Saturday, 11 February 2012

Photography: Black & White or Colour?

Technology has allowed us to move from black and white to colour in both TV & cinema, yet  black and white photography is still very popular. It conveys a scene very differently, revealing details, patterns, forms and shapes more clearly, forcing us to concentrate on tone and texture that colour may distract us from. Stronger light means stronger shadows and a change in contrast creating a more striking image with more impact in  black and white

Birmingham Canal
 used black and white film to emphasize the mood and atmosphere of the canals and to give an old feel. This shot wouldn't work well in colour as the mood would be lost. I composed the shot so the tunnel frames the scene. 

black and white works well for street photography to create a gritty look. Emphasise this by increasing the ISO to add more noise. Use a slow shutter to create a softer look in landscapes. Create a much more powerful portrait in  black and white instead of colour. 

Sepia Canal Reflection
Oiginally photograpehed in Illford black and white film I changed the colour to a sepia tone to give an old feel. I like the strong reflection and also the juxtaposition of the old bridge and new buildings. Although not in black and white, colour would not work in creating an old feel and may look too distracting. 

So what works better - Black & White or Colour? 
It depends on what you're shooting. Black and white works well to emphasise a low key Image, that is those made of dark mid-tones and shadows, good if you want to create a sombre or moody feeling, such as on an overcast, cloudy day. However, low key images can also be uplifting by having areas of bright highlights like sun raysTo capture a dramatic landscape a great time is shooting just before of after a storm. However a sunset will always work better in colour. 

Brooding Dark Sky
My low key shot. I love the brooding dark sky and the distant silhouetted landscape against the uplifting sun rays with it's shimmer on the water. Note this shot's in colour but works as it's made of dark mid-tones. 
Try it yourself
The easiest way is it use photo editing software, create a duplicate of one of your best shots and convert it to black and white. How does compositional elements change, note how colour changes to greys, is shape and form emphasised? Is the atmosphere changed? You'll be surprised at the difference. 

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