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Thread: How would it look in Black-and-White?

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular ameerat42's Avatar
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    How would it look in Black-and-White?

    On and off when I read about it in a post - particularly recently - I've been thinking about the question of rendering an image in "B/W", "monochrome".

    You often see written:
    "I wonder how it would look in B/W?"
    "[I reckon] it would look [good/great] in B/W."
    "Have you thought about turning it into B/W?"
    ...
    ...
    ...
    To me, it almost starts to sound like a mantra. Often, I quite disagree with the idea, but I usually don't say anything, as it's a valid opinion
    to express. But it makes me ask, "Why?" "What's wrong with the colour version?" "No, definitely NOT for this one!" etc... Rarely, though, I agree
    with the sentiment.

    I "grew up" with B/W pictures. In those days the idea of "colour" was dreamy. By the mid-70s, colour was "de riguer" - and affordable!!!

    So, what's the gist of this rave? Well, WHY B/W?

    If this sounds vague, apologies. (Or payback for the many vague hankerings for B/W I've read.) Your thoughts on why and when to do
    B/W would be appreciated. It might serve as some sort of "guide" as to how it can be an effective photographic technique.

    Over to you, and ta.
    Am.
    Last edited by ameerat42; 17-01-2014 at 8:52pm.
    CC, Image editing OK.

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    Photo Bizarro nimrodisease's Avatar
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    I like to convert to black and white occasionally. Generally the reason for this is if the image has interesting light but not very interesting colour. Converting to mono makes the lighting really stand out because there is no colour to distract.

    Sometimes I might try a mono image for other reasons (it can feel more 'timeless' or 'classic'), but that's the main one.
    Last edited by nimrodisease; 18-01-2014 at 11:41am.
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    Good question. Throwing some thoughts into this - Just as good is , Why colour ? You know , your walking along looking about you when 'something' makes you point the camera and take a shot, but what is it. Nice colour , nice tree, but what if its Tone. Tone lost within world of colour . Tone lost within a digital world.

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    Still in the Circle of Confusion Cage's Avatar
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    I get the feeling that a lot of the B&W suggestions are made when the subject is 'olde worlde'.
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    Loves The Wildlife. Mary Anne's Avatar
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    When I look at anything its in colour, so why change it, like you I loved colour when it arrived and it can stay with me.
    B&W is great for some things though not the subjects I shoot I could not image brightly coloured Birds, Insects or Flowers in B&W
    About the only things I would turn into B&W would be old sheds and cars, buildings and gates.. Though to each his own.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by k8ez View Post
    .... Just as good is , Why colour ? You know , your walking along looking about you when 'something' makes you point the camera and take a shot, but what is it. Nice colour , nice tree, but what if its Tone. Tone lost within world of colour . Tone lost within a digital world.
    Though you saw that tone in the world of colour?

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    Monochrome shifts focus to the graphical part of an image. Colors often just distract from lines and surfaces; some images just create more of a (dramatic) impact if you convert to monochrome (not black/white necessarily).
    Ciao, Joost

    All feedback is highly appreciated!

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    I like B&W.. it's one of my favourite things.. certain things though, B&W just don't do it justice, a sunset, a sunflower, beautiful birds... somethings however, look fantastic as B&W.. B&W tends to draw the eye to the subject in my opinion, if there are bright in your face colours in the photo, it can detract from the intended subject... textures work really well as a monochrome image... portraits, especially of little kids and their great big wide eyes, work especially well.. It's all a matter of personal taste really *shrugs*
    Happy to take all constructive Critique, please don't rework or edit my photos. Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark L View Post
    Though you saw that tone in the world of colour?
    Yes, its there but harder to see when just seeing colour. Colour maps to tone ( lightness ) but for the photographer it needs to be visualised, to step away from reality. Colour , often, bind us to the reality of the object - that is the viewer of our picture of a rose , sees a rose. B/W frees the viewer from seeing A rose and allows the essence, the spirit, of that rose to be seen, aka, the visualisation to be seen not the actual rose. As Mary Anne says - each to his own, but there is some iconic images that suggest theres more to B/W than gates and buildings. Ansel Adams, Bill Brandt, Max Dupain would be worth a look to name just a few.

