What makes a photo work in color or black and white

Ken Waller kwaller at peoplepc.com
Mon Mar 19 13:12:50 EDT 2018

It seems to me that color is more suited to nature photography than B+W, 
especially with closer more intimate subjects found in nature. The iconic 
B+W shots of grand landscapes are sometimes more suited to B+W simply 
because of the simple subject, composition and lighting of those images.

I've also attended numerous outdoor workshops and cannot remember any B+W 
images in show & tell/critique sessions.

Kenneth Waller

----- Original Message ----- 
Subject: Re: What makes a photo work in color or black and white

>I think color easily detracts from an image. Many of my own personal 
>favorites are monochromatic.
> A few years ago I took several Nature Photography Workshops. As is typical 
> in such workshops, participants were invited to bring along a few of their 
> own favorites for show and tell and critique. The 2nd or 3rd time I 
> included a shot of a waterfall we visited at least once during every 
> workshop. Rendered in B&W. Which got quite a bit of (mostly negative) 
> comment. Then I showed the color version and explained that I felt the 
> bright green moss in the center foreground transformed my waterfall 
> composition into an image of bright green moss. Not sure I made many 
> converts but for me I still think the bright color was a distraction from 
> the scene I wanted to portray.
> But sometimes color is the subject. E.g., faded paint on old buildings. 
> Even there, for me, a narrow palette of colors, if not monochromatic, 
> works best.
> stan
>> On Mar 16, 2018, at 6:31 PM, ann sanfedele <annsan at nyc.rr.com> wrote:
>> when I was shooting film, I shot interesting subjects in both BW and 
>> chrome when I could.Then I could decided later.. and also had backup if
>> one or the other rolls of film met a premature demise.
>> I like bw for documetary work & street shots and when the color is 
>> irrelevant and/or just gets in the way.I think color is much harder than 
>> black and white although it often
>> appears to be easier...Never thought about bw being necessarily dreamy or 
>> romantic, I usually like my bw more contrasty and color much less so...
>> bottom line - unless the color is pleasing to me and enhances what I've 
>> shot, I prefer black and white. Of course my nature photography is almost 
>> all in color as it
>> informs... the colors are as much the subject as the objects 
>> photographed.
>> ann
>> On 3/16/2018 3:18 PM, Paul Stenquist wrote:
>>> For me the choice of black and white over color is more about mood and 
>>> expression rather than a need to parse the photos elements. BW is 
>>> subtle, romantic and laid back. Color is vibrant active and alive. Of 
>>> course there are degrees of expression within each genre. Punchy, high 
>>> contrast BW moves toward vibrant while muted color approaches subtle. It’s 
>>> all about what one wants a photo to say.
>>> Paul
>>>> On Mar 16, 2018, at 2:51 PM, Larry Colen <lrc at red4est.com> wrote:
>>>> One of the nice things about digital photography is being able to 
>>>> choose after the fact whether to process a photo as color or black and 
>>>> white. Technically, I suppose that was also possible with color film, 
>>>> not that it was often done.
>>>> Sometimes photos work as color, black and white, an some look great for 
>>>> different reasons in both.
>>>> Since the most effective way to promote discussion on the net is to 
>>>> post something that people disagree with, I'll mention some of my 
>>>> thoughts on the subject.
>>>> For me it boils down to contrast, and whether you want to emphasize or 
>>>> demphasize something.  Generally, I want to deemphasize anything in a 
>>>> photo that doesn't make a significant improvement, and I want to 
>>>> emphasize things that do look good.  Sometimes color differences will 
>>>> make something stand out.  If that's your subject, great, if it's a 
>>>> random bit in the background, less so. Similarly often things with 
>>>> different colors will have similar tonality, so converting to black and 
>>>> white can deemphasize them. Likewise, by tweaking the response to 
>>>> different colors in the conversion you can increase or decrease the 
>>>> emphasis.
>>>> Thoughts? Expansion? Arguments?
>>>> -- 
>>>> Larry Colen  lrc at red4est.com (postbox on min4est) 
>>>> http://red4est.com/lrc

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