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copake_ham
09-13-2007, 03:35 PM
George,

I'm really sorry, but your explanation of the world just flies in the face of how I understand color and black & white to be.....
http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1100879

If I need to choose between you and Calvin.... sorry.. :p

On a more serious note, I agree the posters that feel that good B&W images emphasize the shapes, the tones, and texture. I think that compelling color images are harder to make, since the the color needs to enhance the other aspects of the picture, not detract from it. I do hope to get better at it - I'm taking some color photography classes at a local art college - perhaps I'll get it some day.



Cheers "copake ham" for the blunt-force sarcasm, enjoyed that. I agree with your sentiment. I've heard quite a few photographers say "I just don't like colour" and, after my gag reflex has abated, I just shake my head internally. It doesn't matter. I guess B & W work is habit-forming because it's easy and cheap to develop films yourself ... heck, this is probably true of me. And it's probably a good thing for photography that quite a few good photographers work only in B & W.

Svend,

As you can see from Jon's post - my idea was certainly not original. In fact, I had some memory of the Calvin and Hobbes comicstrip story he links to, though not the actual link itself and kind of turned the logic around. "C and H" used to be one of my favorite comic strips. Bill Watterson's wit and wisdom is well regarded:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvin_and_Hobbes

It's too bad he felt burnt out and stopped the strip.

I shoot both B&W and color, BTW. :)

manfromh
09-14-2007, 04:35 PM
People have said that creating a good b&w image is harder than creating a good color image. I see it the other way around. I think it takes a better photographer to create a powerful color image, where color adds to the emotion and doesnt take it away. I hope that made sense. I personally have created more b&w images I'm happy with, than color images.

sun of sand
09-16-2007, 02:16 AM
"color theory" Colors have weight in their value. Too close a shade and the work is muddled. Just the right color in the right place and you have vibrancy and motion. You apply a filter with B&W to approximate color weights. Without the filter the image is/can be muddled. Apply a red filter and green falls back
apply a green filter and green comes to the front ..or you could skip that chapter and just say the tones separate in much the same way as they do in color for us.
I don't believe there is any difference. Using black and white film is just a new way of seeing color. I often take Color photos and simply desaturate em to see if there is any difference ..none. A good color photograph will make a good B&W same as a good color painting will make a good B&W painting. There is a reason why there are filters and that reason is "Contrast"
Same reason for why always using a dark red filter isn't the best thing to do ..eventhough it seems "really cool" to do just that.
B&W gives you the ability to paint a little bit and color is more like finding a painting

roteague
09-16-2007, 03:37 AM
One has emotion, depth and a sense of power ... the other just lacks color. :p

Cheryl Jacobs
09-16-2007, 11:58 AM
I often take Color photos and simply desaturate em to see if there is any difference ..none. A good color photograph will make a good B&W same as a good color painting will make a good B&W painting.

I completely disagree. Many really great color photographs lack the kind of lighting that gives soul to a B&W shot. And there are plenty of situations in which a B&W fails to communicate in the way that color can. The two are not the same thing, and not at all interchangeable IMO.

One major reason that I work in B&W is that it is less literal than color. If I'm photographing a child, I'm looking to say something about childhood in general, or maybe my own childhood, and monochrome is a big part of that. I like images that feel like distant memories.

- CJ

JBrunner
09-16-2007, 12:42 PM
I don't believe there is any difference. Using black and white film is just a new way of seeing color. I often take Color photos and simply desaturate em to see if there is any difference ..none.

Apologies for snipping out just what my reply targets.

