colour except for when I KNOW the subjects will be in colour. My point is, you are not alone.
     
  12. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I switch back and forth so much, and have done it for so long, it has become second nature. The advantage of shooting black & white is that you make compositions that stand on their own. When you compose a color photograph as though it were black & white, you have a strong composition that color has been incorporate rather than a composition that depends on the color to stand. If a black & white photograph had a composition "that depends on the color to stand", it will tend to fall flat.

    Steve
     
  13. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Not "seeing" in color and not "seeing" in B&W is generally not the problem. It is typically an excuse for not matching your previsualizations with your desired results. Photography, color or monochrome, is by definition, "writing with light" – not seeing color or tones of grey.

    The remedy is to begin and practice seeing light. The distribution (or compostion) and range of light (any inferences intended), both color and monochrome, will fall into line naturally once you command light. Use your spotmeter while dry shooting to begin to understand where and of what intensity the light is. A study of the Zone System (AA's "The Negative") will be helpful in this regard if you have no innate ability to judge light by eye and heart.
     
  14. jbl

    jbl Member

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    Thanks, ROL.

    I was thinking about this today and I think it comes down for me to the following example: I can make a photo I'm happy with under constant lighting (under a cloudy sky for instance) that "works" in color. Imagine a collection of colors arranged together. It can work (for my eye at least) even though the light is constant. Such a photo would fail (again, for my eye) in black and white. Textures work, tonal variations work, and such. But I have an easier time with color as a thematic construct. Without the color, I produce nice stuff, sometimes good, but not often stuff I'm happy with because it's black and white, often it's good despite the fact that it's black and white.

    Maybe it sounds silly, but I feel like I don't know how to make a descent photo in b&w under constant light.

    -jbl
     
  15. PaulC

    PaulC Member

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    In my opinion, B&W is about shape and contrast, colour is about well - harmony in colour. B&W is the percussion section and colour is the strings. To the human eye, vibrant colours- especially red (blood or ripe fruit for a hunting primate) will completely dominate a scene. When you switch from shooting in B&W to colour you need to concentrate on how a single splash of bright colour will distract from shape and tone while going in the other direction you need to learn to ignore the distracting bright red, if it is going to be just an insignificant middle grey in your print.

    It's possible to learn to go to and fro but maybe the best work comes from sticking firmly to one or the other to avoid artistic confusion.
     
  16. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    That's very true Steve, I find that it takes a different thought process to see colour contrast and complementary colours that make a successful colour photograph than the masses, contrasts and tones of a monochrome picture, it's a different mindset .
     
  17. rcam72

    rcam72 Member

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    While I agree with your post in general, I don't agree with that statement above. I probably should have written the original post in a way that better described the issue as I see it. I realize that light is light and thanks to Mr. Adams' books as well as others, I think I do an okay job of seeing light. The issue, for me anyway, is more of a mental block due to having to deal with a new element in the target image. I am getting better at matching my final results with my pre-visualizations in b&w. The issue with color is that I'm still visualizing in b&w. As I said before, I'm sure everything will be fine once I get used to the process and the materials.

    Here's an image off of one of my first 5 rolls of Kodak Gold processed in a CPP-2 with JOBO C-41 press kit. It's a model of a chemical lattice in the Science Tunnel in Cali, Colombia. Since I was part of a walking tour I didn't have time to think and got a better result than I expected. Exp: 1/50, f2.5 with ETTL flash.
     

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  18. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    Colour is easier to see in, in my own experience. The simple reason why I wind up doing mostly b&w is that I can't manage the colour workflow all the way through on my own. So I prefer colour slides and fujiroids because then I can at least get a finished product in my hands without investing in ilfo etc.

    Anyway... with all due respect to ROL's comments in post 13 above, I'll just restate a basic point: in b&w, many tones can be transformed into another simply by adding or subtracting light on the subject. In colour, that's not true at all; if you add light to blue you just get (lighter) blue etc.... you just get the different shades and tones and not a different hue like red or green or whatever. So the relationships between the hues are very different from the relationship between (b&w) tones. It takes more than added or subtracted white light to relate them.

    On the subject of how to "see" a colour composition, let me suggest looking for compelling combinations of shapes and tones, just as you would with b&w.

    To help with that, here's a compositional exercise that may prove useful or at least amusing. Find a compelling subject and defocus so that you don't see sharp boundaries but rather see blurred images through the lens. This may help you to see how the colours interact rather than all the minor complexities.

    This little exercise works with b&w too, of course.