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Author Topic: B&W vs Color, another view  (Read 2223 times)

Ivophoto

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B&W vs Color, another view
« on: December 14, 2018, 07:15:50 am »

First of all, I don’t want to start yet another B&W vs Color discussion. For me, both have their own merits and are equally powerful to create an own visual voice.
I want to look into the intrinsically differences between the visual language of B&W and Color images, explore the difference in making the image, post processing it, and what tools we have to enhance and empower the images.


To start:
Contrast management vs Color placement
 
Contrast management:
A typical example of an extreme powerful B&W tool is contrast management.  Clever use of filters, red, orange or yellow, even green (portrait) help a lot to create dramatic effects.
In the old days, I used to ‘place’ the exposure of my 4x5 sheets individual at N+ or - development to mitigate the given contrast.
Good developed negatives could even be more controlled to the final print using the most suitable gradation of paper. Multigrade burning finished the job.

In this digital era things are different.
Using a flat RAW file and a good B&W conversion recipe allows doing the same. It is a powerful tool to turn an otherwise dull color picture taken under overcast sky into a ‘compelling’ B&W image.
It is also a trap.
Contrast management is also easily abused to change ‘nothing’ into ‘something’ (and I’m guilty as charged)

However, carefully used on intrinsically good images, I consider contrast management as one of the most powerful tools in the B&W toolbox.
 

Color placement:
Contrast management is totally different in Color photography.
It is even a bigger trap, enhancing the contrast in a color image results quickly in ugly and unnatural results (again, I’m guilty as charged). Not mentioning the difficult to dose micro contrast tweaking.
It seems the color photographer is in the disadvantage here.

Something the B&W photographer does not have to bother about, but also doesn’t have as a valuable tool is ‘color’. By some considered as an unnecessary overload, it is a powerful tool to use in the creation of images.
A good start is an understanding of the color wheel of Johannes Itten (theorist associated to Bauhaus) It can be the base to develop sensitivity to color. And this sensitivity is the key to use color as a valuable visual element to build a powerful image.
Complementary colors, opposite colors, character of color are only a few elements to consider.
Consider the coldness of blue, the warm feeling of orange, the psychological effect of red and green or the pleasing effect of using complementary colors. These are all elements that work in the advantage of the Color photographer and not present in the toolbox of the B&W photographer.
 
I would like to learn how other Lulaneers use the color vs B&W particularities in their advance to create a visual voice, be it B&W or in color.

Cheers

Ivo
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Rob C

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2018, 10:03:06 am »

First of all, I don’t want to start yet another B&W vs Color discussion. For me, both have their own merits and are equally powerful to create an own visual voice.
I want to look into the intrinsically differences between the visual language of B&W and Color images, explore the difference in making the image, post processing it, and what tools we have to enhance and empower the images.


To start:
Contrast management vs Color placement
 
Contrast management:
A typical example of an extreme powerful B&W tool is contrast management.  Clever use of filters, red, orange or yellow, even green (portrait) help a lot to create dramatic effects.
In the old days, I used to ‘place’ the exposure of my 4x5 sheets individual at N+ or - development to mitigate the given contrast.
Good developed negatives could even be more controlled to the final print using the most suitable gradation of paper. Multigrade burning finished the job.

In this digital era things are different.
Using a flat RAW file and a good B&W conversion recipe allows doing the same. It is a powerful tool to turn an otherwise dull color picture taken under overcast sky into a ‘compelling’ B&W image.
It is also a trap.
Contrast management is also easily abused to change ‘nothing’ into ‘something’ (and I’m guilty as charged)

However, carefully used on intrinsically good images, I consider contrast management as one of the most powerful tools in the B&W toolbox.
 

Color placement:
Contrast management is totally different in Color photography.
It is even a bigger trap, enhancing the contrast in a color image results quickly in ugly and unnatural results (again, I’m guilty as charged). Not mentioning the difficult to dose micro contrast tweaking.
It seems the color photographer is in the disadvantage here.

