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>  forums  >  Photography techniques  >  B/W or convert?
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Larry Bliss 
B/W or convert?
31 May 2007 at 02:30 GMT
number of posts: 29
member since: 5 Mar 07
location: us

status: offline
This question came up in an email with another Shutterchancer, and I thought I would pose it to the group:

My digital camera has a black-and-white program. Should I use that when I want a monochrome image, or shoot color and then convert to B/W? I prefer to use the camera's B/W mode, as it shows B/W on the viewscreen.

Answers, anyone?
BeakerSt 
re: B/W or convert?
1 Jun 2007 at 17:38 GMT
number of posts: 107
member since: 10 Feb 06
location: uk

status: offline
I prefer to keep control over the processing and therefore take in colour and use CS2 to convert to B&W. I am guessing that this offers more flexibility rather than accepting the camera's interpretation of B&W which I assume is one algorithm for conversion.
Pilgrim 
re: B/W or convert?
12 Jun 2007 at 18:11 GMT
number of posts: 4
member since: 8 Jun 07
location: uk

status: offline
I tend to use the camera (Canon 30D) B&W mode and try to think of my subject in B&W just as I did all those years ago when shooting with B&W film. I think I have more success with when I do this than taking a shot in colour and converting. It gets me out of the mindset that if it doesn't look too good in colour then converting it will make it OK . At the end of the day it's all subjective - it's whatever works for you, maybe I'm just too set in my ways!
Jide Alakija  [admin] 
re: B/W or convert?
12 Jun 2007 at 20:07 GMT
number of posts: 46
member since: 16 Jan 06
location: uk

status: offline
That's interesting Pilgrim, I've never shot with b/w film before so how do you think is black and white?
Pilgrim 
re: B/W or convert?
13 Jun 2007 at 11:53 GMT
number of posts: 4
member since: 8 Jun 07
location: uk

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Sorry, but this may be a long answer............... first you have to have to really enjoy looking at B&W images and trying to understand why a particular image appeals to you. They aren't everyones first choice, especially now we are in the digital age and getting a really good finished colour print is relatively easy.

When I first got into photography (some 30 odd years ago) B&W was what really interested me. I also dabbled with colour slides a bit too. Colour print was just a nightmare trying to get a decent finished print - you could never repeat what you thought was a good print. I just found the whole developing and printing process of B&W film a great and rewarding experience. When I really got into the developing of the film and the subsequent printing of the negative produced and saw the results of playing around in the darkroom it made me much more aware of what I wanted when I pushed the button on the camera. It made me think much more about subject matter and would the picture I was taking actually turn out an interesting print and tried to imagine the scene in front of me as if it was B&W.

B&W doesn't suit all subjects - if you are into flowers or butterflies for example, B&W can never do them justice. On the other hand, if you like buildings, industry or street photography then B&W (to me) can make the image really stand out. I personally like contrasty images and I think these work really well in B&W - but softer images can work too such as a water/reflection in misty conditions. I'm afraid it's all down to what type of image really interests you. With experience (or luck) you soon start to appreciate what will work in B&W and what should be left to colour.

The point I was trying to make in my response to the original question was that for me personally, I would rather capture the image as a true B&W image rather than take a colour image then convert later. I know most of the experts say convert later because it gives you the colour image as well - but I'm afraid I don't agree on this one. I guess I am too set in my ways and will continue to look at my subject and think 'colour' or 'better as a B&W'?

After all that - I'm still not sure if I've answered your question. To me it seems a natural process, it could be I am in a majority of one. What do other SC-ers do?
Guest 
hey, I am just testing
15 Jun 2007 at 12:57 GMT
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bla bla bla..sorry, but your site didnt stop me !
Guest 
What happens now ?
15 Jun 2007 at 12:58 GMT
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Just wanted to see what happens now.

post replying to Jide Alakija's post:

>  That's interesting Pilgrim, I've never shot with b/w film before so how do you think is black and white?


Larry Bliss 
re: What happens now ?
18 Jun 2007 at 02:30 GMT
number of posts: 29
member since: 5 Mar 07
location: us

status: offline
Thanks, Pilgrim, for your thoughtful answer. I agree--there is something special about B/W--I associate from my days dipping print paper into smelly chemicals and seeing an image appear. Pure magic. I also agree with your assessment of what subjects are best for color and what are best for B/W... tho I have seen many fine flower images in B/W, particularly from the older photographers like Edward Weston. So maybe it's a thin line between what's suitable for color and what for B/W. I have shot what I consider some good industrial abstracts in color, tho the ones I shot on film were exclusively B/W.

It's a tricky decision, one that may have no final answer but simply lead to progressively interesting questions.
Pilgrim 
re: What happens now ?
18 Jun 2007 at 16:05 GMT
number of posts: 4
member since: 8 Jun 07
location: uk

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I have just re-read what I posted - and it does look long winded!! I think what I was trying to say was that eventually you get a feel for what works for you as an individual and your favourite subject matter and how you ultimately wish the image to appear. At the end of the day if you are happy with an image you have produced it doesn't really matter what others may think of it (although we all like our egos massaging!).
pixelpixie 
re: B/W or convert?
20 Jun 2007 at 21:22 GMT
number of posts: 83
member since: 6 Dec 06
location: uk

status: offline
This is a really good question to pose in the forum. I don't think I've got a b&w option on my digital (? shall have to look now!), would I use it if I did? If I hadn't had a good grounding in b&w photography beforehand, I think yes but because of lack of confidence in what would work and what wouldn't. I suppose this would be today's way of training the eye to see without colour to learn about composition, balance, light and tonal range etc, etc. Once you have that then it shouldn't make any difference to shoot in colour and convert for the reasons that Beaker St gives Like everything though, it's down to what suits us best.

But as for subject matter, you know b&w can work for anything. Imogen Cunningham did the most stunning b&w flowers as did Karl Blossfeldt.
She also produced outstandingly beautiful nude images in b&w too.
Patrick Krolis 
re: B/W or convert?
26 Jun 2007 at 03:57 GMT
number of posts: 88
member since: 12 Dec 06
location: sr

status: offline
In my opinion B&W can be used on all subjects, actually that is the way it was in the past. With an analogue BW background myself from the days I stated with photography, I think that BW actually forces the artist to look better at composition, tones, form etc. I myself used to talk in terms of seeing black and white when photographing. Times have changed though and when I am shooting with the intend to produce BW I do shoot BW in the camera. I always shoot RAW+JPEG, in this way get BW jpeg, but get to do the final conversion manually form the RAW image which of course remains colored. But it helps to see the results of what you are shooting. In the darkroom years ago I also would do a standard print,after developing the film,and then decide where to doge and where to burn to achieve the maximum effect.
Ade 
re: B/W or convert?,
7 Nov 2007 at 21:18 GMT
number of posts: 5
member since: 15 Mar 07
location: za

status: offline


was shooting a night at this bar with live band, and i was shooting all black and white with my camera (Canon 30D), it was giving a good feelling, i mean it made more sense to me instead of the color then converting, then this guy came, a photographer so i found out later that night, he said, why don't you just shoot in color and then convert to black and white if you want, i said nothing, then while switching back to color, my mood changes, until i changed back to my black and white... I'll take your opinion on that, it depend on what you, if one think taking a color picture that is not good, could turn out better in black and white, thought wrong, thing about black and white is, you get it right or never, you cannot add up, or remove from it like color, photoshop, cs' series helps with that, but not black and white

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