I would just like to point out that a desaturated color image, and a black and white image are completely different things. The desaturated color image represents color tones without chroma, while a black and white image renders its values according to the spectral sensitivity of the film stock.
A good example is that with certain B&W stocks the color red might register as very dark, or black, whilst with desaturated color, it would will record as a light gray. Desaturated color images lean mostly to mid tones, producing a look and feel of there own, but are nothing like black and white film and printing, except that they lack chroma. Your desaturated color image is indeed the same as the color image, minus the color.:)

bjorke
09-16-2007, 02:50 PM
Many really great color photographs lack the kind of lighting that gives soul to a B&W shot.Anyone else know about the late Dean Collins? http://www.software-cinema.com/disc_product_details.php?disc_id=82

Sparky
09-16-2007, 04:39 PM
If you read Sontag's ON PHOTOGRAPHY you'll learn at least as much as you ever cared to on the topic. Quite possibly more. It's an exhaustive analysis on the psychological aspects of the medium from many angles.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
09-16-2007, 08:54 PM
If you read Sontag's ON PHOTOGRAPHY you'll learn at least as much as you ever cared to on the topic. Quite possibly more. It's an exhaustive analysis on the psychological aspects of the medium from many angles.

Quite possibly less.

It's really about HER idea of photography, not about the psychology thereof. That's why it's an essay, not an academic paper.

It's insightful and thought-provoking, but not what I would recommend to understand the emotional impact of photographs.

Sparky
09-16-2007, 09:02 PM
that's a bit dismissive, I'd say. From your perspective, Michel - isn't it true that you could make the same statement about anything? I, personally, cannot imagine a more coherent document covering the emotional 'meaning' (i.e. psychology) of the medium. If you've read something that betters it in this respect - I'd really like to know about it.

keithwms
09-16-2007, 09:38 PM
I wonder if the O.P. might care to comment...

sun of sand
09-16-2007, 09:48 PM
Apologies for snipping out just what my reply targets.

I would just like to point out that a desaturated color image, and a black and white image are completely different things. The desaturated color image represents color tones without chroma, while a black and white image renders its values according to the spectral sensitivity of the film stock.
A good example is that with certain B&W stocks the color red might register as very dark, or black, whilst with desaturated color, it would will record as a light gray. Desaturated color images lean mostly to mid tones, producing a look and feel of there own, but are nothing like black and white film and printing, except that they lack chroma. Your desaturated color image is indeed the same as the color image, minus the color.:)

Maybe I condensed more than I should have. Maybe I haven't experimented enough with both yet/all B&W films/talking out of my ***


B&W may shift a color to one end or the other depending on its sensitivity to that color but I'm not sure that matters as I'm sure there is a film/composition out there that would give about the same tonality as a desaturation of a color photograph

I'm not too sure that any given scene works so much better on one film stock so as to make the same scene shot on the "wrong" stock worthless


I know there is a difference between film and a desaturation
Less of a difference when desaturating towards the look of a film
Film records reflected light but not many people encourage using B&W without filters and I see that process as the same as a person in Photoshop desaturating selectively using RGB channels. You get to much the same conclusion
You use a filter to make the film record the scene the same way as you see it naturally through your eyes. usually, anyways. Both have their own spectral sensitivity. So, doesn't a person using B&W record what is essentially the color image/tones of the color image formed by eyes/brain ..only without the color? Isn't it just a novel way of seeing color then? A much more graphic representation of color.

Even if different films give slightly different results isn't that still basically the same thing? ..a selective filtering only done in film as opposed to the light onto the film?


"The desaturated color image represents color tones without chroma"
"Your desaturated color image is indeed the same as the color image"

You're saying that a desaturated color image gives the exact look of the world if we did not see in color?
Color blind to all

So why don't we just desaturate the color in color photographs if we truly want to see in tones?
why is that not as good as using B&W film? Because we can discern red from green easily in color but in a desaturated image -or on film of a certain spectral sensitivity without filtering- we lose the ability to easily distinguish them.

