Color or Black & White?


I mentioned in an earlier post about how I struggle between color photos and black & white photos.  While the black & white versions are OK, I tend to see and feel in color so the color versions of my photos often win out over the black & white versions.  Here are some sets of images from that same post, along with their counterparts.  I’d love to hear some feedback on the pros and cons.  I know that ultimately my photos need to reflect my voice, but I also know that I have lived a pretty sheltered existence when it comes to my experience with black & white photography.

Color-BW-5 Color-BW-4 Color-BW-3 Color-BW-1

6 thoughts on “Color or Black & White?”

  1. Black and white for me, has always been for those times where the colour detracts from the story or message that the image needs to convey or where the colour simply adds nothing to the overall effect. In the latter case the choice may come down purely to aesthetics and personal taste.
    As I mentioned in your previous post, I took an instant liking to your images. They are powerful in their story-telling. They speak of dreams, broken and lost in the passage of time. That passage of time is partly reflected in the deterioration of the buildings but also in the fading colours of the signs and walls. Much like the earthy colours of leaves in the fall, the colour tones in your images provide a strong sense of what was, what might have been and what will come.
    What I’m saying is that to my eye, reducing these images to B&W silences the images to mere whispers.

    1. I knew that I could count on a well-reasoned reply from you, Cedric, and I appreciate it. I find color is a major part of what I see, and have found that enhancing or de-emphasizing color can help to tell the story. In this case especially the lack of color takes away an important part of the story, almost like hearing a play with one of the parts missing or listening to music without the bass line. I really like your idea of reducing the images to mere whispers. The characterizes my thoughts precisely.

  2. I think Cedric is right on! I bounce around with black and white or color and will at times shoot in a bracket mode where the camera creates jpeg files in color and black and white. The subject, the story or my mood determine the choices

    1. Your response was the other one I was hoping for, Monte! You often see and express in black & white, and I find your black & white photos to be especially appealing.

      I only shoot in RAW now, but I have made Develop presets in Lightroom to mimic the in-camera JPEG processing. I often create virtual copies with several treatments like I did here, then choose the one I like best. I usually keep them all but settle on a favorite, depending on the photo. I am really liking the Classic Chrome profile, which is what I used here, with a few “Tom Tweaks.” 😉

  3. It’s always tough to comment on choices that other photographers make. I think we all tend to do it silently, with only ourselves as audience. I’ve come to believe that saying things publicly, like “this is the way I’d have done it”, is just a bit on the arrogant side. I think that that’s especially true when it comes to choosing between black and white. Only the photographer can make that choice.

    I can only say that I try to make that decision when I’m making the image. You either “see” what’s in front of the camera in color or you “see” it in black and white. If you wait until it’s on the computer and try to make that call, then it’s probably already too late. If you can’t decide instantly at that point then maybe the image simply isn’t that good.

    Just my opinion, of course. And in case you’re wondering, Tom, yes I know what “I would have done” had I taken these shots. But I didn’t, and that makes my decisions totally irrelevant.

    1. Interestingly, I was “thinking” black & white when I was making these photos, but when it came down to processing I just couldn’t get excited about it. My opinion is that the color version works for me, and while I always welcome other opinions, an “unstated opinion” is valid too.

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