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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> When is Black and White truly good
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01/20/2003 10:30:28 PM · #1
Hi, I realise I might be starting a religious war but I wanted to ask about the use of Black and White.

In my mind b&w is useful when a) there is something wrong with the colour of the image, b) you want to create a dark / hopeless / sad type of mood, c) you want to create the effect of old age.

I ask because I have seen many photo's in contributions in black and white. Some of them are very appropriate but in some cases I see no need to use black and white. Am I correct in guessing that some people overuse it, thinking it makes their photo's arty / trendy? Or am I being too critical of these people?

Obviously I'm not about to mention any specific photos, but I have seen some in the last couple of challenges that I have questioned.

Is it a topic worthy of a Learn -> Tutorial article, perhaps titled "The effectiveness of colour and black & white" ? It could also discuss vivid colour as opposed to muted colour, artificial colour, sepia and b&w.
01/20/2003 10:38:15 PM · #2
another way of thinking about using B&W, other than to fix problems, is to enhance a feature in the image. B&W is particularly good at helping you focus your attention on tonal changes in the image - so textures/ patterns and so on are great subjects for B&W and the colour might tend to detract from the overall result.

E.g., weathered pieces of wood are all about texture and the colours just get in the way.
01/20/2003 10:38:52 PM · #3
I must respectfully disagree with you. I prefer black and white over colour photos any day of the week. The first thing that I do when I open my photo editor is to change my photos to black and white.

//www.pbase.com/wheeler1992/wheeler1992
01/20/2003 11:00:21 PM · #4
Might check out this thread //www.dpchallenge.com/forum.php?action=read&FORUM_THREAD_ID=9971 for more discussion on this subject.
01/20/2003 11:04:13 PM · #5
Originally posted by Wheeler1992:

I must respectfully disagree with you. I prefer black and white over colour photos any day of the week. The first thing that I do when I open my photo editor is to change my photos to black and white.

//www.pbase.com/wheeler1992/wheeler1992


You have my respect - like I said I'm trying to understand why people use the effect so much. And I realise there are many people here who understand the concept much more than myself.

Looking at your gallery in the link I can see some very good b&w photo's, as well as some that would be lost in b&w ("Orange" is a classic example).

PS: Gordon - you comment about textures / patterns is good.
01/20/2003 11:57:20 PM · #6
I think that the reason that I like black and white so much is because I am trying to corner the market on photographs for the color blind society.

Instead of commenting on my tasteless color blind joke visit my site instead it would be much more productive. //www.pbase.com/wheeler1992/wheeler1992
01/21/2003 01:03:20 AM · #7
Originally posted by sparky_mark:

I have seen many photo's in contributions in black and white. Some of them are very appropriate but in some cases I see no need to use black and white.

Interestingly, I tend to see it in exactly the opposite way. Unless the color specificly adds something to a photo, I tend to prefer black and white shots. B&W shots usually just seem criper and cleaner, and I find that color just distracts from the forms and figures that make a photo. I guess I generally think anything unnecessary or anything not serving a specific purpose in a photo detracts from a shot (such as a cluttered background), and I think color falls into that category. Of course when color is used intentionally it is a completely different matter, which I think can be very valueable (my highest scoring shot here is heavily reliant on color).
01/21/2003 01:52:32 AM · #8
I love B+W photos .I am going to try to enter all the challenges in B+W
I think here you get lower marks for B+W- there are more photographers in to colour photos
What will i do when the callenge is pink
01/21/2003 01:56:14 AM · #9
Originally posted by redfig:

I love B+W photos .I am going to try to enter all the challenges in B+W...What will i do when the callenge is pink

I suggest you visit the cutlery section of your nearby fabric or variety store.
01/21/2003 04:08:49 AM · #10
Color photographs mostly imitate life, black and white captures the essential. Black and white is the color of dreams.
01/21/2003 09:15:23 AM · #11
I think Gordon's point about textures and elemental focus is a good one. As do I think that the point made about evening of imperfections is valid.

With respect to Black and White: If we think of the set of points in a photograph as a the results of an equation (which, in the digital world, is more of a reality than a concept), then the color value at any point could be considered a variable affecting the results. If we shoot in Black and White, we hold that variable constant (or eliminate it from the equation), and thus the results over the field of input values are more consistent, and are percieved as more homogenous. This seems to contributes to that feeling of clarity and focus that BW photos seem to have.

In other words, taking a good BW photo is not necessarily as difficult as taking a good color photo. Before you get too upset, I will say that, at the upper end of things, the truly GREAT photos are equally difficult (meaning they require the most skill, and more importantly the greatest mastery of vision) to capture and render.

I have issues with folks who insist on shooting one or the other because they think it is "better." I tend to take my photos based on what I see. Then, later on, I will decide if it feels better in BW or color. Though, I will admit that most of my photos are taken with some idea of the final color treatment in mind, and I have taken many with the sole intent of making them BW (some only to find that I was wrong about removing color).

Once again I am running low on coffee... Talk amongst yourselves.

mjc
01/21/2003 10:31:16 AM · #12
Sometimes I see shots posted here in B&W and I can't see why they would have chosen to do so. I recall a recent shot with a lot of palm trees and other foliage that would have been beautiful in color, but for some reason they chose B&W.

I feel that B&W should be used for a reason, rather than for kicks. Giving a shot a feeling of mood or time is a great reason. I think that submitting a shot in B&W because there were problems with the color is a bit of a cop-out, personally.
01/21/2003 11:07:01 AM · #13
Originally posted by alansfreed:

Sometimes I see shots posted here in B&W and I can't see why they would have chosen to do so. I recall a recent shot with a lot of palm trees and other foliage that would have been beautiful in color, but for some reason they chose B&W.

I feel that B&W should be used for a reason, rather than for kicks. Giving a shot a feeling of mood or time is a great reason. I think that submitting a shot in B&W because there were problems with the color is a bit of a cop-out, personally.


One of my personal favorite photos was taken and converted to black and white, primarily because there just was no way to get the color right in the original situation OR in the postprocessing. In the final equation, the photo just plain looked better as a black and white to me. Of course, it got hammered in the first members challenge. But, it does hang on the wall in more than one place in the country now, so I guess it wasn't all bad :)

And I don't think of it as a cop-out at all. Merely making the best representation of what I see. And sometimes, we don't have the luxury of reshooting a particular subject under better circumstances (or at all, for that matter).

mjc
01/21/2003 12:52:28 PM · #14
Originally posted by sparky_mark:

Hi, I realise I might be starting a religious war but I wanted to ask about the use of Black and White.


Yes, a Jihad it is indeed ;)

To me, black and white offers a different view of things; You have the option of showing texture and emotion in a completely different way. If you have ever seen any of the works by Piet Zwart, Edward Steichen, Kishin Shinoyama or Man Ray, you know what I am talking about.

Incidentally, one of my favourite pictures is a black and white shot, namely Rose on Driftwood, taken in 1932 by Ansel Adams. Look at that picture (here, for example), and bear in mind that what you see on your screen is nothing like the real print.

This is also where the problem comes in; These are all shots taken with specific ideas in mind. By good photographers.

If you look at many amateur sites, and you have seen many bad black and white photographs; here is the reason: Black and white photography is incredibly difficult.

I dare you to try it ;)

Converting colour to black and white

When that is said, there is more to colour - black and white conversion than a simple desaturation. I suggest you have a look at the tutorial I wrote a while ago, and try out some of the things suggested there. You might be surprised.

Enjoy!

Haje
01/21/2003 01:11:42 PM · #15
Other ways to convert to B&W I wrote about a while ago. There are some channel mixer defaults there that might be useful to get started.
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