I’m often asked how I decide between making an image black and white or color when shooting in digital. It’s a good question to ask. I can understand when a person starts to get confused about me as an artist. If you follow me on social media, or this blog, you will find both black and white and color photography. Many times the two are mixed together seemingly without rhyme or reason. It’s almost an unwritten law in the photography art world that says you should be one or the other. A color artist, or black and white photographer, don’t confuse your audience is the logic.
I have gone against this rule all my life. In fact, I don’t know of many artists that don’t shoot both. The confusion is that when an artist becomes famous for one genre or the other, the public assumes that’s all they do, because that is all they see. As an example, Ansel Adams did quite a lot of color work, especially in his early days working for magazines, but he is most famous for his large format black and white photographs.
In my early days shooting with film, I carried two identical camera bodies, one with color, and one with black and white. Today I usually have my digital cameras set to shoot both black and white jpegs, and RAW (color) files. Sometimes I will use the B&W jpegs, sometimes I will convert the RAW files to black and white, depending on what I’m looking for and which file will look better, keeping in mind dynamic range, filters I can use, and so on.
So my final decision as which genre to end up with is personal preference. I’m looking for impact, which version creates more drama (the wow factor) and which version better tells the story I’m telling visually. In rare instances I like both the color and B&W versions, so I make both. I don’t like to limit myself when it comes to creativity.
When I shoot film, I shoot predominantly black and white, but … there are those occasions when I’ll slap a roll of color in the camera. The reasons for doing that are as simple as getting a wild hair, or as complex as lighting and subject matter.
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Happy Shooting … Lee