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 Old-N-Feeble; 06-13-2012 at 12:56 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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 Diapositivo; 06-13-2012 at 04:48 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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.
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.
And the sign said, "long haired freaky people need not apply"
These replies are to damned sensible
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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
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.
I'm like Stephen Colbert. I don't see color.
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?
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.
Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI
So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004