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Thread: Colour or Black and White?

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    http://steveaxford.smugmug.com/ Steve Axford's Avatar
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    Colour or Black and White?

    Some people say that B&W is the most challenging and truest form of photography. I think that this depends very much on how you perceive colour. Some like photographs that tend to the blue, others like those that tend to the red or green. Again I think this depends on your colour perception. New studies suggest that we may all see colour quite uniquely - and colour is of course a creation of the human mind. Any comments?

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    personally I find colour the hardest. As you have so aptly put it, colour is percieved differently by everyone. With b&w, it is just down to the tonal range from white through to black. I am only starting out in this photography thingo and I struggle with colour especially when it is in landscape!! I am more happy to convert to black and white and add coloured filters to alter the tones. Maybe when I get better at photography, that may change.
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    its hard with film becuase you don't have the ability to go back and change the tones, and i guess alot of experience would be needed as to what sort of filters to use. You look through the viewfinder and see an interesting scene but the negative comes out flat and bland !
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    I hadn't really thought of what impact film would have as I've only used film a bit, but you are probably right. Colour is easier with digital because you can fix it quite easily. Monny - perhaps you need to learn colour correction. Many people just increase the saturation of colour and it all just looks the same, but you can do a lot more with it than that. I have found that getting accurate colour reproduction is the key. This means a good monitor and some colour correction tool and using RAW images so you can fix them also. Colour usually looks best if it is close to what was seen - at least the colours themselves should be. Colour is one of the most complex things on photography and I suspect there is more than a lifetime in learning it.

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    Yep, you are right Steve. My monitor seems to be okay but it is when saturation is used, it just doesn't seem to give a good representation of the seen colour. On a bright day, I find colour easier to manage than on a dull day because the colour is all washed out. Objects are easier to photograph when it comes to colour though. Its just landscapes that bug me!! Well, I am only learning still, so plenty time to get the hang of it all.

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    The more I learn about colour the less I realise that I know. When you get it right, nothing grates, it all looks right. I think that too many people just concentrate on one aspect of the picture. They get that bit looking good and don't worry about the rest. I think it all matters. This applies to brightness as well. We use that to measure depth and if it is wrong, then it looks wrong. Just like the old cartoons that always looked flat - or worse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ms Monny View Post
    Yep, you are right Steve. My monitor seems to be okay but it is when saturation is used, it just doesn't seem to give a good representation of the seen colour. On a bright day, I find colour easier to manage than on a dull day because the colour is all washed out. Objects are easier to photograph when it comes to colour though. Its just landscapes that bug me!! Well, I am only learning still, so plenty time to get the hang of it all.
    MM , How do you know that your Monitor is all right , I have a friend , Who is an AP member, Thought his Mac Computor was colour correct till he ran his new Spyder Calibrator on it , He got a shock at how far it was out , Hard to process a colour image if your not seeing what is really there in the right colours and tonal range , Just a thought - Bill
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    Good question Steve, It has had me thinking alright, I walk around seeing Photo's everywhere, I'm forever saying to my Partner , That'd make a nice shot , Process as quick as I can to remember the colours and Brightness etc, Helps me, Your perception of the same scene maybe different to mine , How do I know , No wonder Photography is so "Subjective"

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    so true, William!! Maybe it isn't but all the colours of other peoples photos seem to be spot on when I view them on my monitor. Would love to get my hands on one of those Spyders...I know they cost a lot to buy as I have checked them out myself.

    As for you saying you see photos everywhere....so true too. I am forever seeing photos BUT my lack of knowledge in getting what I see in my brain to what I do with the camera and the computer are two totally different things!!!

    Steve, getting the right balance in the whole image is def important! I sometimes feel that maybe giving the photo a rest and then coming back with fresh eyes can help you 'see' what is wrong with the image and what needs to be corrected in terms of colour or balance etc.
    Last edited by Ms Monny; 15-04-2011 at 12:23pm.

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    As Bill's mentioned friend I would have to say that the Spyder 3 Express might be the biggest improvement to my photography that $115 odd could buy! I have looked back through my photos that I had processed and thought looked pretty good and many now show up quite a bit of noise that was not seen before. The tonal range of my monitor seems to have improved through the calibration as well. I have been on the phone to Bill whilst we both look at the same photos on AP and it seems we now see the same thing. Printing now also seems to reproduce a lot closer to the image on my monitor.

