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Thread: Do you see a B&W?

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Do you see a B&W?

    Do you take a photograph to be specifically in colour or B&W?

    Donald in answering another post wrote: For me it's very much a case of choosing what the image will be before shooting and then never changing my mind. So, if I shoot for a B & W that's all it will ever be. I'll never make it into colour and vice-versa. That's just the way I need to work in order to train myself to see in B & W.

    It made me think about the images I had converted to B&W. About 50% started out with the vision of them being in B&W these were mainly portraits. The others were photographs that either due to colour casts in the lighting or a discordant mix of colours I decided at PP would look better in B&W e.g. failed colour photographs rescued by converting to B&W. I cannot recall a time that I have changed my mind if I had taken them to be used as B&W.

    Photographers that favour B&W I suspect have a similar approach to Donald - what about the rest of you?

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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    I am trying to learn how to see in B&W. It's a relatively recent endeavor, so I'm not surprised that it has not yet met with much success. Even so, I'm pleased that I do see some photos in B&W, so that's progress compared to never seeing in B&W until a few months ago.

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    CJK's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Interesting question. I never have really thought about 'training' myself to see in black and white, I guess if it hits me I will, but I tend to shoot normally since I can always convert later. Obviously if you are shooting film its different, but in the digital age I always just shoot normally since you can PP to BW afterwards.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Excellent question!



    Quote Originally Posted by pnodrog View Post
    Do you take a photograph to be specifically in colour or B&W?
    Generally, (mostly, nearly always) yes, I do.

    Probably because for many years at Weddings, we used a specific camera (or two) dedicated and loaded with B&W Film, to make specifically B&W Photographs.

    Many of these B&W Photos were also premeditatedly targeted for toning. We’d carry Contrast Filters specifically for the B&W imagery.

    So the whole “B&W” thing was quite clearly separate and apart from the colour coverage and quite clearly we had premeditation, aforethought about it. The planning and premeditation is/ was the same for Studio Portraiture - we would Light differently for B&W, than for Colour: (I still do whenever I am in a Studio).

    It is hard to shake that process off - even though I understand the great advantages of the digital medium as capture and digital PP workflow as darkroom in regard to the non-necessity of necessarily thinking and working in this premeditated fashion.

    But on the other hand: seeing and thinking "wow - that would make a good B&W" is also useful - it directs and focuses the 'Purpose' of the Shot.

    ***

    So this (and the other one shot in this set of two Photos), were both clearly seen as “B&W” to my eye, when I found this woman sitting on a chair, in the shade beside a swimming pool.

    I have never actually seen ‘in colour’, either of the two pictures I made of her; apart from when I opened the file for the initial conversions from the raw:

    Do you see a B&W?

    WW

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    I can't say I see in B&W, but have spent a long time shooting it as much of my formative photography was done in that medium, both as a shooter and in a traditional darkroom. I've also spent an awful long time working in colour; behind the camera and in the wet darkroom as well.

    Bill says it well; once you loaded your camera with a particular type of film, you shot for B&W, colour negative or colour reversal. There were some kludges out there; Kodak made a B&W paper that was designed for use with colour negatives; but it only came in one contrast grade and like other colour work, everything was done in total darkness with no safelight to navigate your way around the darkroom. With slides one could use a copy camera and duplicate the shots on B&W film, but again there were drawbacks.

    What I did learn was to see the tones in a scene, rather than the colours. Looking for highlights, midtones and shadow detail is a bit like seeing in B&W, I guess. A bright and colourful scene often looked better in B&W because everything simplified into gray tones. I also find that certain looks, especially vintage buildings, scenes and vehicles often seem to work better in B&W than colour, for that “period look”. Some of my favourite portraits are done in B&W as well.

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    pnodrog's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Wow! Manfred knowing about panalure paper for colour neg to B&W printing must mean your nearly as old as I am. However with age comes wisdom (not always but give me the benefit of doubt) and you probably nailed it when you said the ability to look at the tone values in a scene is the key.

    If the colour enhances the photo use colour but if the tonal range is not captured correctly or cannot be adjusted to how the photographer wants it is not going to to succeed as either colour or B&W.

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    William W's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    . . .What I did learn was to see the tones in a scene, rather than the colours. Looking for highlights, midtones and shadow detail . . .
    OH - YES! Excellent point!

    Susan - read this - what Manfred wrote above – and understand what it means when it applies to metering.

    That hits the nail right on the head about why green grass is about 18% Grey; and why when metering the palm of my hand I open up 1˝Stops; Australian (concrete) footpaths, I open up 1Stop; Rich Purple Dress Fabric (popular with Bridesmaids in 1990's), stopped down 1 and a bit Stops . . . and etc.

    WW

    The last few threads here at CiC are just popping with great information . . . we're on a roll!

    (Panalure paper was a step up from garbage IMO)

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    No I haven't seen a BMW lately but, I have seen a Jaguar and a Porsche... Whoops, we're not talking about BMW are we

    Seriously, I seldom shoot an image specifically for B&W conversion (my infrared and Civil War Reenactments Images are the exception). I will most often see an image that I shot in color which appears like it may have possibilities for B&W.

    Sometimes, I don't like the color version of a shot but, do like it in B&W. Often it is the other way around...

    BTW: Bill, Panalure was also a PITA to work with since we could not use the standard B&W print-room safelights.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 9th May 2013 at 04:00 PM.

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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    See in B&W? Shoot, I have enough trouble seeing in color.

    Seriously, I DO like B&W but can't say that I 'see' in it. There have only been a few times I've gone out with the intention of getting a B&W shot and on those occasions I looked for contrast. Mayhaps contrast relates in a way with the tonal aspect that has been brought up but I have a hunch that tonal references go deeper than just contrast.

