Color vs. Black and White

Monday, February 4th, 2013 9

A few weekends ago, on a sunny morning following a stretch of grey days, Tony and I decided to forgo our typical Saturday errand-running and head out to a local park. He wanted to see if he could spot a few birds that had been sighted in the area recently, and I wanted to take some photos (shocking, I know). I had been thinking about wanting to take some photographs in both color and black and white to do some comparisons, and this morning provided me the perfect opportunity. I packed up both of my SX-70s, one with Impossible Project PX70 film and one with Impossible Project PX100 film.

PX70_old_ShedCardoorBoth packs of film I shot with that morning were a little dated, but had been carefully stored in the refrigerator, so I wasn’t too worried about their age. I expected a few divots or spotting, and indeed I got both. But I sort of like the look of those anyway — there’s a reason I love film, especially instant film, after all. In our adventures, I found an old shed and a solo tree across the prairie landscape. Two things I love to shoot.

PX100_ShedCardoorAs the photographs developed, I took a quick look, felt fairly satisfied, and slid them into my camera bag. With each photo I shot, I decided “yeah, I like this one better.” I kept vacillating between liking the color image versus the black and white. Two weeks later, I find I’m doing the same thing.

PX70_old_LoneTreeOn the one hand, I see all these aspects of the color photo I prefer compared to its black and white counterpart. Then I look at the black and white photo I judged as inferior, and I find qualities in that one that I like better than the color image. Vacillating.

PX100_LoneTreeMaybe it’s the content that sways me to liking the color photo over its desaturated partner image. Does the shed look more “vintage” in black and white? Or maybe I think landscape is better in color, especially that blue sky. But didn’t Ansel Adams make black and white landscapes his hallmark?

PX70_old_OrangeMugI love color in my life — in my clothing choices, my home decor, my coffee mugs. Surely I would prefer the color photograph of my “live with passion” mug compared to the grey-scale version. Or would I?

PX100_Mug_blownEven after writing this post, I’m still vacillating.

What about you? Are you a “color photographer” or do you lean toward black and white? Or are you equal opportunity? Do content or other factors play into your preferences? I’d love to hear your thoughts. And link to some of your own photos — I’d love to see!

9 Responses

  1. Heather says:

    I struggle regularly with this very thing and I have the perfect example to illustrate.

    This is an abandoned house that I pass every day. On this day, it was overcast so I thought I’d stop for a few pictures. I posted a few from that day on my blog but this specific one continues to tug at my heart. I processed it in black and white first because I liked the moddiness of it. Then I got to wondering how it would look to process it as my eye sees it. Now I can’t decide and I’m grateful I don’t have to. I love them both equally for very different reasons.

  2. gordon says:

    I always forget about color in the winter and then rediscover it as soon as the snow melts.

  3. antonella says:

    I lean towards black and white, especially when I’m in a contemplative mood. I’ve been shooting colour negative too but when I know that I’m going out to photograph some particular subject (architectural details for instance) or when I have the right light (here in Ireland we don’t get it as often as I’d love to) I always load a black and white film.
    About the mug, I prefer the black and white version. It kind of expresses an emotion, a mood. It makes me admire the light (morning light?) more than look at mug per se.

    • Meghan says:

      Antonella — Thank you for stopping by my site and for leaving a comment. I agree with you about the mug–that the black and white allows you to appreciate the light more and does set a mood.
      Hope you visit again!

  4. Sergey says:

    Thanks for sharing these. I love the look of Polaroid photos and still shoot one my self. I have to admit that I like the color versions, just a personal taste for Polaroids. Keep up the good work.

    All the best,

  5. Usually the photo tells me what it wants to be. I know that probably sounds weird, but I always check to see if it looks better as a b&w when I am working on an image. If it jumps out at me in B&W, then so be it. I like the surprise of it.

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