Street Photographers... Colour or B&W?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by VirtualRain, Jan 27, 2015.

  1. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #1
    It seems like a lot of modern-day street photography is still rendered in B&W, but I've seen plenty of examples in colour as well.

    What's your view on finishing your street photos in B&W vs colour?
     
  2. Razeus macrumors 601

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    #2
    Both.

    Depends on the image. Why would you convert an image that was complimentary or triad colors going for it? Why would you leave an image that as monochrome tones in color?

    Welcome to the digital age.
     
  3. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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  4. Razeus macrumors 601

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    #4
    As I said above...if the image has complimentary colors or triad of colors going for it, I keep it color, as long as those colors are prominent. Stuff the works of Alex Webb or Steve McCurry for that.

    If the image is more about the shape of the objects in the frame or about the shadows and light or a simple contrast (say a white person wearing a black shirt), I go for black and white.

    This wouldn't work as black and white (the effect wouldn't be the same) due to the complimentary colors:
    [​IMG]
     
  5. jms969 macrumors 6502

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    #5
    Obviously shoot everything in color and then let the image dictate what you do with it in post :D
     
  6. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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  7. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

    Apple fanboy

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    #7
  8. cyb3rdud3 macrumors 6502a

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    No hard and vast rules in my opinion...It all depends on the image or series you are trying to portray....In my opinion B&W conversion is great to 'rescue' not so great images, but is overdone too often without adding something to it. Great for extracting some 'grit' some 'pain' some 'emotion', yet does nothing for snap shots ...
     
  9. psou macrumors newbie

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    #9
    bw it is.
    The colors are distracting and the more color the more positive feeling. In black and white you get a more dramatic result. Try adding some contrast and you are good to go!
    My humble opinion...
     
  10. MacRy macrumors 68040

    MacRy

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    #10
    I think that it very much depends upon the situation. I prefer B&W but I've also shot some in colour that wouldn't work as well.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  11. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #11
    To me, it depends on my intent, and what I'm trying to convey. I don't want to over due the usage of B&W, but I love the look
     
  12. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

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    #12
    Not for everyone I know, but I think I'd go for selective colour on that first one.
     
  13. cyb3rdud3 macrumors 6502a

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    #13

    I agree. Would work well and make it an improvement.
     
  14. Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #14
    Some very nice shots, MacRy; I love the lines on the second picture, especially.

    To the OP, it depends on what you need to do or what sort of look you wish to produce, or even, personally prefer. B&W will almost always work very well for street photography (and I still use B&W film quite a bit, especially for street photography) but, colour has its uses, and allows for greater nuance, especially when photographing people.
     
  15. MacRy macrumors 68040

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    #15



    I'm not a fan of selective colour I'm afraid so that's not going to happen.
     
  16. CookedPixel macrumors newbie

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    #16
    Much of my work is documentary or journalistic in nature; however, I do not consider myself a "street photographer." Almost everything I photograph ends up as a black and white print. Black and white adds a layer of abstraction to images which I find both captivating and beautiful. It does require a level of dedication because it forces the photographer to think in terms of form and luminance more intensely than with color photography. Take a look at the work of Sebastião Salgado, who is arguably the greatest contemporary black and white documentary photographer.

    I'm just one of those crazy people who still uses small/medium format film and prints in the darkroom, so take my thoughts with that in mind.
     
  17. Razeus macrumors 601

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    #17
  18. MCH-1138, Feb 2, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015

    MCH-1138 macrumors 6502

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    #18
    ...because...

    EDIT: Whether I agree or not, it would probably be helpful to the OP (and others reading this thread) if you were to explain why it should be discarded (especially where the question was color vs. B+W).
     
  19. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68020

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    #19
    I'd go with b&w, but in this example the faces are way too dark for my taste - what's street photography without strong faces (like that sneering guy third from the left)? If you're using Photoshop's or Aperture's Black & White adjustments, I'd dial-back a bit on the red slider.

    Overall? There is no rule of thumb when it comes to b&w vs. color (regardless of subject matter), any more than there is for exposure, contrast, saturation... Isn't it all about capturing our personal vision, so that it can be shared with others?

    But it's also strongly about our personal influences. I think a fair part of the reason we lean towards b&w for street photography is accident - it's the medium that was used by Matthew Brady, Cartier-Bresson, Weegee, Dorothea Lange, et. al. Contrary to the familiar saying, those who study the past are doomed to repeat it - the artists we admire become our personal benchmarks.

    I wonder where we'd be today if an affordable, easy-to-use color process had been invented in 1840, and if there was little incremental cost to producing print publications in color?
     
  20. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #20
    I'm not particularly fond of it either but it does lend itself to this discussion.

    Thanks... I tend to agree that rendering in B&W is probably motivated more out of tradition than because it truly looks better. There are certainly some high-contrast stuff that looks more dramatic in B&W but I've seen plenty of street photography in my research lately that just ends up being blah shades of grey. What I find interesting are the folks who suggest that B&W can eliminate distracting backgrounds but find it loathsome to use DoF to blur backgrounds. Both remove information from the image to bring attention to the subject... using only one of these techniques exclusively seems unnecessarily limiting to me.

    So in the interest of furthering this discussion... what about this image?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  21. Apple fanboy macrumors P6

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    #21
    Colour for me this time. It's just a bit flat in B&W.
     
  22. cyb3rdud3 macrumors 6502a

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    #22
    LOL And B&W for me this time, I swear that is my honest opinion....I find the black needs more contrast, as do her shoes.
     
  23. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68020

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    #23
    Taken as-is, I'd go for color. The b&w version loses some of the shadow detail present in the color version. That can be fixed, of course.
     
  24. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #24
    Assuming you could adjust it to taste, would you then prefer B&W? If so, why?

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    Could you not adjust the contrast of the colour image? Why B&W?


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    My thinking is that if you want to focus on the shape of her hat/cloak then B&W. However, if you want the viewer to "be there" then the colour of the shoes and tint on the hat from the sky is just as important as anything else in the photo. Is that a fair way to look at it?
     
  25. Attonine macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    The first photo, with the four men, B+W is easier to view. The green on the left of the colour version is very distracting. However, it's just not a good photo. There's nothing interesting in the photo, your in the wrong position, the metal bollards in the foreground are distracting. It's just a throw away image.

    The Photo of the nun (?) is better in colour. Better grades of black in her clothes and tights. B+W is just too flat. However, the black rail in the background is a real problem. You must watch your background! Is this cropped? It looks a bit tight for me, unnatural. Maybe landscape would have opened it up a bit?

    Some of the other points made are just too big for me to deal with here in writing. Grainy or smooth, the nature of Street Photography, what makes a good Street photograph.......I've touched bit in another thread you started about some aspects of depth to a photograph that is a very difficult thing to do.

    Colour to B+W. Doesn't really matter. I do think most people deal with this incorrectly though. You should not be taking a photograph and deciding in post whether it should be B+W or colour. You should know this when you take the frame. If you are working in B+W you should be thinking and seeing in B+W. The same for colour. A bad frame is a bad frame, changing to B+W is not going to make it a good frame. Good Street Photography is not as random as most people think. Just as Studio portraitists and Landscape photographers plan and know what they are trying to achieve, so do good Street photographers.

    Something that has recently come out is that many of the greats who are associated with B+W in fact also worked in Colour. Both Elliot Erwitt and Rene Burri recently published books of their colour work. It seems they always had 2 cameras, 1 with colour film, the other with B+W. The opposite is also true, Saul Leiter and Martin Parr who are associated with colour photography have released books of B+W work. Eggleston, also associated with colour has a book of early B+W work.
     

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