Something the B&W photographer does not have to bother about, but also doesn’t have as a valuable tool is ‘color’. By some considered as an unnecessary overload, it is a powerful tool to use in the creation of images.
A good start is an understanding of the color wheel of Johannes Itten (theorist associated to Bauhaus) It can be the base to develop sensitivity to color. And this sensitivity is the key to use color as a valuable visual element to build a powerful image.
Complementary colors, opposite colors, character of color are only a few elements to consider.
Consider the coldness of blue, the warm feeling of orange, the psychological effect of red and green or the pleasing effect of using complementary colors. These are all elements that work in the advantage of the Color photographer and not present in the toolbox of the B&W photographer.
 
I would like to learn how other Lulaneers use the color vs B&W particularities in their advance to create a visual voice, be it B&W or in color.

Cheers

Ivo

Colour: I used to make sure that the colours of interest allowed themelves to stand clear, well-differentiated from the background. It was always better to keep backgounds as uncomplicated (non-distracting from the main course on the menu) and as OOF as possible. For excellent, present-day examples of this technique at its best:

http://www.hansfeurer.com

Black/white: I try to remember that a mid-green, a mid-red or mid-anything else, reduce to black/white, will look exactly the same tone of grey. You can lose a plain pink blouse against a blank wall. Don't get excited - it's not X-ray technique, unfortunately.

Pretty basic, pretty simple, then - just like a Chuck Berry tune, but boy, does he rock and kick ass!

I see no advantage of colour over black and white unless for commercial purposes of marketing. For my own snaps, I mostly ignore colour as an ultimate expression, and find it adds pretty much nothing I can use.

Rob

Javier S.

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2018, 03:14:42 pm »

Hi.

I tend to use B&W for portraits because, for me, color is distracting a lot from the main purpose of the portrait wich is showing someones (or somtehing if it´s about inanimated objects) inner carachteristics or expression or mood, and often color doesn´t help.

As well I travel quite a lot and to maximise the day, I set my mind to B&W in the central hours of the day when light is usually not so interesting because tonal ranges and contrast are defined by the colors besides those from the light.

The difficulty for me is to change my mind from color to B&W and viceversa because they don´t render the same in the final image and my visión is not equally attracted to by surroundings in one mode tan in the other.


Colors can be main interest and tell a lot in an image, but when I´m into an attitude or insight expression, I turn often to B&W.

Anyway I think this is very particular to each of us and differs a lot from one moment to others.


Don´t know if this helps in any way

Regards

Javier

It happens the same when reviwing images for edition. I sepparate some at first sight for a later review to check if they are suitable for B&W or not, but all at the same time.
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Ivophoto

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2018, 03:04:33 am »

Colour: I used to make sure that the colours of interest allowed themelves to stand clear, well-differentiated from the background. It was always better to keep backgounds as uncomplicated (non-distracting from the main course on the menu) and as OOF as possible. For excellent, present-day examples of this technique at its best:

http://www.hansfeurer.com

Black/white: I try to remember that a mid-green, a mid-red or mid-anything else, reduce to black/white, will look exactly the same tone of grey. You can lose a plain pink blouse against a blank wall. Don't get excited - it's not X-ray technique, unfortunately.

Pretty basic, pretty simple, then - just like a Chuck Berry tune, but boy, does he rock and kick ass!

I see no advantage of colour over black and white unless for commercial purposes of marketing. For my own snaps, I mostly ignore colour as an ultimate expression, and find it adds pretty much nothing I can use.

Rob
Thanks for the link, Rob. I like the photo’s.
It is amazing how photographic style can be ‘dated’.
The pictures all look very eighties, not?

Is Color photography more prone to be dated?

The mid grey issue is an important thing to keep in mind. Correct.

Tx
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Ivophoto

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2018, 03:20:24 am »

Hi.

I tend to use B&W for portraits because, for me, color is distracting a lot from the main purpose of the portrait wich is showing someones (or somtehing if it´s about inanimated objects) inner carachteristics or expression or mood, and often color doesn´t help.

