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O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera) - Adobe Photoshop Elements

(Started a new thread 'cause the old one was 110 posts long and this topic (within those) was somewhat off-subject.) I have always wondered why black and white photos appeared (at least, to me) to have so much greater impact (than color), in the work of the artistic photographers, and of the elite journalists as well. My tentative conclusion has been that, what is important is the simplicity which results from elimination of the distraction introduced by color. For example a subject's emotional state (sadness, happiness) is expressed primarily by facial expressions or body position, not especially by color. I ...

  1. #1

    Default O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    (Started a new thread 'cause the old one was 110 posts long and this topic (within those) was somewhat off-subject.)

    I have always wondered why black and white photos appeared (at least, to me) to have so much greater impact (than color), in the work of the artistic photographers, and of the elite journalists as well.

    My tentative conclusion has been that, what is important is the simplicity which results from elimination of the distraction introduced by color. For example a subject's emotional state (sadness, happiness) is expressed primarily by facial expressions or body position, not especially by color. I think it is the elimination of this distraction, that permits us to easily concentrate on (and understand) the fundamental concept that the artist has presented to us.

    That is not to say that color does not add to the artistry and information of a photo. I just think that color also adds to its complexity and, without careful effort on the part of the photographer, could actually contradict the point being presented through expression and setting.

    I have absolutely no expertise on this subject, and near-zero artistic talent, so I am quite open to alternative viewpoints.

    OldnSenile
    OldnSenile@adobeforums.com Guest

  2. #2

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    OnS - I've always appreciated good black-and-white photos but rarely have
    been able to make one that didn't disappoint in some way. One of the
    hurdles to overcome for me is that my brain processes in color and black and
    white photos are in grayscale. Two very different colors side-by-side in a
    picture may turn out to be nearly the same in grayscale, so the conversion
    takes away the apparent contrast that's present in a color photo. I guess a
    good B/W photographer (and Leen is a great one) can think and see in
    grayscale and compose accordingly. Obviously, that's not the only
    requirement for a good photo, but it's a technical detail that reduces the
    chances for me of getting a really good one.

    Chuck


    Chuck_Snyder@adobeforums.com Guest

  3. #3

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    I am certainly not an expert by any means, and I haven't stayed in a Holiday Inn Express lately, but, I have heard time and time again from any number of the Great Photographers of our times, that they almost to a man (or woman), feel they can't control color as well as black and white. Whether this is control of the printing process or on the film, I am not certain, but just about all of them have stated they don't feel they can control color as well as black and white.
    Bruce_Frazier@adobeforums.com Guest

  4. #4

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    One of the major differences between B/W and Color (film) photography is how forgiving Color is. A stop or two over or under will still give acceptable results with Color, but with B/W good exposure is crucial and the photographer will probably need to do some amount of dodging and burning regardless of how much you meter.

    Interestingly the Museum of Modern Art in New York would not even consider displaying Color Photos until into the 70s. Black and White has long been considered the medium of Fine Art Photography. I think when you see a black and white photo, you are drawn into looking at it in terms of light and shadow, tonal range, and texture. A color photo often has the look of a "snap shot". But times have changed and you are seeing some fine art photographers working in color, but there is still a prejudice towards black and white.

    My 2 cents,
    Rich
    Richard_Coencas@adobeforums.com Guest

  5. #5

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Chuck, I'm flattered; you are overrating me. I'm still in the learning process. I've been taught how to look at my subject and-most important- what the light does to the subject.
    Richard, I think you are right about "...looking at it in terms of light and shadow, tonal range, and texture..."

    Nevertheless, when working in colour, usually we have to look in the same way as in monochrome. The only exception is when the colours are the main subject. But, about like Richard states, colour often seems to be forgiving. It, however, is not. Color often distracts from the mistakes in lighting our subject.

    Controlling ones lighting means bringing out tonal range, shape and texture of the subject. This is what separates the men from the boys, i.e. the skilled photographer from the rest. Lighting control is a skill and can be learned. I have been so lucky to have met excellent teachers at the right time in the past and that's why I consider it my duty to help others as well.

