Colour? Or Black & White?

photography

I would like to try an experiment today: and I’d like your help. This week, Jude, of Cornwall in Colours, has set the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #226, and has asked us to focus on illustrating texture. I started browsing through my archives, and then I read Sarah of Travel with Me‘s contribution. She had decided to showcase her choices in monochrome, which she felt highlighted texture better than colour. I immediately agreed with her.

And then. I wasn’t so sure. Here are my choices, shown both ways. I’m not using WordPress’ Image Compare feature, which irritates me, as I can never see either image properly. Click on any image you would like to see full-size.

Let’s try a typical North Yorkshire landscape. It’s the drystone wall that interests me.

Near Grimwith, North Yorkshire

Or some grasses…

A field somewhere near home.

What about a slightly dilapidated farmyard shed?

Near Hovingham, North Yorkshire.

Or a farmyard hen?

A friendly neighbourhood hen.

Or a weathered wall in Newcastle?

Or an even more weathered olive tree in Greece?

One of the ancient olive trees of Agios Achillios

And then there’s the featured image of course, not shown in colour. Any guesses?

I’m offering this post to Bren too, for her Mid-Week Monochrome #115

And just one more final offering. Becky, for her #Walking Squares, has been out in all weathers. Let’s offer her the makings of a roaring fire.

102 thoughts on “Colour? Or Black & White?

  1. Colour for me all the way except maybe the hen. The feature image works well as an abstract – close up of feathers perhaps? I have a post about using black and white at the end of the month which you might like. I think the trick is to find images with a lot of contrast. For instance in the dry stone wall it loses the texture of the lichens in B&W. And the olive tree is fabulous, but in B&W loses definition. Or maybe I am being too harsh… others will most likely disagree with me πŸ˜‚β£ art is always subjective.

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    1. There! That’s why I missed you! You were so quick off the mark. Yes, contrast is obviously my issue with B/W. I’ll look forward to your post. And your first feature guess is better than your second πŸ˜‰

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  2. Beautiful images Margaret.. I think it all depends on the image, whether it is going to work in colour or black and white. Monochrome does enhance texture, however on saying that, monochrome can cause the image to lose some of the fine textures. What I normally do, especially if I am uncertain if it will work in monochrome, in Lightroom Classic I hit the V key to see the image in black and white. Then go from there.

    Images with a bland sky, sometimes work better in monochrome, especially if you don’t have sky replacement software.

    Thank you for joining in on the challenge. I don’t like chickens normally but this one does have a mischievous look in its eye.

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  3. Hmmm. Your examples certainly highlight how colour & monochrome can be used to focus our attention in a particular way. From the top then: header shot I think is feathers and for the purpose of texture b & w is brilliant. The wall – colour please. The monochrome shot had me think we were looking at a winter scene but it’s high summer! From the texture perspective the colour shot emphasises the wall more effectively. Grasses – a little trickier. The colour shot I think. Here we really see the mist as well as the textures in the cut field. Just as I think I’m leaning towards colour we have the shed. The monochrome is much more effective I think. Decay and atmosphere are emphasised but also the many textures of the various objects in the shot, a numer of which I wouldn’t notice if just looking at the colour version. Hen, olive tree and logs – colour wins. But weathered wall – black and white. So the jury’s out here. Great collection of shots Margaret.

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    1. Well, Sandra, thanks so much for such a detailed appraisal – I really appreciate it. And I often think of you, now you’ve largely disappeared from the blogosphere. I hope all is going (fairly) well.

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      1. The detailed appraisal makes up for the ongoing leave of absence. I’m still around when I can be and thank you, all is as well as it can be at the moment 😊

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  4. That’s a magnificent hen making a fabulous colour photo, much more engaging than the black and white version. I think it’s all about contrasts, and in particular contrasts at boundaries. Your photo of ‘a field somewhere near home’ is a great example of the dark tones in monochrome giving the photo overall more definition than the colour version. I guess it depends what you are wanting your images to convey, a stark quality (B&W) or a softer landscape the colour. For texture primarily, I think it is contrasts either between different colours and shades, or for monochrome the dark tones almost black, through to light tones almost white. As my photographer tutor would say ‘not all slightly different versions of grey, thank you’. Perhaps that’s why the texture of the weathered wall seems more defined in the monochrome. Anyway, each to their own, as we know we are all different.

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  5. I think the B/W will improve dramatically if you edit to increase the brightness by (roughly) 20%. Love the barnyard photo with the parade of fowl. It goes beyond a visual and conjures the sounds and smells of the farm and fields.

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  6. Colour for me too, except for the grasses and the barn. I find my eye less willing to engage with last three dark ones in b&w, although the weathered wall does seem more textural when you really look and the logs are more mysterious. But it’s rare I prefer b&w, because I enjoy seeing colours.

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  7. Firstly, thank you for the acknowledgement and link πŸ™‚ Secondly, I think most of your images work better in colour, as they currently stand at least. For one thing, you tend to stand back more from your subject rather than zoom in as I often do. So for instance the shot of the drystone wall stands out because of the bands of colour which are lost in the B&W version. And personally if I wanted to use the barn purely as an example of texture I would shoot (or crop) a close-up of just a small section which might well work better in B&W. Your (equally valid, just different!) choice of a wider shot works better in colour I think as the geese stand out better from the barn behind them – I barely noticed them in the B&W version. The Newcastle wall, Greek tree and cut timber could all work best in B&W but as Marian suggests above I would lighten them and I’d also boost the contrast to emphasise the textures. I think the top photo (chicken feathers?) is your best B&W example because it has that contrast of light and shade πŸ™‚ But the drystone wall is my favourite shot, not for its texture but for its colour!