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    Black Pearl's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    I'd have to answer 'Yes' I can see and shoot in monochrome.

    Often when I'm out and see a picture I know straight away that its going to end up mono so I will change the way I shoot paying less attention to large areas of strong colour and more on the textures shapes and tones. Going further I will often go out to specifically shoot mono images - I might take a few that will end up in colour while I'm at it but my 'eye' will be set for mono so thats usually what I'll end up with.

    Perversely it drives my wife mad as she prefers colour and even dislikes mono images in general, a problem as I've loads of them framed around the house. Not sure why I love mono or why I shoot specifically for it. Could be that I learned photography at home so all my early years were spent in a darkroom with various developers, papers, bits of card on wires, toners and a big red light. You could say I cut my teeth in mono and it wasn't until I went to Uni to study photography that I really started to use colour and a colour darkroom.

    I actually miss the process you had to go through with film based photography. Each film had its own characteristics, each would suit a particular subject or stye of shooting and each could be manipulated in specific ways to suit the photographer. Kodak was different to Ilford and Agfa was different again, they had a 'look' to them that I don't feel you get with digital sensors. A shot from a Nikon will look the same as a shot from a Canon or a Sony - hell - half of the cameras out there have the same sensors inside them.

    In fact I think I'll go hunting for a roll of Tri-X see if I can still buy D76 and pray Ilford still make their warm tone fibre based paper - then see if I can still remember how to feed the film into the spiral from a Paterson Universal Dev Tank. What I'd really love is a few rolls of Agfapan 25 and a bottle of Rodinol mixed 1:25 but I can't see that happening.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by black pearl View Post
    Perversely it drives my wife mad as she prefers colour and even dislikes mono images in general,
    I'm glad I'm not alone!

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    Clactonian's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    I have to say 'sometimes'. There are definitely occasions when I come across a scene and know instinctively that it will make a good (in my terms) b & w image. On many other occasions it will be at the editing stage that I realise b & w is the way forward. Then come the experiments!!
    Fortunately my wife is a fan and I have been encouraged to print and display my b & w images around the house, although I suspect it is to cover the cracks or dirty marks on the wallpaper.

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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    I never give it a thought but occasionally convert a file to B&W and often my subjects give me almost a B&W image without changing. I am aware that Directors of Photography used to use special filters to view the scene prior to the shot being taken, but what the filter comprised of is long ago forgotten
    Searching for this favourite shot of mine I passed several which would illustrate my 'custom' ....
    WHICH HALF IS COLOUR AND WHICH IS B&W CONVERTED? [vertical halves, left or right ]
    "Curves"
    Do you see a B&W?
    fresh tonight from original file in archive June 2003

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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    I enjoy converting images to black and white but am pretty lackadaisical in my procedure. Rarely do I see a scene before me that says, "I will do best in black and white." Instead, I shoot away and experiment in post. Since my experiments often include hue shifts, saturation changes, hue and tone inversions, black and white is really just one of many possibilities I may explore with an image. Since I shoot for color, that usually gets priority. I am not a big believer in converting problematic color images. If the image does not work and I can't bring it back in my raw processing, I will usually delete it. Once in a while, I find converting to black and white can solve a flare issue that is difficult for me to pp. So, no major rules--take it as it comes.

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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    A link to the real answer because it came from Calvin's dad,,,,

    http://www.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=h...9QEwBQ&dur=262

    I started out in b&w because in my case it was a club in school and for a couple of years we only did b&w in our darkroom. At the time colour was relatively new for the hobbyist, expensive and finicky. Yes, you can "see" or interpret in b&w just as others here have indicated. I think it's still an unconscious habit with me and with practice anyone can do it. Give it a try. If your camera is capable, switch it to b&w for a weekend and analyze every shot while you shoot. You'll soon start picking up the nuances. Cost and the time it took to get your photos back meant you had to better comprehend the basics. No instant picture, no chimping, no immediate adjust and reshoot. Adding the various coloured filters onto the lens added a whole new level as well.
    Last edited by Andrew1; 9th May 2013 at 04:14 PM.

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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    I found particularly interesting the posts of Manfred and Bill.

    I think I've never seen in B&W, and I probably never thought, before shoting, "this scene could be great in B&W".
    It's only when I try the conversion in PP that I decide if the result is interesting.

    But recently I started training myself in reading the scenes in terms of tones in order to get the right exposure. This self training is going ahead successfully and I see that I'm shoting more and more often using Manual settings, getting more and more something near the right exposure and, for sure, getting more fun!

    What I would like to understand better is: what are the elements of a scene that make you think "this will be a great B&W"? the subject? the texture? the lighting? or?

    Giacomo

    p.s. jcuknz, I try to figure out: the right half is the one in colour...

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    Clactonian's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by GiacomoD View Post
    What I would like to understand better is: what are the elements of a scene that make you think "this will be a great B&W"? the subject? the texture? the lighting? or?

    Giacomo
    Form, structure, contrast (read light) .... hope!!
    Last edited by Donald; 9th May 2013 at 03:51 PM. Reason: HTML bracket inserted

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by GiacomoD View Post
    What I would like to understand better is: what are the elements of a scene that make you think "this will be a great B&W"? the subject? the texture? the lighting? or?
    I always write it as - Line, Shape, Tone and Texture.

    And if you keep saying that to yourself as you look at a scene, you start to see it in that way. I am the evidence!

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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Giacomo, for me the subject is the first trigger for b&w and it just has to fit the genre as I personally perceive it. Tones and texture are equally as important and can occasionally take priority. No rules.

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    Re: Do you see a B&W?

    Robin and Donald... I'm in your club too! My wife hates B&W and will not even watch an old movie on TV if it is B&W.

    However, I think that the lighting and photography in the old B&W Hollywood films were absolutely great!

    I also like many B&W still images...

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