    In my opinion there should be hardly any difference in appreciation between monochrome and colour images. Just like there is no difference between an oil and an acrylic painting. These are two different ballgames (Go Marlins-GO!-any New Yorker around? BOOOH!) and each requires its own skills, just like baseball and softball.

    Leen
    (I apologise for relating to the World Series-I know, it is US property) ;-)
    Leen_Koper@adobeforums.com Guest

  6. #6

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Leen, re the 'World' Series.....its name would imply it could/should belong
    to everyone!

    :-)

    Chuck (Yankee fan since 1956)


    Chuck_Snyder@adobeforums.com Guest

  7. #7

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    In fact it belonged to Toronto for two years and very likely a third if it
    had not been for a strike. There are those who believe that the strike was
    caused to rob Toronto of the series. I believe there is an obscure rule
    that said if it is won three times in a row buy an alien nation the game
    will be banned the fields of dreams as there would be no more dreams. Can
    you shed light on this chuck.

    Grant

    Oh yes almost forgot the rally cry in Toronto's is Yankee go home. What can
    you say about a team that played in their PJs




    Grant_Dixon@adobeforums.com Guest

  8. #8

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Grant.....what can I say? I believe the World Series will be eliminated
    just as soon as the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox win it again...

    Chuck


    Chuck_Snyder@adobeforums.com Guest

  9. #9

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Chuck


    There is this story going around about Rudolph W. Giuliani's demise.
    Giuliani being such a notable person was allowed ine special requests. Never
    shunning hardship he asked for a to tour hell before his last rest place. He
    expected to see a display of the fire and brimstone. When he got there it
    was more like Dante's version, a frozen waist land. In shock Giuliani
    blurted out the question " Was it the Cubs or Soux that took the Series?

    G.


    Grant_Dixon@adobeforums.com Guest

  10. #10

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Grant, very good! I believe that story will stand the test of time; the
    only thing that will have to be changed in the future is the reference to
    Giuliani, who will be long gone when the rest of the story is still
    relevant.

    Chuck


    Chuck_Snyder@adobeforums.com Guest

  11. #11

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    I still remember the duels between Witney Ford and Sandy Koufax (LA Dodgers) and his wonderful left handed catcher John Rosebero who hit his first homerun in the World Series....
    BTW, I don't care who wins the Series, I hope baseball wins.
    My comments on the Series until now: I 'm positively amazed by the extremely high level of the Marlins' catcher in the first game (I wasn't able to see more than 6 minutes of the 2nd game-I hate homeruns; they are boring )

    Back to Elements. And more particularly to the B&W vs. colour debate as I think baseball uniforms should be mainly white with just only a little colour added. ;-)

    Leen
    Leen_Koper@adobeforums.com Guest

  12. #12

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    As a photography student I can tell you this.
    Within B&W pic.s you have nothing but values... it punches up everything you do, if you know how to do it correctly.
    Darkroom work is possibly the most important part of photography, because of the fact that you can lighten/darken a photo...

    My best work has to be these 2 pieces.
    1)A hallway at Pratt school of continuing education (Manhattan, where I did some work this past summer. The hallway was a last ditch effort to get my last picture done. I spent 5 min. on the pic, though when I printed it, the whole thing came out light. It was basically a picture of perspective showing the lockers... down the hallway to a door marked 'EXIT.' It was an invocative piece that I have to say was a dreamscape... every person who has seen it loves it; It was a fluke, but it's one of my best work.

    2)14th street subway station (Manhattan); If any of you has ever been on a manhattan subway platform, you know how the supporting beams by the track all have the station name. The sign said '14TH STREET' and I happened to snap a shot of it while no one was on the platform (pretty rare) so you see the sign, a tunnel, and no people... I made it a little darker than it should have been to get some sort of a underground/subway feel of it... It's my 2nd best.

