Colour or Black and White?

Its that moment when you are looking at the photos you have taken and you can see that they would look pretty cool as black and whites but does it really convey what you were trying to “say” when you took the photo?

I have this dilemma quite often.  I looooove black and white!  It reminds me of the original photography masters and a time when there was no choice.  You composed and saw your photo as black and white – end of story.  There are some interesting takes on why black and white is better or vice-versa; black and white indicates the recording of a historical event, whereas colour represents the contemporary, black and white also traditionally makes a photo “moodier” making it better for low light work, whereas colour is best for bright, sunny days and studio work, although the flip side to this last statement is that black and white can hide an over-exposed sky on a sunny day.

It is always going to be a debate.  Like Nikon vs Canon, Film vs Digital.  There is really no right or wrong answer as long as the work conveys what you wanted it to convey.  Thus reaching my current dilemma.

For a couple of years now, I have been working on a personal piece that I have not yet released.  Without going into too much detail (I could tell you but then I would have to kill you!!!), the premise behind it is based on mood and state of mind.  Now with this being said you would think that most of the photos would be black and white.  Surprisingly though, they aren’t.  In a lot of cases (not all) they are overly saturated bright colours, all are in colour and what may be even more surprising is the fact that all of the photos in this series have been taken at night.  That strikes out a couple of the arguments for black and white above!!

Last night I was going through some photos that I recently took in Varanasi, India, that may be included in the series.  Unfortunately, depending on the way you look at it, I think a couple of the photos look great as black and white which was not the purpose for which I took the photos.  Heres a couple of examples;











I quite like both the colour and the black and white versions for different reasons.  The colour does fit the bill as far as my project goes but somehow the black and white feels a little more powerful and eery.  The way I see it I have a couple of choices – keep them colour and consider them for my personal project or change my reasons/purpose for taking them in the first place and keep them singular.

Tell me your thoughts?  Do you have this trouble as well?  I’m not sure what I am going to do with them just yet…..maybe I’ll just have to sit on the decision for a while 😉


4 Responses to “Colour or Black and White?”

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  1. Avatar for Jon Miller Jon Miller says:

    Great topic – Before I press the shutter button, I’m either thinking b&w or colour, that way I can control which area of the image to meter for. Do I overexpose a little or underexpose? Meter for highlights or meter to get details in the shadows? I ask these questions all the time. Being from the time of film I had trained myself to see b&w before pressing the shutter, and working with the “Zone System” helped a lot in getting the mood or the tones correctly. I still do the same today and i teach my students to learn to see in b&w.

    • Avatar for Jon Miller Jon Miller says:

      I’m more leaning toward the b&w for the details that is there and the fact that the sodium lights are not distracting from the image..

      • Avatar for Emily Dimozantos Emily Dimozantos says:

        Great point Jon! I was absolutely thinking colour for these ones but I do really love the B&W versions. The point made about the lighting is quite correct. I thing the very yellow tone in both of these images is distracting which I think is what is leaning towards the B&W. Believe it or not, my kelvin was at about 2700 and they were still this yellow if that gives you a sense of the ambiance. Hmmmmmm…..decisions!!!

  2. Avatar for Sue Dimozantos Sue Dimozantos says:

    I’m a bit like you, I like both photo’s, the black and white definately gives a different perspective. Almost ghostly. Mum

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