Jul 012011
 

One of the greatest difficulties I face as a photographer is deciding whether to present an image in colour or black & white when the subject does instantly lend itself to one or the other.

All my images are shot in colour as a matter of course. I well remember chief photographer John Fairclough, on the weekly newspaper I worked on in the 1980s, saying that by shooting in colour, the shot could always be printed in the newspaper as black & white but the reverse was obviously not true.

In those days all news photographs appeared in the newspaper as black & white images. Colour was only used for the occasional fashion feature or a Royal visit.

I think my love of b&w photography stems from growing up with b&w images in newspapers, as well as b&w television. Sometimes I get a surprise on the Turner Classic Movie channel when I discover that an old movie I saw back in the 1970s, and which I automatically assumed was shot in b&w because of its vintage, was in actual fact shot in colour.

I also like working with an image in black & white. With Silver Efex Pro, and the various controls it offers, I can play about with an image, tweaking various parameters to get a black & white image just how I like it.

A good example of the kind of conundrum I often face arose from the trip to Fernandina Beach last weekend.

This shot of the man silhouetted on the jetty and the view across the St Marys River under a marvellous evening sky has an instant appeal in colour.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

But when the image is converted to b&w in Silver Efex Pro, it takes on a totally different quality and one that I think is more personal.

©Calvin Palmer 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Each version has its own merits and that is where the difficulty arises, deciding whether one outweighs the other sufficiently enough to deseerve its inclusion in a gallery. I suppose an easy way out would be to present both images, as I have done here, and let the viewer decide.

But I feel it is my role as the photographer to decide. In presenting both versions, I would simply be passing the buck at best, lacking in conviction with regard to my artistic vision at worst.

When making choices from a wide selection, be it cameras, cars or whatever, I can usually narrow my choice down to two, leaving me with some agonizing soul searching as to which one I choose.

Now can you understand why I have such difficulty sometimes in choosing between b&w and colour, the choice is already down to two to begin with.

I often think my indecision over making a choice from two things comes down to being a Gemini.

That’s my excuse and I am sticking with it.

Leave a comment to say whether you prefer the b&w or colour version. I would welcome the feedback.

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  4 Responses to “B&W versus colour often poses a dilemma”

  1. One vote for the B&W. A nice write up as well.

  2. I often times run into the same dilemma. I used to ‘torture’ myself over the B&W vs. color question, but lately I just choose one and go with it. Sometimes though I re-visit my decision. I like your excuse, mine is even better … I’m a ‘cancer’ and we’re renowned for our inability to make up our minds. 🙂

    In my opinion, Chris Weeks put it best in his “Street Photography for the Purist” essay:

    “Maybe someone will come up with a valid argument why colour film or digital colour has a place in the genre that is “the street” but I haven’t heard
    one yet.
    The street needs to be shot onto a medium, which is a level playing field for all.
    We all see colours differently.
    Even dogs see grayscale the same way.”

    Dana

    • Hi Dana,

      Glad to hear I am not alone in this dilemma.

      It tends not to arise too much for me in street shooting, I will go for B&W to eradicate the distractions of all the colours that a street can contain. It tends to be with landscape and still life shots, where the decision becomes harder because colour can be integral to the image.

      Thanks for visiting.

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