When To Use Black And White

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Joe, Aug 11, 2006.

  1. Joe

    Joe Guest

    Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however I
    am yet to understand why.

    Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in black
    and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?

    Strange request, I know.
     
    Joe, Aug 11, 2006
    #1
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  2. Joe

    Paul Heslop Guest

    Joe wrote:
    >
    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however I
    > am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in black
    > and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >
    > Strange request, I know.


    I don't know how... converting on a pc takes seconds if you just want
    to compare the two. As we're talking of digital photography there's no
    scanning to do, just click and hmmmm. Of course to do it correctly can
    take time but a quick comparison is almost instant.
    --
    Paul (Neurotic to the bone No doubt about it)
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Stop and Look
    http://www.geocities.com/dreamst8me/
     
    Paul Heslop, Aug 11, 2006
    #2
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  3. Joe

    Hebee Jeebes Guest

    For me the best black and white images are high contrast (more black and
    white and less grays). I find low contrast images in black and white to be
    boring and unattractive. However, some of these low contrast images can be
    made high contrast using levels and curves.

    R


    "Joe" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however
    > I am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in
    > black and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >
    > Strange request, I know.
    >
     
    Hebee Jeebes, Aug 11, 2006
    #3
  4. Joe bedacht in news::

    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour,
    > however I am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in
    > black and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >
    > Strange request, I know.
    >
    >


    Squint. It sounds crazy, I know. But reducing the amount of light that
    reaches your eyes really helps you to 'look' in black and white. It
    probably has something to do with the way the retina is layered (the 'rods
    and cones').

    JL
     
    Justus Lipsius, Aug 11, 2006
    #4
  5. Joe

    Shawn Hirn Guest

    In article <>, "Joe" <>
    wrote:

    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however I
    > am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in black
    > and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >
    > Strange request, I know.


    There's no formula. Whatever looks best to you is what you should do.
     
    Shawn Hirn, Aug 11, 2006
    #5
  6. Joe

    ASAAR Guest

    On Fri, 11 Aug 2006 20:09:06 +0100, Joe wrote:

    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however I
    > am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in black
    > and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?


    I'd think that you'd need to have the ability to visualize. It's
    a talent used (and needed) by film directors, music composers, etc.
    A director that had to create a color version and a B&W version and
    then choose the better one wouldn't get far. Blindly following a
    formula wouldn't work much better. They have to have an initial
    concept, and visualize in their mind's eye the best way to implement
    it. Same thing with composers. Great ones visualize (hear) the
    sound of their work before writing the first note. Bad ones might
    take a score and try to improve it by applying a mechanical or
    mathematical formula. That's frequently been done with "electronic"
    music, and it rarely succeeds. Reading a book on photographic
    composition would probably help a bit, as would practice. This
    would help you to "understand why" some photos look better in black
    and white than in color. But for it to help a *lot*, enough to
    allow you to produce great B&W photos, we get back to needing the
    more important ability to visualize what the images will look like
    before they're made. Some can, many can't.
     
    ASAAR, Aug 11, 2006
    #6
  7. Joe

    John Guest

    "Joe" <> wrote in message
    news:...
    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however
    > I am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in
    > black and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?


    There are gimmicks. Surf for the "PEAK Mono-Tone Viewer", or "ZONE VI
    VIEWING FILTER".

    However, after you've shot (or converted) to B&W you find it easier to
    previsualize in your head - except for certain adjacent colors that are
    impossible for humans to see properly.

    With Digital and a program that can modify individual R,G,B layers, you can
    put curves against separate channels for interesting control.
     
    John, Aug 11, 2006
    #7
  8. Joe

    Guest

    Joe wrote:
    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however I
    > am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in black
    > and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >
    > Strange request, I know.


    My own personal feeling is that color images should be "about color".
    This is determined before releasing the shutter. Careful selection and
    analysis of subject matter play a part in your decision. Sometimes
    color gets in the way making B&W the obvious choice. Sometimes the
    subject matter makes the choice for you - colorful kites against a deep
    blue sky, etc.
    Personally, I think it's a good habit, and good discipline, to see your
    shot - color or B&W - before you actually shoot it. It's amazing,
    sometimes, when we look through our old color images to discover they
    would have been just as effective, or moreso, in b&w.
     
    , Aug 12, 2006
    #8
  9. Joe

    Pete Guest

    On Fri, 11 Aug 2006 20:09:06 +0100, Joe wrote:

    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however I
    > am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in black
    > and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >
    > Strange request, I know.