I'm sorry
I've never gone into the science of either film nor human vision but this is what I believe ..and some of what I wrote up there still isn't making sense to me or elseI know I have to think about it some more or study vision so as to better word it


I just don't put much stock into the notion that B&W somehow shows emotion better ..or black and white can make a certain photo "look" better than if it were in color
I'm pretty sure that if one chose the correct color and B&W film to give them the exact look they desired in tones both would be equally as good for any scene before them
and would look the same only one having color and the other not
?
as in they would both render a tone equally to one another in relation to the others present
?

As for emotion
I would start arguing that smiling/crying does not mean one is more emotional than one who does not
The one is just a much more graphic representation/symbolism of the emotion being felt
etc etc





If you read that and have something you think I should study
I welcome it

DrPablo
09-16-2007, 10:03 PM
We are filled with cultural associations with both color and B&W photography that I think greatly contaminates this conversation. It's like asking the question of why a sepia-toned picture looks old.

Trying to find physical, biological, aesthetic, and technical reasons to explain the effect of B&W photos is very artificial -- you're removing the mind of the artist from the discussion, and you're removing the mind of the audience from the discussion.

Let's also not forget that there is a bit of elitism about B&W photography, in part because more hands on work is (typically) done by the photographer, in part because there is a tradition of B&W photography going back 160+ years, and in part because color photography seems to strike many B&W purists as amateurish or something. I don't think people mean to be elitist about it -- but I also don't think they realize it when they are.

sun of sand
09-16-2007, 10:07 PM
I completely disagree. Many really great color photographs lack the kind of lighting that gives soul to a B&W shot. And there are plenty of situations in which a B&W fails to communicate in the way that color can. The two are not the same thing, and not at all interchangeable IMO.

One major reason that I work in B&W is that it is less literal than color. If I'm photographing a child, I'm looking to say something about childhood in general, or maybe my own childhood, and monochrome is a big part of that. I like images that feel like distant memories.

- CJ


I cannot really argue with your soul or definition of soul
I feel that any photograph can be good in color and any photograph can be good in B&W
B&W tends to draw the photo and that can be better for description of things -but that's probably more dependant on the nature of the person
but then only color can describe color.

I don't personally recall memories in B&W
They're all in color.

I don't really think it matters
I like both
I don't separate them

JBrunner
09-16-2007, 10:34 PM
Maybe I condensed more than I should have. Maybe I haven't experimented enough with both yet/all B&W films/talking out of my ***


B&W may shift a color to one end or the other depending on its sensitivity to that color but I'm not sure that matters as I'm sure there is a film/composition out there that would give about the same tonality as a desaturation of a color photograph

I'm not too sure that any given scene works so much better on one film stock so as to make the same scene shot on the "wrong" stock worthless

It matters when you are after something in particular, in regard to contrasts and tones. It is one of the reasons (far from the only reason) I may choose one stock over another. I don't think there is a "wrong" stock, but I do know I would have a rather limited tool set if I had to use color stocks as my only option.


I know there is a difference between film and a desaturation
Less of a difference when desaturating towards the look of a film
Film records reflected light but not many people encourage using B&W without filters and I see that process as the same as a person in Photoshop desaturating selectively using RGB channels. You get to much the same conclusion
You use a filter to make the film record the scene the same way as you see it naturally through your eyes. usually, anyways. Both have their own spectral sensitivity. So, doesn't a person using B&W record what is essentially the color image/tones of the color image formed by eyes/brain ..only without the color? Isn't it just a novel way of seeing color then? A much more graphic representation of color.

Even if different films give slightly different results isn't that still basically the same thing? ..a selective filtering only done in film as opposed to the light onto the film?

I'm not sure I have the wit to answer to this completely. I do know that my intentions are almost never to replicate human vision the same way as you see it naturally through your eyes, and that the stock, filters, developer, and printing are for me, tools to that end. How my images relate to human vision concerns me only when experiencing the print, and how close I have come to my previsualization.