    Sorry for the long spiel!

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    1. I really appreciate the effort that you, and other ‘real photographers’ are putting into commenting. I’m learning a lot. I can see I’m going to have to think about better software than that available on Google photos, which is definitely limited in its abilities. As to your guess. You are nearest but not correct. I’ll reveal all later!

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      1. I didn’t realise that. Try searching for free photo editing software and/or asking other bloggers for advice. I invested in Photoshop Elements (the cut-price version of PS) years ago when it was cheap! I’ve also dabbled with Luminar but am less keen (others swear by it however). Both cost money though. My husband uses the free software that comes with Windows and says it does everything he needs so you could check that out too perhaps.

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      2. I do use windows software, but am not thrilled by it. I’m just off to look at Gimp and Darktable, both suggested by Bren, although I’m sure the latter is above my paygrade!

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  8. A real dilemma here. The minus with colour photography is that the final colours are often not true to the original visual image. Of course there are other factors involved in that statement, such as the quality of vision of the photographer, and the viewer. Also the medium used to view such as (through the ages) the film used, the paper used, whether printed or viewed on a screen, whether a print or a slide, and so on to utter distraction.

    With monochrome I believe the secret is in the depth of field. The shallower the depth of field, the less definition will be achieved and the result will be a rather smudged effect of variations of grey. The outcome is also affected more by the intensity of light. A really good monochrome picture really knocks spots of a colour one in my opinion.

    Having said that, beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and thank goodness we do not all have the same preferences.

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    1. Peter, thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. You’re absolutely right. The medium is so much a part of the message. Even looking at one on, say, my laptop then my husband’s produces quite a different effect. Fine monochrome photos are unbeatable. The average colour photo often wins in those circumstances.

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      1. Quite right. Cropping is about my limit too – sometimes lifting or lowering the light levels. But I’m not a Propah Photographah, so have no prizes to hunt down and win.

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  9. For these examples the color images work much better for me. Your black-and-whites are too dark and lack the impact that good contrast and wide tonal range can bring. B&W is not an image with no color, it takes more than turning the saturation down. Using color filtering is a powerful tool for B&W. It used to be that Silver Efex (now a part of the DXO family) was the tool of choice for B&W artists. Not only does if offer a large number of “canned” effects, it allows pin-point adjustments of exposure and contrast. I find that I spend more time when processing a B&W than I do on a color image. B&W is a different art.

    Take time when exploring what you can achieve in black and white. A B&W image is an abstraction, you can bring out your feelings about the subject much more strongly. See the light, the shadows, the patterns the textures. But be careful, you might really fall in love with black-and-white. I have started a series “256 Shades” – you might enjoy it.

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    1. Speaking of wood, I was totally shocked to find the kiln dried packs I usually buy are now Β£8.75 – last time I bought them a month ago they were just over a fiver. I guess demand has gone up so someone is making a profit.

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      1. We have some old style metal bins with lids and so collect and keep in there throughout the year, and then the big logs eventually burn through – we often bring more than we need in for the first fire and leave the extra in front of the fire to dry off plus allow the spiders and other insects to move out!

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  10. My favourite picture is the black and white version of the grasses. That looks stunning. With the others, I’m not sure. I suppose, it’s mostly subjective. Ask ten people and you’ll get twelve opinions…

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  11. Flippin heck! By the time I got down here I’d forgotten what I wanted to say. Lots of people making valid points. You don’t need mine. I’d better go and see Sarah’s. Not enough hours in the day!

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      1. I know, and I’m so grateful to the bloggers who have taken time and trouble to provide thoughtful replies. And to you for starting all this off!

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  12. I’ve not read any answers. Your opening is a bird what kind I don’t know, maybe a chicken.
    For the most part I like your color versions better. But my favorite black and white the photo you took Near Hovingham. I had fun looking at your photos πŸ˜€

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  13. OK The opener is goose or duck feathers.

    I prefer the colour photos. The barn is good but you have lost the geese, they were superfluous anyway for the photo. It was either the barn or the geese as the focal point. The chook is a favourite but I am poultry biased.

    Most times I find it is better to take the photo in B&W as it will look like what you are after straight away.

    Lighten or darken, it is a mater of taste and subject. Robert from Germany uses a much more darkness as does Leanne in their photos

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  14. Aaahhhh, it depends … grasses and shed, I prefer monochrome. I cannot make up my mind about the hen – it works well as a b&w, I think, but I like brown chicken! The wood – it’s just a completely different photo. If you want stress the texture of the stone, it’s colour for me. But the very dark monochrome one is very stark and strong – but it doesn’t necessarily look like a stone wall, rather something polished.
    For all the others I prefer the colour.

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  15. You are a β€œreal” photographer, Margaret! Whether in black/white or in colour. What gives photographs texture for me, is in the story it tells. Where there is a story, viewers look closer, become curious, and then reflect upon how your story has meaning for them. Every photograph your presented today was a story.

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  16. Well good heavens Margaret – you sure got the juices churning with this one! A+ for generating such terrific comments. I was with Jude on the “feathers” guess for your feature so we were close enough I think LOL. As for color vs B&W, I preferred the color images but my thought would be to tone them down to a softer palette which would preserve their beauty but make them a bit less “in your face” as we say here in the states. Whatever option you choose they’re stunning choices. I absolutely loved the detail of your hen and the olive tree. Those MUST remain in color!!!

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    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I do find editing on the computer quite difficult. What looks in your face – (we say that too) at one angle is positively understated at another. But I do take your point. And whatever I did to that poor olive in B/W just didn’t work

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