Color Versus Black & White

So one of my friends noticed how much monochrome photography I’ve been posting lately. They enjoyed it but also missed color photography in what I share. I think I’ve been drawn to black and white lately because street photography is classically B&W. It got started before color photography took off and purists often stick with it in the name of, well, purity.

Shot using Pro Neg Hi Film Simulation

Personally, I enjoy both mediums nearly equally well. B&W shines to me when there’s plenty of textures to accentuate. Color shouts, monochrome whispers. At least until you crank the contrast and blacks. Then it shouts as well, just in a different language. I was sure I preferred color photography until very recently.

Shot using Acros + G Filter (I think)

My tastes are currently evolving – while I’ve been choosing B&W over color it’s often a very near thing. I’ll study an image for awhile, trying to decide which version I like best. One of my favorite things about shooting with Fujifilm is the very subtle color science. While users of Canon and Sony have rather garish “Vivid” and “HDR” simulations (yes, I know I sound snobby) Fuji uses Film Simulations that mimic old film stock. While I was never a film photographer each one offers a very tasteful color tweaking that usually needs little further adjustment. Classic Chrome and Pro Neg Hi are my go-to’s. Slightly muted color and tonality. So it’s natural I’d eventually gravitate towards Acros, the slightly contrasty black and white simulation.

Shot in Acros (monochrome) Film Simulation

It’s especially handy when shooting in low light environments. Pictures with lots of shadows on the subject or ugly incandescent lighting get a new lease on life in monochrome. But color still appeals to me – I’ll need to make sure I get a good balance of the two mediums. What’s fun – and challenging – about photography is translating what you see into the image in your mind. While you’re capturing the world in front of you, there’s still quite a bit of manipulation that goes on.

Not just in digitally tweaking colors, shadows, sharpness and contrast. But how you frame the image, where you direct the focus of the lens, which adjusts where the image is sharp or blurred out, whether you want to suggest motion or stillness, trying to tell a story versus simply documenting what you see, etc. Color is a single element in a delightfully complex recipe for every photograph!

Koi Pond in Hue, Vietnam
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  1. Great post Earl. I’m most comfortable working in monochrome. The absence of color elevates all other available features in the photo – texture, shapes, patterns, tonality and composition. Just up I40/I85 in Raleigh are the folks with Alien Skin. I use their Exposure X3 software for film emulation on just about all my compositions. Checkout their 30 day trial. Cheers!

    • Quite right, C.S. Young! So far I like dabbling in both realms but I get into monochrome moods here and there. Looking over Alien Skin, I’m impressed by the sheer volume of options! Petzval bokeh and a ton of films I have no idea about? I’ll have to explore this later; thanks!

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