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Thread: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

  1. #11

    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    NJ / NYC, USA.

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    To photograph color well, I think one must be acutely aware of color. By that I mean you must not just notice colorful things, but analyze the relationships of colors to each other within a composition, and understand how the color temperature, quality, and direction of light either accentuates or mutes these colors. The color of objects is an actual part of the finished package.

    To photograph black and white well, I think one must be acutely aware of tonality and tonal relationships. This requires an understanding of how colors will translate to a grayscale, and relies more on the interpretation of things such as form, shape, motion, and texture to create an emotional impact, as color is no longer part of the equation.

    One's choice between color or black and white is largely dependent upon what you wish notice when out photographing, or what photographers often refer to as how you wish to "see". I think if colors are of primary impact and enjoyment then one should work in color. If the beauty of tonal relationships is more important, then black and white.

  2. #12
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Seattle, Wash.

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    Quote Originally Posted by adam satushek View Post
    If you shoot both b/w and color, how do you decide which to use for a particular subject?
    I enjoy shooting the landscape’s preference, which is usually wiser than my own.

  3. #13

    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Leipzig, Germany

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    If you have to ask, you will never understand :-)

    I just like black and white photos, I can relate to them. I know how I get from reality to a black and white image and when I see somebody else's photos, I run through the process backwards. I love to see in black and white. I walk down a street and see black and white images.

    Color photos rarely have the magic of a good black and white photo. Or I just have a hard time seeing it. I also have a hard time translating reality to a color photograph of my own. For this matter I am thankful for digital photography, it gives me so much more control over the image. I never came to terms with color film.


  4. #14

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    Color dosen't really exist. Oh, Kodak brought out color film some time the 20th century but until then, everything was in black and white. Color is just a passing fancy, I'm afraid. Sometime in the 1930s all the great paintings were colored in by WPA artists for continuity. Dogs, who neither make photographs or paint paintings still see only in B&W (with sepia toner, we're told) Proof that color doesn't exist! Should Kodak and Fuji discontinue color film, it is likely that color will dissappear much like last weeks pay, next months rent, Studebakers and real rock and roll.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  5. #15

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    I thought about the question for about 25 years. I grew up with black and white and trained in black and white, but that was never enough of an answer.

    Color always got in the way of the texture. Think about the great faces from the Depression-era photos, then find the color photos made by those photographers and the color photos take your line of sight away from the subject. Walker Evans would be a good one to look at. Simple opinion: Pete Turner is the only photographer I know of who could shoot both the texture and the color successfully in one frame, but that was during the heyday of Kodachrome.

    Having said all that, I have to shoot color everyday as a photojournalist and most of the time I see the image in black and white. It's a weird thing to explain at times, but black and white as a documentary and art tool tend to tell stories better than shooting in color simply because color exist.

    Good luck with that ramble.
    "I meant what I said, not what you heard"--Jflavell

  6. #16
    tgtaylor's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    I don't "shoot B&W over color" nor, conversely, do I shoot color over B&W. Some images, I find, will simply work better in one than the other and there are those that will work in both. So I always carry both B&W and color with me.


  7. #17

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    Because I can.

  8. #18
    Format Omnivore Brian C. Miller's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Everett, WA

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    "Kodak makes 8x10 Portra special order"
    "Kodak discontinues E-6"
    Of course, Kodak has made all 8x10 film special order.

    Do you know what it feels like buying the last 8x10 color film on the shelf? Knowing that you'll never see it there again? And there it sits in my fridge, waiting for the green leaves of spring. Waiting for a clear, sunny afternoon in Seattle, where I will photograph the Space Needle with Mt. Ranier in the background. Waiting for the sun to shine on Seattle in the evening.


    70 sheets of Kodak. 70. And after that, no more Kodak color on the shelves. (No more Kodak black and white on the shelves. No 8x10 on the shelves again. Ever. "Goodbye, Old Paint. I'm-a leavin' Cheyenne.")

    If I could, I'd have a ceremony of it. Pipes, drums, a seargant barking orders ("Puulllll slide! Cock shutter! reh-LEASE!"). A pageantry befitting such a format.

    But I don't live in Scotland or Ireland. I live in the US West. I know of sagebrush and the foundations of ghost towns. Moose City, Idaho, thriving metropolis of zero. Places like that. Some still have some color, and some do not. It isn't their fault, but that's just the way it is. Wagon ruts, over 100 years old. People came, passed through, and only a memory of a memory remains.

    Color is for the roses that still grow at an abandoned farmstead. How long ago did someone live there? Was it the 1930s when they left? How about the two-story house, aged to red, amidst dry wheat under a cobalt blue sky? Color is there, very much so.

    Other places are black and white. Two trees, like a gate, leading to a mountain beyond. Black and white. Step through to another dimension.

    Some things lend themselves to color, and some things don't. It all depends. But color is going. Disappearing. For how much longer will any E-6 be available? Depends on Fuji, and who knows what they will do.

    So for as long as I can, I will use the color film, and then bid it adieu.
    "It's the way to educate your eyes. Stare. Pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans

  9. #19

    Join Date
    Feb 2010

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    It's cheaper and easier.

  10. #20
    Leonard Metcalf's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 1999
    Sydney, Australia

    Re: Why do you shoot Black and White over Color?

    I really don't know... but here are some thoughts:

    When you manipulate the photograph and in particular the tones people don't seem to ask "Is it photoshopped or you must have manipulated that.."
    It is more fun...
    I shoot in colour these days regardless and then process the scan into colour
    Some photos just scream colour, but I don't seem to want to take them any more
    BW is easier to print as a photogravure
    I love sepia & toning
    I love being able to steer the viewer around the photograph via tones and lines...
    I love it
    It just feels right
    I do sometimes do colour too

    Leonard Murray Metcalf BA Dip Ed MEd

    Len's gallery
    Lens School

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