Color versus black and white

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Fox Paw, Apr 16, 2009.

  1. Fox Paw

    Fox Paw TPF Noob!

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    In the last few months, I've found myself gravitating more to black and white. I'd print color and black-and-white versions of a picture. Initially, I would almost always like the color version better. Two weeks later, though, the black-and-white version would still interest me when the color version didn't. Not always, but quite often.

    I had no theory to account for this. Then a relative sent me a book of photos by a guy in New Mexico named Craig Varjabedian. They're mostly in black and white and I like them a lot. He wrote this:

    "I have done much of my work in black and white, mainly because I think black and white is transformational. I feel that I have more flexibility in ways of rendering light in black and white than I do in color. It's hard to accept color as transformational because it is too close to reality and thus can be overwhelming. Color tends to make us concentrate on the surfaces of things, whereas black and white leads us to examine edges and structures, to become more intimate with an image. Black and white tends to evoke a quality of light in an image that is much subtler than what can be rendered by color."

    I'll buy that. Some images, of course, demand to be in color. It's not a matter of choosing sides and sticking with one forever.

    What think ye all?
     
  2. Josh66

    Josh66 Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I agree, some things are just better in color. I do love B&W though.

    I don't usually convert to B&W "just to see what it looks like" though, usually when I convert to B&W, it was the plan all along. Not always though.
    Maybe I'll try converting some of my recent photos "just to see" though.
     
  3. kundalini

    kundalini Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    I like to experiment between the two. There's somethig about B&W that can tell a story better, but we're geared to see in color. But at my age, B&W also has a nostalgic effect which may intervene in my emotion. For me, it really depends on the image..... no wait, it depends on the emotion..... no wait, it depends on the image..... hang on, what did I say?
     
  4. craig

    craig TPF Noob!

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    Personally B&W has always been about the print. Somehow digi or 35mm for that matter does not make the cut. Some shots scream B&W, but for me that is rare. One theory is that generally B&W is more dramatic because the world is in colour. Consider working in just 1 or 2 colours. Check out the work of Jay Maisel. Irving Penn swings both ways. Their work will give you a better explanation than I can.

    Love & Bass
     
  5. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I have gravitate between color and B&W over the years but generally staying in B&W. I too have no explanation but have had discussions with my friends over some cold ones. The only conclusion I can come up with is in the form of a question....

    When you gravitate towards a particular place or object to photograph, what caught your eye? Color and it's interaction with light? OR Shapes (objects) and it's interaction with light (shadows)?

    Sometimes I go through periods were I just simply see colors and other periods when I just simply see shapes and patterns. So in essence... I think Mr Varjabedian is right on the money.
     
  6. bhop

    bhop No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I find that I convert hardly any of my digital shots to b&w. I dunno why that is. I think when I see the pics in color, my mind just thinks of it as a color shot and I roll with it. Luckily I shoot a lot of b&w film that takes care of my hunger for b&w images.
     
  7. blash

    blash TPF Noob!

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    B&W works because it simplifies the world down - instead of being bombarded by (literal) colors and (metaphorical) sounds and smells, B&W leaves you with the simple, raw conveyances of the photograph. What matters is no longer that her cheeks were blushing red but rather the enormous smile on her face.

    In other words, the whole point and reason of photography is that we make the world beautiful by selectively capturing one small element in a frame from a spherical viewpoint of infinite frames. B&W merely furthers this selectivization - we now not only cut out the vast majority of those viewpoints, we also cut out the color, hence making the world we try to describe even more beautiful.
     
  8. JerryPH

    JerryPH No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If I had to put a number to it, maybe 5% are converted to B&W for me. As mentioned, some shots just look better.
     
  9. Marc Kurth

    Marc Kurth TPF Noob!

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    I just can't get into B&W ;)
     
  10. Torus34

    Torus34 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    It might be instructive to look at the graphic arts other than photography. Consider, if you will, charcoal and pencil work as compared to watercolor and oil. The subjects chosen and the intended impacts are different.

    Any finished print of better than 'snapshot' or 'record shot' quality should be viewed ever and always as an attempt of the photographer to convert something s/he has seen into something s/he is saying. Photography can be viewed [sorry] as a language. Color and b&w are simply two 'words' which the photographer can use in crafting the 'sentence' of the final picture.
     
  11. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    B&W to me is all about focus and nuance.

    It's kind of like hanging off the side of a really big rock, unless you're willing to pay close attention- just don't. But if you are- what a rush! :)
     
  12. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    Some things work better in B&W, and some things work better in colour. It all depends on what you are trying to do and how you saw it originally.
    What should be avoided is thinking about it in retrospect: taking a picture in colour and then in post-processing wondering if it might not look better in B&W. You should be thinking those thoughts and making that decision before you take the picture. Otherwise all you are doing is trying to mount a rescue operation. ;)

    This is one of the down-sides of digital. With film you have to make the decision before you shoot which means thinking in B&W. Too many people let the computer do that thinking for them.
     

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