    My rule of thumb is this:

    If color is a significant part of the message you're trying to convey, then
    use color.

    If not -- especially if the image is highly monochromatic and/or the
    message is built on strong patterns, textures, shapes or lines -- the
    subject is a good candidate for B/W.

    Pete
     
    Pete, Aug 12, 2006
    #9
  10. Joe

    Stacey Guest

    Justus Lipsius wrote:

    > Joe bedacht in news::
    >
    >> Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour,
    >> however I am yet to understand why.
    >>
    >> Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in
    >> black and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >>
    >> Strange request, I know.
    >>
    >>

    >
    > Squint. It sounds crazy, I know. But reducing the amount of light that
    > reaches your eyes really helps you to 'look' in black and white.



    Also looking through a dark red filter helps..
    --

    Stacey
     
    Stacey, Aug 12, 2006
    #10
  11. Joe

    Guest

    if you ask me, b/w is always the way to go unless the shot is color
    specific :)

    b/w gives you better value scaling, if for no other reason than color
    tends to get in the way of seeing values well. so with a full range of
    b/w values, your shapes and forms are better resolved....and great b/w
    range(like ansel adams) gives you good "color". i don't know how the
    photography world describes it, but in the art world, "color" in b/w is
    fully realized values that enhance each other because they add relative
    richness and breadth.

    psychologically, imo, and who knows maybe even physiologically, my mind
    starts to create color within a well articulated b/w. it has a lot to
    do with the juxtoposition of good value as well.

    to put it another way,,,"color tells you the whole story, while b/w
    gives you room to be creative"
     
    , Aug 12, 2006
    #11
  12. Joe

    Guest

    squinting simplifies value. GOOD artists do this all the time to get a
    better grasp of value. simplified values make a better read and reduces
    BOTH color and value nuances that the retina articulates sometimes TOO
    well.
     
    , Aug 12, 2006
    #12
  13. Joe wrote:
    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however I
    > am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in black
    > and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >
    > Strange request, I know.
    >
    >

    Personally, I can't think of any subject that can't work in B&W. I have
    some gorgeous B&W sunsets and some gorgeous B&W flower shots. Both are
    subjects that would typically be thought of as prime candidates for
    colour. Shooting them in B&W though takes away the colours and so you
    see the shot differently. A sunset where previously you would see all
    the bright colours becomes an experience of things like cloud patterns,
    the ground silhouette, the subtle reflections in water etc. You have
    probably seen many thousands of beautiful sunsets, with almost every
    conceivable shade of blue/red/orange, but you have never seen one in
    shades of grey. A flower ceases being a mass of bright colours, and
    becomes an image of patterns, veins, fine hairs, shadows and highlights.
    Another very good time to use B&W over colour is portraits of people
    with problem skin. Ruddy skin tones, blemishes etc disappear to become
    nice shades of grey adding texture to the image.
    Just remember that shooting in B&W will see the world differently, so
    you will have to adjust some of your thinking to compensate. Sometimes
    that will also mean different compositions too.
    I think the best B&W's are the ones that were intended to be B&W before
    shooting, rather than converting a bunch of colour shots to B&W to see
    which ones worked. To do this, I prefer to shoot B&W film, and use a
    colour filter over the lens - this helps me to "see" the composition
    better, by seeing the resulting contrast. I prefer doing this over
    shooting in colour and converting. If you are using digital, and your
    camera doesn't allow you to shoot in B&W, I'd still suggest using colour
    filters, and manually set the white balance. Yes I know that by doing
    this will ruin the "colour" part of your colour photo, and mean that the
    photo will never be anything other than B&W, but it will help you see
    your images in B&W better before shooting.
    Of course, the above is based on the premise that you are shooting with
    the intention of a B&W image, which as I said IMO creates the best B&W
    shots. If OTOH your plan is to shoot colour and then see if some work in
    B&W, then dispense with the colour filters, and play with photoshop's
    channel mixer. With correct use of channel mixer you can adjust contrast
    optimally for each photo.
     
    Graham Fountain, Aug 12, 2006
    #13
  14. Joe

    Marvin Guest

    Joe wrote:
    > Some photos look better in black and white than they do in colour, however I
    > am yet to understand why.
    >
    > Does anyone know of a way of judging which photos would look better in black
    > and white, without converting the photo and seeing the results?
    >
    > Strange request, I know.
    >
    >

    There are no absolute answers to this question. It is a
    matter of taste and preferences, i.e., art.
     
    Marvin, Aug 12, 2006
    #14
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