Preference for Black and White?

Discussion in 'Talk About Anything Photography Related' started by Carl Hall, Sep 7, 2016.

  1. Carl Hall

    Carl Hall Member

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    I've noticed that a lot more black and white photos have been shared on this forum than colour photos; at the moment there are 32 black and white threads and only three colour. Just curious as to the reasons why people prefer to use black and white film over colour? Is it the look and tones of black and white that you love? Is it the ease of home processing combined with cheaper costs? Or is it because you like to wet print your photos?

    I've used a lot more black and white film than I have used colour so far, but that's mainly because I'm still very new to LF and the cheaper cost means that I can buy a lot more film to practice on (Fomapan 100 works out about 60p per sheet, compared to £4+ a sheet for Ektar). Also I find that home processing is much simpler with B&W and I can do it in a spare hour after work. Eventually when I've improved enough (so in about 30 years :D ) I plan to shoot an even mixture of B&W and colour, and would love to work with slide film as well.
     
  2. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    For me, I have concentrated on black and white for many years simply because of my colour blind issue. I would like to try some autumn colours with 5x4 but not been able to process them at home does slightly put me off as well.
     
  3. Stephen Batey

    Stephen Batey Well-Known Member

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    There are historical reasons - when I started, a 36 exp B&W 35mm film cost about £6 (allowing for inflation) and £36 for Kodachrome. Colour prints - because of the print cost - were more expensive than Kodachrome. It was cheaper to use B&W.

    That was then. Now I still prefer black and white, for the following reasons:

    1. More expressive. I can make major tonal and contrast changes and it still looks natural. Colour has comparatively little leeway.

    2. Easier to use. Colour adds an extra complication to manage - there are additional issues to consider in composition - again reducing freedom to interpret.

    3. No worries about the colour controlling where the viewer's eye goes. I can aim to control that whatever the subject by suitable changes. Colour conquers all in this respect, and you're limited by the subject. I prefer the freedom.

    4. Less dependence on lighting conditions. Contrast can be raised or lowered (and not just by development, but also by filters), which is one side of this. The other is that I can use B&W successfully in lighting conditions that would defeat me in colour.

    Summing up - greater scope for creativity and imposing my will on the subject to interpret it my way, rather than having to accept it "as is".

    As a PS, black and white films are sharper than colour films (only one emulsion layer - and, yes, I am aware of the exceptions to this! - rather than three) and I find that this does show to my eyes.

    Colour is after all just an effect in our minds and not an attribute of the world outside. We could (and some do) see colours differently, and some species see "colours" that we can't. It's no more natural than black and white.
     
  4. Mathieu Bauwens

    Mathieu Bauwens Active Member

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    I primarily do B&W 'cause I do my prints, this is far more expensive in color. Plus, after years in B&W it's really hard for me to "see" in color.

    And yes, color negatives are expensive...
     
  5. Alan9940

    Alan9940 Active Member

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    I think Stephen pretty much summed it up for me, too. I started shooting B&W film when I was 12 and when I became more serious about my photography in my early 20's, my dear wife bought me a book for Christmas; "The Portfolios of Ansel Adams." I was immediately taken in by his photography and decided that was the style of images (roughly) that I wanted to make. Got me a second job and saved my pennies until I could afford a 4x5 outfit. And, 40 years later I'm still at it!

    And, as others have said...it a cost thing, too. I shoot quite a bit of 8x10; one sheet of HP5+, for example, $5.50 US, one sheet of Velvia 50 $19.50 US. Therefore, I can do almost 4x the amount of work in B&W than I could in color. And, then there's processing...but, let's not go there! :)
     
  6. Carl Hall

    Carl Hall Member

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    Thanks for the replies guys, some thought provoking reading here. It's interesting that a lot of people use B&W because that's what they've always had and what they're used to. I grew up using digital cameras so have always had colour photos. It wasn't until I got into film about 2.5 years ago that I even tried using black and white film as a conscious creative decision, prior to that it had always been an afterthought in digital post processing to "see how it looked".

    I took some black and white photos of an old water mill yesterday evening, and the results are great, even though the conditions were pretty mundane. If I'd have used colour film the results would have been a bit dull to look at, but using B&W let me use the textures and tones of the scene without any mediorcre colours to interfere.
     
  7. martin henson

    martin henson Administrator Staff Member

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    Colour pictures are about colour, the most mundane image can be saved by its pallet, black and white is more demanding, its about texture, tone, contrast and in a lot of case mood.

    Colour never has interested me that much, I did have a stint of developing in C41 and printing the negs in my darkroom, it really never appealed to me strong enough to carry on using it, I love black and white imagery, I can put so much emotional feeling into the edit that's difficult with colour.

    We live in a world of colour, its nice to see it in shades of gray or even monotone, nothing to distract
     
    Mathieu Bauwens likes this.
  8. mono

    mono Member

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    I started photography some 50 years ago. Colour was too complicated (for me) then ;-)
    And I love that certain abstraction that B&W gives to me, so I stick to it.
    B&W just sings (to me).
     
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2016
  9. Ian-Barber

    Ian-Barber Administrator Staff Member

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    Do you have a website @mono
     
  10. mono

    mono Member

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    Ian,
    do you see my signature? ;-)
     
  11. martin henson

    martin henson Administrator Staff Member

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    Strange I don't see any links to web sites on my mobile but see them on the computer, will have to check that out Ian
     

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