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Skill Level Intermediate
- Color or black and white? That is the question. Hi, I'm Steven Simon, the Passionate Photographer, and welcome to another edition of Photo Critique of the Week. This week, we're going to look at a few examples and come to the conclusion as to whether the photograph looks best in black and white or in color, and why. Let's take a look. In the digital realm, black and white is a very powerful way to communicate with our photography. So, it's something you should consider, and it's something that, I've always been a big fan of black and white photography.
But, you know, back in the day when you were using film, and I know many people are still using film and love to use film, you have to commit to black and white, which means that you really don't have a choice. But in the digital realm, by shooting raw, you can take full advantage of the post-processing power to create a beautiful black and white image. So, in this image here, I mean, I think that, generally speaking, some pictures will work in both black and white and color.
But in this particular instance, you know, the color is just so beautiful, and I think really adds an extra layer to the scene where color makes sense. But there are other times when maybe you're not so sure. And these are some of the issues that I want to address on this show, and that's why we keep coming back to new images and talk about color or black and white. So, good color really, in my mind, amplifies the content, and it can also be very distracting, as well. So, these are some of the considerations that we want to be thinking about when we talk about color and black and white So, this particular set here.
Color or black and white? Well, I think that, in this instance, the color really helps with this picture. Now, granted, you've got blue, yellow, and you've got these nails that really come out. I think it's lost a little bit in the black and white, and I think, even though light is often a major consideration for color and why the golden light is very important for color images, in this case, it's not particularly interesting light. But because there's a minimum of color happening, and because you've got these complimentary yellow blue colors, I think it's working really well in color and I think this is an image that really does work well in color.
Normally, sort of a garbage bin is not something I really want in my picture, but because of the blue color of it matching the car, I think in this instance, it's not really a big distraction, and it also is just the reality of kind of where you are. So here's another image, this was photographed on a bus in Havana, and you can see the color image is a little bit weird, if you will, you've got this sort of green tinge that's coming from this plastic or glass.
Sometimes the buses have kind of a plastic window. You know, in this instance, I think the color is sort of taking away, and when you get rid of all the color and go to black and white, I think it really focuses on this woman's expression, who's traveling on this bus. And when you compare the two images, and you get a closer look at it, I think that, for me, the color is more distracting, and that's a really good reason to go to black and white, to communicate what it is that you're trying to say.
That, y'know, rush hour in Havana, or any city, is not always a fun situation. So here's another image that, obviously, is in color. And I think, again, the color can be distracting. You know, this purple color is sort of taking you in a little bit. Here, you know, this is out of focus, and your eye does go to the focused area. But when you see the image in black and white, I think that you more seamlessly go to where I want you to go, and that is to see this woman within the frame and where she is, and I think that the black and white works really well there.
This portrait of a young police officer. Again, you know, the color is going to have a visual weight to it, and certain colors, like red, are going to sort of tug at your eye, and even just a little slight amount of it can maybe be a little bit distracting from what you're trying to say in the picture. So, when you see a black and white version, now the bokeh of out-of-focused area is a lot less distracting, and you sort of stay a little bit more on the person.
Whereas here, these colors are sort of pulling you a little bit away. Now, the reality is, it can work in color, and I think you have to, again, don't just think in terms of one picture, think of the context of what you're going to do with these pictures, and sometimes, a series of black and white can be very powerful. But at the same time, color and black and white can live very powerfully together in a set of pictures, and that's something to consider as well. I think some of the best color images don't necessarily have a lot of color in them, and this is a good example.
This figure who's kind of purposefully out of focus. so I thought the texture of of the wall was very interesting here, so I waited for people to walk by, and I focused on the wall at a fairly wide aperture. So, this individual is very much out of focus, yet the wall is sharp, and someone's walking, creating a shadow. The black and white works really well here, too. If I were to kind of be critical of this image, I don't like necessarily that the figures walked in, I would have maybe liked to have seen the wires continue here, but from a color/black and white standpoint, I think the color is working.
I think the black and white works well too. This one is a little more of a toss-up. This one too is a little bit hard to necessarily make that call, but ultimately, I think the black and white sort of says what I want to say, and that is the texture. All the texture in this image, in contrast, juxtaposed with this beautiful woman, the way she's beautifully dressed in her Sunday best, I do know this picture was taken on a Sunday. So, the juxtaposition of the sort of rough wood texture and the cement and the rocks and the grain really works well in black and white.
When you see the color version, you can feel the texture changes a little bit too, because when you see a leaf, we kind of know what that is. In black and white, it's a little less obvious, and I think, in many ways, makes for a stronger image. I mean, ultimately, you still have to have the strong composition and you have to have strong content, but this is sort of a high-level discussion in terms of whether we go black and white or color. So there you go. I think it's a question that we need to ask ourselves a little more often.
Will my image best communicate in color or black and white? Thanks for joining me, and I hope to see you next week on another episode of Critique of the Week.
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