    I think monitor calibration has to be taken into account before you process an image as I think I was messing my photos up more than improving them with my PP before. Makes me think that Steve's question is all the more relevant in that the processing you do might not be seen the same on someone else's screen. Great topic Steve.
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    I personally believe that colour is harder to please than a B&W photo, which can be more universally pleasing or 'safe' to the viewer eyes. For wedding photographers, a badly coloured composition due to uneven lighting or poor white balance control, can be saved by switching it to B&W - common practice to salvage shots.

    On the subject of calibration, I can usually tell when someone hasnt calibrated their monitor yet and does a B&W conversion - all I see is a greyscale photo, all shades of grey and black and no true whites and black.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ms Monny View Post
    Steve, getting the right balance in the whole image is def important! I sometimes feel that maybe giving the photo a rest and then coming back with fresh eyes can help you 'see' what is wrong with the image and what needs to be corrected in terms of colour or balance etc.
    I sometimes do that too. Particularly if I have been trying to hard. Sometimes I just go back to very simple processing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Boofhead View Post
    As Bill's mentioned friend I would have to say that the Spyder 3 Express might be the biggest improvement to my photography that $115 odd could buy! I have looked back through my photos that I had processed and thought looked pretty good and many now show up quite a bit of noise that was not seen before. The tonal range of my monitor seems to have improved through the calibration as well. I have been on the phone to Bill whilst we both look at the same photos on AP and it seems we now see the same thing. Printing now also seems to reproduce a lot closer to the image on my monitor.

    I think monitor calibration has to be taken into account before you process an image as I think I was messing my photos up more than improving them with my PP before. Makes me think that Steve's question is all the more relevant in that the processing you do might not be seen the same on someone else's screen. Great topic Steve.
    I agree that spyder is an investment that gives a lot.

    It also may be that we all see things slightly differently. With a bad screen we might be offscale.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JM Tran View Post
    I personally believe that colour is harder to please than a B&W photo, which can be more universally pleasing or 'safe' to the viewer eyes. For wedding photographers, a badly coloured composition due to uneven lighting or poor white balance control, can be saved by switching it to B&W - common practice to salvage shots.

    On the subject of calibration, I can usually tell when someone hasnt calibrated their monitor yet and does a B&W conversion - all I see is a greyscale photo, all shades of grey and black and no true whites and black.
    I agree that a bad colour photo can often be improved by dropping the colour.
    Can't you just look at the histogram to check if the max and min are B&W?

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    I think both styles are equally as important , and , equally as hard to get 100 percent right. Someone was correct when they said , " Beauty is in the eye of the beholder "

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    My original point was - does your colour perception dictate what style you like? Does you colour perception effect the beauty you see?
    Recent research has found the the human eye can vary dramatically. One person may have a lot more blue pixels than another, who may be very green dominated; and another may not see colour well at all. Surely this will effect your preferences?

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    What about Blokes that lived through the Hippy Days of the 60's I dont see "Daimonds in the Sky" , But I think I see colours , That others dont , A reference to "Timothy Leary" type stuff - I'll have to have a colour check on my eyes , If it can be done

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    Go the Rabbitohs mudman's Avatar
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    perception is a cognitive task, which includes an emotional componant. this is true regardless of which sense we talk about.
    this makes peception a very individual thing.
    as for the black and white or colour issue, i was taught that if the colour does not make the photo it should be shot in bw.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mudman View Post
    perception is a cognitive task, which includes an emotional componant. this is true regardless of which sense we talk about.
    this makes peception a very individual thing.
    as for the black and white or colour issue, i was taught that if the colour does not make the photo it should be shot in bw.
    cheers
    Ah, but we are learning much more than that. Perception also uses different hardware in each person, so it is more than emotion which can colour our world. The amazing thing is that we can communicate using a common language. Ever tried to get people to describe cyan? Some will say blue and some will say green and a very occasional person will say cyan. What colours do we really see - and how much is it controlled by language?

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    Quote Originally Posted by William View Post
    What about Blokes that lived through the Hippy Days of the 60's I dont see "Daimonds in the Sky" , But I think I see colours , That others dont , A reference to "Timothy Leary" type stuff - I'll have to have a colour check on my eyes , If it can be done
    I don't think acid ever got you to see new colours. Just colours in new places. Anway, to quote the Moody Blues, "Timothy Leary's dead".

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