As well I travel quite a lot and to maximise the day, I set my mind to B&W in the central hours of the day when light is usually not so interesting because tonal ranges and contrast are defined by the colors besides those from the light.

The difficulty for me is to change my mind from color to B&W and viceversa because they don´t render the same in the final image and my visión is not equally attracted to by surroundings in one mode tan in the other.


Colors can be main interest and tell a lot in an image, but when I´m into an attitude or insight expression, I turn often to B&W.

Anyway I think this is very particular to each of us and differs a lot from one moment to others.


Don´t know if this helps in any way

Regards

Javier

It happens the same when reviwing images for edition. I sepparate some at first sight for a later review to check if they are suitable for B&W or not, but all at the same time.

Tx Javier,

When I work on film to make portraits, I choose the film in function of the portrayed.
To emphasize the character of older people, I used to work on Rollei Tonal, a relatively low sensitive to red film.

For younger peoples, specially girls, I used orange filters to soften the skin, etc.

About mindset, Thanks for your insights.
I always start to shoot color. For me, color adds to the composition possibilities. B&W is a fall back scenario in PP.

Maybe we can add some examples?

Tx for your reply!
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Rob C

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2018, 04:33:25 am »

Thanks for the link, Rob. I like the photo’s.
It is amazing how photographic style can be ‘dated’.
The pictures all look very eighties, not?

Is Color photography more prone to be dated?

The mid grey issue is an important thing to keep in mind. Correct.

Tx



Feurer - from the early 70s right up to today.

Dated? That is highly possible, because today there is a dependency on absolute artificiality, and so anything that still looks human is inevitably dated. People like Feurer and Lindbergh get their work because they mainly refute that current ethic and thus remain different by remaining as they ever were.

Colour may be more prone to treatments - remember the cross-processing of a certain best-forgotten period in fashion snaps - where the effect was more important than what it did to the poor old subject who inevitably turned into a vampire? I never used that - mainly because I had pretty much moved into calendars by that time, and Kodachrome was a straight, Kodak controlled process, thank goodness. Also, there was a massive difference between magazine photography and photography for manufacturers, who had to use photographs to sell their products around the world to real women, not coke-crazed fashion editors, stylists or designers.

Another thing that dated fashion photography in either colour or black/white was the use of wide-angle lenses too close up. I did that too, and it's hard to believe that the inevitable distortion of the heads at the top and corners of the frame was actually thought cool, if not perhaps overly-attractive.

Colour can also look dated on cars. Very few cars today come standard as two-tones, and white sidewalls are extinct on production runs.

I notice ever more black cars on the road in Spain, where they were once almost 99% white.

Rob

petermfiore

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2018, 04:45:02 am »

Thanks for the link, Rob. I like the photo’s.
It is amazing how photographic style can be ‘dated’.
The pictures all look very eighties, not?

Is Color photography more prone to be dated?

The mid grey issue is an important thing to keep in mind. Correct.

Tx

Hi Ivo,
Hair, makeup and clothing are the telltale signs of date. Which is called fashion.

Peter

Ivophoto

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2018, 04:53:07 am »

Hi Ivo,
Hair, makeup and clothing are the telltale signs of date. Which is called fashion.

Peter

Yes,
Hair is a nice detail to date pictures.
The visual language has it part as well.
And the social climate plays a role as well!
David Hamilton’s nudes are very outdated and when somebody would put it in his head to do the same nowadays, he would end up in jail.

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rabanito

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2018, 05:22:19 am »

Thanks for starting a thread that promises to be interesting, IVO.
As for myself,
I was naturally attracted by B&W first of all because I could have "absolute" control over the process.
Color had been for me always a medium that could be controlled only until releasing the shutter, no way I could afford anything else before the digital age.

I'm used to interpret what I see in terms of the subject and my feelings at the moment.
B&W permitted me to control the whole process up to the finished print and its presentation so I could (within the limits of my technique) present "exactly" what I intended.

Nowadays with the advent of digital cameras and Photoshop I am trying to learn more about using color. But I try also to be careful, it is easy to overdo it.

