Which is harder? Color or B&W?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by roteague, Jan 31, 2006.

  1. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I've recently finished reading David Ward's excellent book "Landscape Within"; this is more a book about the philosophy behind landscape photography than about pure technique.

    In this book David makes the the following statement "It is much harder to make a great photograph in color than b/w because the complexity that the photographer must control has increased many fold, since not only form and tone but also colors must now be balanced."

    Do you agree or disagree, and why?
     
  2. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    I am a color photographer, and I find statements of this nature purely subjective, each photographer is going to find their own set of difficulties in each medium, I find B&W far more difficult due to the fact I have to change my thinking process to see in tones and not colors, I have never been a good one for converting colors to tones, so my difficulty is the seeing portion of the process.

    Dave
     
  3. Paul Sorensen

    Paul Sorensen Member

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    It makes for an interesting argument over beer. I think that there is no possible right answer to this. If the artist is putting into their work what they ought to be, it is hard work and it doesn't matter the medium. Of course, when the artist is truly dialed in, it is likely easy. Perhaps the hardest medium is the one in which you produce the worst results, no matter how hard you try, you just can't get it right.

    Can I get anyone another beer while I am up? :D
     
  4. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Sure, you want a slice to go with it, I am heading to the Kitchen to refill the beer and grab a slice of pepperoni with sauage!

    :D

    Dave
     
  5. celluloidpropaganda

    celluloidpropaganda Subscriber

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    I see far more 'bad' color work - in books, on the Net, in magazines, et al., where the photographer just seems to have zero sense of how to place color in the composition, how to print it, how to make it look good. So often color photos just look like snapshots from the drugstore, there is no 'there,' there. B&W simplifies the equation, there are fewer distractions and variables to overcome.

    If you don't have the right light, color is just ugly. But when a color photo hits all the right places, it can be stunning.

    I find that I prefer (for my uses) color to B&W in MF and LF (esp. Polaroid, oh how I love the colors you get from the square integral Polaroid film) as I can attain the kind of color and tone that I want, but 35mm is generally lacking. OT, somewhat, but that's been a big turn-off of digital for me. APS-sized color looks even more odd than 35mm and neither approach the palette of 6x6 for me.
     
  6. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I think I mostly disagree with Ward's statement. Except for the selection of the color palette of the film, the "balancing" of color elements, at least with landscapes, is through compositional choice, not technique - unless deviations in processing result in color shifts (intentional or otherwise). Thus, I don't see one (color or B&W) as more difficult than the other, just different and involving different choices.
     
  7. BradS

    BradS Member

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    I find it much more difficult to do landscapes in B&W than in color but, maybe my landscapes just look like so much drug store trash.

    I think I'll pour myself another glass of cabernet.
     
  8. Daniel Lawton

    Daniel Lawton Member

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    I shoot both B+W and color and IMO it completely depends on the subject matter. Some shots look much better in color and vice versa. I shoot more B+W because of the control I get in the development and darkroon stage but I often load up a second back with color transparency film and get some nice suprises when I put them on the light box.. Some feel that sticking to one or the other is a sign of focus but I feel as though I would be missing out if I didn't do both. As to which is harder? Its the one you're least familiar with.
     
  9. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Subscriber

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    It also depends on who is looking at the image. I have found that more people are pleased with and distracted by color. Trying to make a B&W work takes imagination and effort and some viewers just don't have the patience and imagination. I personally think that Black and White is more difficult because you have more options in exposure control on the whole, such as filters, etc. and it takes a bit more knowledge to pull a B&W off that pops, color can just look pretty and fool the masses.
     
  10. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Member

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    When I was shooting 99% BW I always thought color was harder. Now that I'm shooting more color I've realized that it can be much easier than BW at times. Sometimes the subject, situation, or lighting just screams for one or the other.
     
  11. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    Depends on what you mean by "harder". Harder to produce a really "Fine" photograph? IMO, NO. It is equally difficult ... and probably, obtaining the essence of that which makes it "fine" is equally difficult among ALL media.

    I've worked with charcoals, pencils ... many more. To me, obtaining "a good one" is easiest in photography, but I really think that is solely because I am most familiar with photography.

    To "bang out" an image -- somewhat resembling the subject (Picture Phone type) -- with little regard for quality ... by all means - use a Picture Phone.
     