    I have done many others, one even a picture of a sigh that says 'CLOSET' on it; people like that one, I don't know why, don't ask me. The main reason that B&W is better than color is because, if done right, it's punchier. Plus you don't have the color to get in your way of admiring (or not) the work; It's just a distraction. It's all about values... I have done others, my favorite has to be of one as a train is just ariving on the LIRR and people are just starting to move, because people can relate... everyone has waited for a train at one time or another, but that is waaaay off topic...

    Mark W.

    EDIT: As this is already way to long (which I now realize) I think I should point out that I usually like to not have my pictures too complicated, I like the way simplicity unravels in people's minds; I'm even writing a book about it. So, for the record, I'm biased.
    TheSadOne@adobeforums.com Guest

  13. #13

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    TSO - can you post your pictures somewhere for us to see? They sound
    fascinating! I know the area where you took those shots....lived in
    Washington Square Village on West 3rd for a couple years.

    Chuck


    Chuck_Snyder@adobeforums.com Guest

  14. #14

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    TSO,
    In my opinion the decisive moment that determins the quality of your image is when you take the photo.
    You wrote: "Darkroom work is possibly the most important part of photography, because of the fact that you can lighten/darken a photo..."
    Darkroom work is like painting a house; a good house will be a good house, but it will look better when well painted. On the other hand, a badly contructed house will stay badly built for ever, no matter how much paint you put on it.
    Digital imaging and darkroom work are about the same thing: improving the impact of an image and nothing else.

    Leen
    Leen_Koper@adobeforums.com Guest

  15. #15

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Leen

    I am totally in agreement with you on this one. While the darkroom is a
    wonderful tool that should never be over looked, it is the latent image that
    is important. From the moment the shutter is click the deed is done the
    information is stored on the film. The job of the darkroom
    technician/artist is to make the most of it but from that point on lots can
    go wrong. In the hands of a good technician the absolute best that the
    image contains can be reproduced but you still can't make a silken purse out
    of a sows ear, although you can make the best sows ear possible.

    Grant



    Grant_Dixon@adobeforums.com Guest

  16. #16

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Grant and Leen,

    I don't disagree, but there is a reason Ansel Adams wrote 3 books. The Camera, The Negative and The Print. Control, technique and artistry in all 3 aspects of the process are necessary to gain a quality result. Applies to traditional as well as digital darkroom.

    My 2 cents,
    Rich
    Richard_Coencas@adobeforums.com Guest

  17. #17

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Richard, I agree with you too. I really admire AA, I have seen everything ever on show in Europe, I think he really is the greatest and an source of inspiration to all in landscape photography.
    In my opinion he wrote these books as it is possible to share his vast knowledge about technique, but as it is nearly impossible to explain a vision, he limited himself to mainly to the technical side of imaging.
    Once he said something like the negative is the sheet music, the print is the performance.

    Leen
    Leen_Koper@adobeforums.com Guest

  18. #18

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Leen,
    You can teach technique, but vision is more ethereal. :)
    Rich
    Richard_Coencas@adobeforums.com Guest

  19. #19

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Richard

    I guess if Leen replied then so should I. I am in total agreement with you.
    There are many steps in gaining "quality" results!

    My main complaint is that a b image with proper loving treatment by a
    skilled technician will still be a b image, all be it of high technical
    quality. On the other hand an image of great import will no doubt suffer
    from shoddy work but will still be a great image. A few years back I went
    to a Man Ray exhibit and I was appalled at how terrible he printed. His
    image "Les Larmes" (Tears) not only had dust on it but also left a small
    hair on the negative. For a minute I felt like the audiophile when asked
    what he thought about his first live concert he said "Not enough base!" In
    the end, while the image deserved better printing, it didn't lessen the
    artistic impact of this piece to me.

    g.

    Just one man's rant



    Grant_Dixon@adobeforums.com Guest

  20. #20

    Default Re: O.T. B/W vs. Color (was Digital Camera)

    Grant,
    I am a great fan of Man Ray, and I agree with you 100%.
    Rich
    Richard_Coencas@adobeforums.com Guest

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