And after all those years I am comfortable with B&W and do not miss color for making a (to me) satisfying print.
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KLaban

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2018, 05:23:11 am »

The leathery permatan of the 60s and 70s is also a dead - pun intended - giveaway.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2018, 05:30:48 am by KLaban »
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rabanito

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2018, 05:27:02 am »



I notice ever more black cars on the road in Spain, where they were once almost 99% white.

Rob
My car is "silver" because of possible temperature problems. Above all, easier on my dog.
I wouldnt't expect so many dark cars in Spain of all countries...
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Ivophoto

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2018, 07:32:11 am »

The leathery permatan of the 60s and 70s is also a dead - pun intended - giveaway.

In Western Europe it was the only accepted proof of going to Spain for holiday.
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Rob C

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2018, 08:44:35 am »

The leathery permatan of the 60s and 70s is also a dead - pun intended - giveaway.


Bergasol.

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg14619780-900-were-browned-off-says-suntan-firm/

Rob

Rob C

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2018, 08:48:34 am »

There is also the fact that white flesh looks awful: all those blue veins just below the suface... images of death.

Ironic, really, considering a nice tan is the preferred look, that there is so much racism in the world. Perhaps everybody gets it the wrong way around after all.

Rob

petermfiore

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2018, 08:54:50 am »

There is also the fact that white flesh looks awful: all those blue veins just below the suface... images of death.

Ironic, really, considering a nice tan is the preferred look, that there is so much racism in the world. Perhaps everybody gets it the wrong way around after all.

Rob


Lucian Freud,
A giant in 20th century painting, made white translucent skin his playground....Amazing work!

Peter

Rob C

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2018, 09:11:55 am »


Lucian Freud,
A giant in 20th century painting, made white translucent skin his playground....Amazing work!

Peter


So were Frankenstein and Dracula quite amazing creations! All the blood and veins you could wish, and in the mainstream movies, heaving breasts you almost but never quite saw in full! 

;-)

rabanito

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2018, 09:35:03 am »

There is also the fact that white flesh looks awful: all those blue veins just below the suface... images of death.

Ironic, really, considering a nice tan is the preferred look, that there is so much racism in the world. Perhaps everybody gets it the wrong way around after all.

Rob

It depends.
In Japan white skin is considered beautiful
In Thailand most girls would apply whitening lotions and if not available, an aluminum product (a bug repellent)-
My grandmother would not go under the sun unprotected and was proud of her white skin

Maybe tan is the preferred look in the west, but there are other tastes too :-)
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KLaban

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2018, 09:49:32 am »


Lucian Freud,
A giant in 20th century painting, made white translucent skin his playground....Amazing work!

Peter

Indeed, and arguably the greatest British painter of the second half of the 20th century. For me it would be a toss up between him and Francis Bacon.
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RSL

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2018, 09:51:22 am »

It depends.
In Japan white skin is considered beautiful
In Thailand most girls would apply whitening lotions and if not available, an aluminum product (a bug repellent)-
My grandmother would not go under the sun unprotected and was proud of her white skin

Maybe tan is the preferred look in the west, but there are other tastes too :-)

Hi Rab, I’ve seen the whitening thing in Japan, but I spent a year and a half in Thailand over a period of ten years and I never saw girls applying whitening lotions. Where are you located? I have seen Thai girls turn up their nose at a girl who, in Thai was sĭ dam (black or dark), so though I never saw any deliberate whitening it’s clear they prize light skin.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2018, 09:58:42 am by RSL »
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Ivophoto

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Re: B&W vs Color, another view
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2018, 09:51:45 am »

It depends.
In Japan white skin is considered beautiful
In Thailand most girls would apply whitening lotions and if not available, an aluminum product (a bug repellent)-
My grandmother would not go under the sun unprotected and was proud of her white skin

Maybe tan is the preferred look in the west, but there are other tastes too :-)

Is it not a typical western thing? Believing the equator runs through our crack?
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