"The desaturated color image represents color tones without chroma"
"Your desaturated color image is indeed the same as the color image"

You're saying that a desaturated color image gives the exact look of the world if we did not see in color?
Color blind to all

So why don't we just desaturate the color in color photographs if we truly want to see in tones?
why is that not as good as using B&W film? Because we can discern red from green easily in color but in a desaturated image -or on film of a certain spectral sensitivity without filtering- we lose the ability to easily distinguish them.


I mostly shoot 8x10 black and white, for contact printing. The mind set, skill set, tool set, and results from shooting, processing, and wet printing are different than those used in digital manipulation. (I do a fair share of d* for work) One isn't better than the other, any more than you can compare them to each other as distant cousins. I have no idea if a desaturated color image gives the exact look of the world if we did not see in color, for I do not see that way. For me, the black and white analogue process offers a distinct set of tools, and a distinct discipline, within a distinct medium. The emotional difference between that, and color is another matter, and I upchucked my 2cents on that earlier.

FWIW I simply like to work in the medium of my mentors and masters.

Best

J

Michel Hardy-Vallée
09-16-2007, 10:55 PM
that's a bit dismissive, I'd say. From your perspective, Michel - isn't it true that you could make the same statement about anything? I, personally, cannot imagine a more coherent document covering the emotional 'meaning' (i.e. psychology) of the medium. If you've read something that betters it in this respect - I'd really like to know about it.

I know, it's flippant. But the point is just that Sontag isn't the be-all and the end-all of everything about photography. She's thought provoking, and she did change my thinking about photo, but she's no gospel, and no psychologist either.

DrPablo
09-17-2007, 12:10 AM
I have no idea if a desaturated color image gives the exact look of the world if we did not see in color

It doesn't.

The 'desaturate' command in Photoshop gives equal weight to reds, greens, and blues. The 'convert to grayscale' command in Photoshop (as well as the B&W function in many digital cameras) weighs greens more heavily. This is more consistent with our own photoreceptivity.

But I think this whole idea is kind of illustrative about B&W. With digital manipulation you can make vastly different B&W images from the same color original -- so the discussion of color versus B&W can no longer be predicated on the idea that B&W is one singular alternative. It's many alternatives. But that's true for color as well, depending on how you shoot it.

Sparky
09-17-2007, 01:13 AM
I know, it's flippant. But the point is just that Sontag isn't the be-all and the end-all of everything about photography. She's thought provoking, and she did change my thinking about photo, but she's no gospel, and no psychologist either.


Well- I'm just trying to defend the fact that I think her writing is really cogent and very thoughtful - it appears to me that no living photographer is even remotely interested in what she has to say.. but what she had to say really resonated with me... I wish there were others writing more on the subject. The way you write about her - you'd think she had some sort of hegemonic grip on people... I haven't seen anything like that.. that's all.

Michel Hardy-Vallée
09-17-2007, 08:59 AM
The way you write about her - you'd think she had some sort of hegemonic grip on people... I haven't seen anything like that.. that's all.

Well, in a way, yes she has. It's not that the majority of photographers have read her, but her and Barthes are always the first two works that get cited whenever there is a theoretical discussion about photo. But most often, it stops there, and that's the problem.

KenM
09-17-2007, 09:13 AM
My personal feeling is that a B&W photograph, simply by being black and white, is immediately an abstraction. People see in color, so when they look at a B&W photograph, they have to make a context switch. It's also easier to deviate from reality, since you're already in the realm of abstraction.

Color photography, on the other hand, lends it self more to reality. For example, when photographing landscapes, if you deviate too far from reality it quickly becomes apparent that something has been 'done' to the photograph. With B&W, you have much more latitude to 'play'. Yes, you can make abstractions with Color, but I think that the subject matter itself has to already be abstract to make sense in a color photograph. You can take that intersection of walls, and color them anything you want - it'll make sense. However, grass is green. Maybe yellow. But any other color just doesn't make sense.

So, to me, Color photography has to have one foot in reality, whereas B&W can be more flexible - you can stand anywhere :D