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    Ausphotography Regular swifty's Avatar
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    For me it is all about the photographer's vision. We're not always documenting something that has to match our real life visual experience although in some genres this would be the intention, namely photojournalism. Ironically monos are used liberally here.

    Quite often it isn't what's in the photo, but what you can remove and still get the message across.
    Certain elements may serve to distract or detract, a stray hair, litter/garbage, people walking into your frame, colour etc. The removal of which helps to concentrate the viewer's attention on other elements in the composition.

    There is a great emphasis on tone in mono. The tonality and subtle gradations in light/medium/dark areas can be visually very appealing.

    Since reality is often not the aim, the photographer can also exaggerate contrast to emphasise geometry, shapes, textures etc. All of which can be done in colour too of course but personally I feel you can push the boundaries further in monos.

    A certain subset of monos are also done to elicit feelings of the past due to our association of it as an old 'look'. I have to admit I rarely do this although I have tried to emulate past formulas (tri-x with rodinal) to shoot historical subjects (city of Paris) that I really enjoyed.
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    Because we see in color it has to be believable in the images we create or it will fail miserably as a photograph. I think we have all seen a good photograph ruined by pushing the color beyond the believable range. I like black and white images because they are abstract just by eliminating the color. It gives more freedom to take creativity further with the image, yet still retain a certain beleivable look because they are already perceived as an abstract.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jad View Post
    Because we see in color it has to be believable in the images we create or it will fail miserably as a photograph. I think we have all seen a good photograph ruined by pushing the color beyond the believable range. I like black and white images because they are abstract just by eliminating the color. It gives more freedom to take creativity further with the image, yet still retain a certain beleivable look because they are already perceived as an abstract.
    that's a really good answer.


    I personally don't convert many digitals to b/w. I like to shoot with b/w film though, it makes you think about compositions beyond colour, thinking about textures as well.
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    Ausphotography Veteran MattNQ's Avatar
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    I was going to wax lyrical about b&w - about mood and detail, clouds, water and shadows. But I am typing on a phone so it would take a week to get it down. Think of it like Clapton's "Layla". The electric version is like a bright, strong colour image- it grabs your attention with its full sound. The stripped back acoustic version is like a b&w image- you discover a different perspective and perhaps hear some of the less obvious details of the song that you miss in the electric version hear. Like the song, some prefer one over the other. It is an individual preference.


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    Last edited by MattNQ; 20-01-2014 at 3:14pm.
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    I tend to convert about half of my keepers to B&W. This choice comes down to a lack of experience with colour/tone ranges.

    When I come to post processing, I can be out there with a B&W and it doesn't look overly manufactured. Often, I cannot achieve the same with colour.

    It also focusses my attention to the subject more in portraits and architecture, where my brain will assume what the colours were.

    Just 2c from me.

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    Ausphotography irregular Mark L's Avatar
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    Adams photos here http://www.ausphotography.net.au/for...47#post1207747
    for me, highlight the comments Jad and k8 made.

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular
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    Folks. Thanks for all the responses. There are quite a few good ideas here.

    Am.

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    I firmly believe some images would just sit better in B & W, time and place sort of thing, and I'm probably one of the CCer's you may be referring to.

    If say a seascape that's mainly colourless, has some strong dark natural colours in it already, why not try the de-saturation and see what it can add, or take away, which ever the case. An image that wasn't captured to say the best of conditions, can make for a good candidate to convert, and sometimes with dramatic results.

    Also as Mary Anne mentioned, sheds - old cars and the like, just seem to fit the bill.

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    Ausphotography Veteran MattNQ's Avatar
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    And cemeteries & old houses are so much gloomier & spookier in B&W
    Like rum & coke, they are made for each other.....

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    Arch-Σigmoid Ausphotography Regular
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    Ta Matt (I'll try to not enjoy my rum and coke so much next time ) and everyone.

    The replies indicate that some thought goes in to doing B/W images. Well, I will try a
    likely subject sometime. (Actually, I remember doing one about a year ago - ducks on a lake...)

    Am.

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