To Be or Not to Be: Color vs BW

Often times we’re [photographers] not sure if to go with color or black & white when developing our images. Yet other times we let either of the aforementioned choices limit our creative vision and herein, lies the problem. Why limit ourselves to either or.

 

As I nurture my vision, I can’t help but think of the times in which I limited myself to just black & white because I thought it was the right thing to do for whatever philosophical idea I may have had on the subject. Well, in truth, there is no right or wrong choice but what our vision and our heart dictates.

Sometimes as I’m looking at my contact sheet in Lightroom certain images just pop straight out and boom — this one must black & white yet for some reason color doesn’t seem to just pop out right away. I don’t really know why and I don’t intend to have a magical remedy to know either but what I do know is, that in time and as your vision is continually refined things just become a lot clearer. For color work, I usually start from a preset [I have many] based on my vision and then start tweaking.

 

Who’s to say, its color or black & white — no one. Yet, we’ve auto programed our vision and brain to think black & white is the only way to go just because that’s how photography started. Yes, its true that the masters of this craft really carved out their vision in black & white but that’s not to say you have to do the same.

 

In the end, its all about how you feel about an image. Follow your vision and you’ll never be wrong.

 

Note

Both images were captured by the Lumix LX3 and processed in Lightroom 3 and Silver Efex Pro 2.

6 thoughts on “To Be or Not to Be: Color vs BW

  1. @Jorge “Color for me is a diamond in the rough and I just need to keep polishing it more and more”. Methinks you’ve polished it well because, for me, the colour version here is super. There’s a warmth in it that allows a really special feature in the scene to sing out loud: those two lines of nails. they get a wee bit lost in the B&W version, for my tastes.

    Recently I’ve been revisiting the originals of pictures I took several years ago to see how they turn out when they’re processed 2012 style. It’s fun to see how my tastes have developed!

    Great post, as ever – many thanks.

    1. Thanks for chiming Tom. Its very refreshing to process older images. I’m sure if I look back at early last year my processing would be radically different hehe but as we go through this journey its a blast noticing how we improve. Thanks for the color compliment, I actually like a few different color treatments like: the film look, the hipstamatic or instagram look which I suppose its a mix of Lomo with Cross Processing but either or is nice sometimes. Cheers.

      JL

  2. I don’t really strive for more color work anymore. It just doesn’t come naturally to me. With B&W I don’t think, it is just there. Some consider it limitations, for me it is just possibilities. Don’t push yourself.

    1. I hear that, I’m not really pushing myself but more so for the exercise of giving color “color” if you know what I mean. It’s a catch 22 but so is everything, I enjoy both but I always lean on bw. Thanks for chiming in Wouter.

      JL

  3. Great post! I have a similar process with my work. I instantly know if a photo should be black & white and how I’m going to process it (contrasty, soft, high key, low key etc.). 9 times our of 10 I get it right first time. The same cannot be said for colour!
    When deciding that I should go colour I embark on a session where I click on lots of different presets to see if they work. I just don’t have the same vision as I do when working in B&W. Something I feel I need to work on!

    1. Thanks! I suppose we all came up in similar manner. For me black & white comes naturally, I actually frame my shots in BW meaning my viewfinder is set to BW and I generally have an idea of how much contrast et al. I want but most of the time I’m going for a reproducible look that identifies my work as a whole. Color for me is a diamond in the rough and I just need to keep polishing it more and more. To be honest, I like both.

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