  12. mark

    mark Member

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    Is it harder to make a successful color landscape photograph?......Hmmmmmm. No. I think it depends on which you practice at more. I also think people feel color is more difficult than BW because they do not understand it. To me they are about the same in difficulty. In color you have to think about the color relationships in the scene. In BW you have to worry about the tonal relationships. I think there are the same number of factors to consider they just take a different mindset.

    Plus, people like making what they do sound more complicated than other things, so they sound like they are working harder.
     
  13. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    There you have it in a nutshell folks.

    Color for the beer crowd..........

    Black & white for the more genteel, the souls more sensitive to enjoying the finer things, the Cabernet Sauvignon of photographers.

    Actually, the more the computers haave become superb at seperating out the mysteries of color better than any human ever could, the farther I move away and become dis-interested in it.

    Black & White OTOH has become a bottomless pit of possibilities.
     
  14. BruceN

    BruceN Member

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    Hmmm... Where does that leave us bourbon drinkers? Pauses to relight pipe...

    Seriously though, I agree that they're both equal in difficulty but require quite different approaches.

    Bruce
     
  15. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    I doubt we could ever agree on what is a "great photograph" in the first place.

    Color carries with it the ability to create impact due to the ....well, color. Our senses can be bombarded with color. That seems easy. But it can be like herding cats to get the colors coordinated and balanced.

    Black and white on the other hand is surreal to begin with and has the ablility to be grey and boring or perhaps contrasty and impactful. It must also rely on the skillful gradation of tones to create impact.

    Bottom line for me as with others here. They are just different with different challenges.


    Michael
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 31, 2006
  16. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    It's easier to get an impressive photograph in color. That is, one that will impress the average person. It's not easy to impress someone with black and white because the average person has been brought up on a diet of visual color. Most people are disappointed that a picture doesn't have color.

    For a great photograph? Making one at all, no matter what the media. That's what's hard.
     
  17. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    The bourbon drinker appreciates both the subtlety and the smoothness of the beverage as well as its nature to slap you in the back of the head! While I appreciated more of the headslap in my younger days, I'm now trying to develop a taste for the subtlety and detail...

    in photography?

    Unless you're colorblind, I think (jmho) that color is a little easier to see, but just as difficult to compose and create a good image. I find it easy to fall in to the trap of forgetting about things like texture, when your faced with very vibrant colors...

    ...ahh, looking forward to a trip to Tennessee this summer...but then, that's for another thread.
     
  18. jd callow

    jd callow Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Colour is physically easier, but deeper to the power of 3 over B/W.
     
  19. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    I think it necessary to differentiate between colour reversal and negative. Whilst both require good compositional skills, reversal work demands greater accuracy with exposure control since you are probably missing out on the opportunity to correct at the printing stage. With negative work, or reversal printing, one has to cope with colour fidelity; which I find a bit of a drag. The distraction of colour is obviously removed from monochrome printing, which allows free rein to our creativity; but then I'm biased.
     
  20. roteague

    roteague Member

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    I started the thread without stating what I felt, because I didn't want the thread to come across as an argument one way or another. I should point out that David Ward is an accomplished landscape photographer from the UK.

    However, I believe as John does, color is physically easier, but more demanding. Why? We are bombarded with images all day long, almost exclusively color images, it takes a special or unique image to capture and hold our attention for any length of time. For example, is John's image of the Toronto subway; I've seen lots of images of subways before, but the way he uses color in it makes me stop and linger. B&W, by its very lack of color, captures our attention right away.
     
  21. Charles Webb

    Charles Webb Member

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    We had a similar discussion awhile back. My feelings then as are now that B&W is far more demanding for me, as I have to make decisions as to where I want a tone to fall, what amount of detail to strive for in a shadow area etc.
    With color I have little control of my final work, The color is there, if the film has the capability of "seeing" what you want to capture, you got it!. Studio color is much closer to B&W in the amount of planning that can be involved.
    CC filters can drive you to the nearest bar. Artists/editors demanding exact color in a transparancy can make you glad you drove to the bar. Color photography came very easy to me, however viewing a full color scene on a bright sunny day can be a challenge for not only me, but a lot of others that know exactly how they want a "color" scene to appear when converted to gray scale. As I say, for me the outdoor color is simply see what you want to photograph, set up, ( which includes exactly the same steps necessary for a B&W set up) and make the exposure. I have never thought any part of the picture making process particularly "hard" but I do believe successful full scale B&W takes a bit more planning.

    Charlie..............................
     
  22. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I think they are both harder. :smile: