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I am interested in people's opinions on what works best - color or monochrome
Old 12-14-2019   #1
peterm1
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I am interested in people's opinions on what works best - color or monochrome

During this weekend I made some photos at a local food market and processed some of them in both black and white and in color. I have had this problem before: While I pretty much like both versions, I am interested in others' views on which versions work best to their eyes.

The colors are pretty sumptuous so they seem to work fine from that viewpoint. But so are the tones pretty good. So B/W works too. Needless to say the pretty subject helps greatly too. As usual with me, I played around in post as I am much more interested in artistic feel and emotional impact than in veracity or technical perfection in the imagery.

To a disinterested observer though which have most emotional impact? Honest feedback appreciated. Thanks.



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Old 12-14-2019   #2
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Hi Peter. I prefer images 1 and 3 in B&W while image 2 looks better in color for me. I am not used to B&W images but this is what I am seeing here.
Some extra PS touches may make the decisions easier.
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Old 12-14-2019   #3
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I prefer the color versions of all the images. Most of the color content in these photos is limited to her skin, clothes (especially the nice red of her apron) and headwear. It provides contrast against the out of focus, blue-tinted background, which does not create distraction away from the lovely subject.

When background colors overwhelm, I often prefer monochrome. Alternatively, I desaturate the background in post.
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Old 12-14-2019   #4
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Peter: Whenever someone asks for an opinion such as this, my first question is how they will respond to the comments. Most time I tend to not respond for this very reason. You are one of the few that I think can really deal with the responses.

You have a unique post processing technique with the reduced color saturation, lowered contrast, or whatever you do. It really suits your style. In fact, it defines it. That seems to really blur the difference between a color photo and a monochrome one to my eye. The differences from you post processing are subtle technically but the viewer impact is significant.

After much viewing and thought I tend to favor the color but that is a bit of a 51/49 decision. That is based on your post processing working better with color simply because it has more difference than monochrome.

I will also add that the negative scratches and scum at the bottom of the third frame are not up to your normal perfection standards. I wouldn't say that to 99% of the posters here but you can accept it.
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Old 12-14-2019   #5
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I think that they both look great. I hardly ever shoot color and have a strong bias towards b&w, so much so the only digital M I use is a M9M. In this case though, I think the mood of the subject is better conveyed with a color image.
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Old 12-14-2019   #6
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Hi Peter, I like the bw but prefer the colour for the same reasons given by ellisson.
BTW it would be easier to compare if the images were smaller so they could be viewed at the same time on a monitor. As it is I had to scroll up and down a lot.
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Old 12-14-2019   #7
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Hi Peter.

I prefer the color versions, especially in sets 1 and 3.

In the monochrome versions of sets 1 and 3, the skin tone of the model is too close to that of the large object in the background, so the model doesn't stand out as well as she should. That uniformity of gray tone (between the model's face and the object in the background) also reduces the sense of depth in these images.

Even without the background distraction, I think the model stands out better in color set 2, as well, though I think this one is the most successful monochrome image of the three.

I also find the muted color as more successful and more representative of your excellent photographic work.

- Murray
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Old 12-14-2019   #8
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It's simple , they're both gorgeous ! Peter
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Old 12-14-2019   #9
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In general I usually prefer b&w but in this setting
the ‘Color’ work is more Appealing, has more subtleties, catches the eye and draws the viewer closer
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Old 12-14-2019   #10
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I like both. Peter has a special way of seeing things in his images.
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Old 12-14-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raid View Post
Hi Peter. I prefer images 1 and 3 in B&W while image 2 looks better in color for me
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I agree.

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Old 12-14-2019   #12
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It is difficult to see things clearly on a computer monitor or phone screen.
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Old 12-14-2019   #13
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First two, one image has quality. Rest four are for garbage bin snaps.

Not sure why it is in wnw.
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Old 12-14-2019   #14
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Thank you very much everyone for your inputs to date. More please if others wish to contribute. I value every one of your opinions - one of the nice things about this forum is that people are knowledgeable and skilled in their own photography and nice to interact with. But we are all different too in preferences, style, approach, interests etc.

As some would already know ( because I keep banging on about it ) I generally shoot in color then process my images and only some (a relative few) make it to black and white. But mostly I like color (or my interpretation of color) and only the images that for one reason or another do not look right in color will be processed as a monochrome.

But when I took these pictures, though I liked them very much in color (especially the young lady's beautiful skin and her head scarf and red braces) but I could see that the images would probably look as well or better in black and white. This was very unusual for me. I must admit I have pretty much put this down to one thing and one thing only - the lovely rendering of the Olympus 75mm f1.8. But it left me in a bit of a bind in that I had color shots I liked and black and white ones I liked too. Which is what set me thinking - how will others react to these. Will they like one over the other or both. Or neither. Everyone is different in their preferences.

It is nice that people seem to like my work in general but I am serious when I say I am completely prepared for the fact that some may not. Personal taste in imagery is a very personal thing. For me, I mainly shoot to please myself. If someone finds an image or my entire style unappealing and not to their taste, I am a big boy and have no problems with that. (And Bob thank you for noticing that about me I try to keep my ego in check in such matters).

As Lynn says I do think that the color in these is especially nice (again - the subject and the lens?) but I do think my preference towards color in these shots is probably 51/49 in my case as Bob Michaels says.

Some (CMur12) have pointed out that the tones in some black and white images are very close between the skin tones and the background. True. I have been experimenting with more soft mid tones lately when I produce black and white rather than harsher high contrast tones which is often popular amongst street photographers. This is not due to me failing to adjust tones when I convert to mono, but rather is a considered approach because I am looking for a new "softer" style that mimics the low contrast rendering of early and mid 2th century photos. But I will think more about this issue going forward and how to handle it better (I tend to rely quite a bit on vignettes and bokeh to differentiate and while this can work beautifully maybe I am overdoing it sometimes). But photography is an adventure and it's about learning and I am constantly experimenting with refining my approach or with discovering new styles to find something that works for me.
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Old 12-14-2019   #15
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Peter,

To preface my comment, I get that you are needing distance from your canvas hence this exercise.

I generally feel that if color for some or any reason enhances the core of what the image is about, it should be a color image. I really like the way your desaturation woks on some of your other imagery more than what I see in this particular set. I respond quickly to everything that needs to be said in the B&W renditions as you presented them here.

Additionally the desaturation in your processing (I loved reading Bob Michaels post and description above is for me more effective as a technique for color images, so I would prefer to see these B&Ws with more contrast and wider palette myself. Having said that, and I see above you even addressed that, your technique also sets you apart here in a positive way, so I hope but also imagine you'll factor that in!

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Old 12-15-2019   #16
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Colour distracts; it takes the eye away from form. I agree that these are nice colour images, but for the most part I prefer to concentrate my vision on her face, whereas colour pulls me into the ambience of a scene. Number 1 is particular effective in b&w.
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Old 12-15-2019   #17
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Colour. That head scarf is much easier to enjoy and then dismiss in colour. The black and white makes it too much of a feature, paradoxically, as the tones are more contrasted and it seems like content to be interpreted.
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Old 12-15-2019   #18
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For these pics, color. They really pop. In the b&w versions there is too little contrast between the subject and the background... a bit too blurry and hazy. Thanks for sharing! OtL
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Old 12-15-2019   #19
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As large images in their own right, I preferred colour in the first image and b&w in the other two, especially the third.

First image generates a shared, empathic feeling of the warmth and light. The other two are more observational - a passing snap in the second, and quite a close portrait of a quiet moment in the third.

As smaller images on a web page surrounded by text, colour is more striking.
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Old 12-15-2019   #20
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All the images are good.

I prefer the skin tones in the color images.

I prefer the head scarf in the black and white images.

I love the model in all the images.
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Old 12-15-2019   #21
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I vote color.
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Old 12-15-2019   #22
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This is a really interesting mix of responses here and though there are of course some similarities in how different people vote in some instances it also says a lot about personal differences in how people see images and what they prefer. Which I suppose is partly based on their expectations. I am not sure it helps me decide for myself what I like, but then again that is not so important. What I think it does do is convince me that after years of focusing on color I need to once more begin to think about converting more images to black and white more often, to improve and perhaps perfect more that side of my shooting and processing. It probably won't be 50/50 in image output but I can see that I could get it up to 75/25 at least.

One other thing it has convinced me of, if I had not been convinced already is that I personally rather like a "softer" rendering whether in color or black and white. Something perhaps that aims to have more of an analogue-like character. I guess I am just a little over the pin-sharp technical perfection that digital technology in particular is capable of, so much of my processing has been, and will probably remain, doing things like adding grain, reducing contrast, adding texture overlays, adding a touch of blur and glow etc to make something with a few deliberate imperfections of the sort that adds to the eye appeal. "Painterly" is perhaps a better description. All of the images in this thread have had that done to some extent with the most obvious example being the last one in both color and mono where there are some obvious texture overlays. It is not something I necessarily want to do all the time but in this image for some reason I rather liked the feel of an old print that had being paying about in a drawer for a long time fading and getting scratched up. Just a bit of fun I suppose.
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Old 12-15-2019   #23
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I feel more of an immediate connection with her, in color. The black & white seems more distant and abstract.
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Old 12-15-2019   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rob-F View Post
I feel more of an immediate connection with her, in color. The black & white seems more distant and abstract.
I think that is absolutely true Rob. I find the same.

Though I suspect, that it is in the nature of black and white imagery generally. Black and white rendering somehow abstracts the subject and makes for a less immediate feeling of "being there". Well, not "somehow"- it has to be because real life is in color, so a color image makes it easier to connect to the subject. Particularly when the subject is attractive and wearing exotic and colorful clothing I guess.

But more generally an example that comes to mind is when old portrait photos of people taken say, at some historical event that is far distant from our experience - for example during a battle in WW1 or in the American civil war are colorized. My experience is that this immediately makes me relate to the subject more. They are not just subjects in an historical photo. They are people like me.

It's useful for me that you stated your view in these terms because it made me realize that part of my confusion over which image I preferred is that these two mediums intrinsically perhaps, have different purposes. A color image is about making a more immediate connection. A black and white image is more about pure tones and how they relate to each other and hence is a more abstract thing. In other words tour post forced me to think more about what I am trying to achieve.
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Old 12-15-2019   #25
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Glad that was helpful. I guess another way to say it is, with the color shot, I'm seeing a person. In black and white, I'm seeing a portrait.
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Old 12-15-2019   #26
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Peter, my impression is that the B&W images are B&W versions of your color images. As in, the color images were processed to reflect your normal tastes and that they were then converted into B&W.

My thought is that, for greatest success in B&W, you may need to start with the raw or base file and work the B&W image from there. With time and experimentation, you may come up with your own equally unique interpretation of B&W.

In other words, my thought is that you might want to divorce your B&W process from your color process and render them two separate and distinct processes. This could truly open up a new creative vision and expression in B&W.

- Murray

PS. By the way, this is a great thread. Thank you for having the courage to post it.
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Old 12-15-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CMur12 View Post
Peter, my impression is that the B&W images are B&W versions of your color images. As in, the color images were processed to reflect your normal tastes and that they were then converted into B&W.

My thought is that, for greatest success in B&W, you may need to start with the raw or base file and work the B&W image from there. With time and experimentation, you may come up with your own equally unique interpretation of B&W.

In other words, my thought is that you might want to divorce your B&W process from your color process and render them two separate and distinct processes. This could truly open up a new creative vision and expression in B&W.

- Murray

PS. By the way, this is a great thread. Thank you for having the courage to post it.


Murray you are quite right in that these ones were B&W conversions of already images already quite highly processed in color. That was a judgment call by me incidentally not me being lazy. (Or expressed another way, not me just being lazy )

I do not always do that with all of my B&W conversions - some get their own B&W workflow "ab initio" as the lawyers love to say....i.e. from the get go. But it is also not unusual for me to convert an already processed image if I think that processing will work and contribute something to the final B&W image and of course if I personally like how it renders in the final B&W image when I see it.

I take on board what you say however as its a very sound point. Perhaps I need to be giving my color images and my B&W images whole separate treatments more often. I can see that it would most likely have me arrive at a different result for those images.
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Old 12-15-2019   #28
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I genuinely prefer the colour, but I do admit to a strange perception of colour conversion to B&W being something I really don't like when I do it myself, which I suspect also affects my perception of others doing the same.

It's funny also that I like it when you process in what I call the imperfections of film like scratches, but I absolutely get triggered by scratches and dust on genuine film images.

Ignore me...
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Old 12-15-2019   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CharlesDAMorgan View Post
I genuinely prefer the colour, but I do admit to a strange perception of colour conversion to B&W being something I really don't like when I do it myself, which I suspect also affects my perception of others doing the same.

It's funny also that I like it when you process in what I call the imperfections of film like scratches, but I absolutely get triggered by scratches and dust on genuine film images.

Ignore me...
Interesting thoughts, Charles. While I do not mind converting to B&W, an already processed color image (obviously), like you, I also do not mind imperfections like scratches being layered in. For the life of me I cannot figure why I rather like it now and then (I know many including perhaps many here will hate it as being a kind of artificial digital affectation - and in that they are not wrong. It is). But when I do it I have an internal battle - Do I / Don't I? Then more often than not go "Oh damn it, I will leave it in, despite my doubts I quite like how it looks."

But I still cannot figure out why I think that. I suspect it is just because A far as I am concerned, eyes are to pictures what ears are to music. If I process an image and think it looks good that is enough reason for me to stick with that result.
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Old 12-16-2019   #30
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My thoughts are that choosing color or black&white should be a simple decision of the photographer.
Like choosing a film and go on with it.
There are so many different courses you can set in both worlds and so many different expressions which are the results.

When I take some time to look at every single picture of your set I find a lot of arguments to vote for one or the other version.
At the end the question is what the photographer wants to pronounce.

The culture, love for life (more color) or the shapes and the light?
Only examples to explain, various terms could be added here.

When I have to decide between two versions of my own pics I always try to keep it short.
And my comfort is that 99,9 percent of all pictures have a unknown counterpart in the monochrome or chromatic world

Along the way of the main discussion Id like to say that you have got wonderful pictures of a wonderful woman here
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Old 12-16-2019   #31
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Peter, personally I think the B&W images work better here.

P.S. There's no point in linking 3310 x 4408 pixel image files, when the forum software will just shrink them down to 1024 pixels on the horizontal side anyway after the large files have downloaded. You could reduce our collective download times by linking 1024 pixel images on the long side to start with.
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Old 12-16-2019   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jonmanjiro View Post
Peter, personally I think the B&W images work better here.

P.S. There's no point in linking 3310 x 4408 pixel image files, when the forum software will just shrink them down to 1024 pixels on the horizontal side anyway after the large files have downloaded. You could reduce our collective download times by linking 1024 pixel images on the long side to start with.
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Yes sorry about the image sizes. Normally if I have images hosted at Flickr it gives me a choice of the size of the image I link to a forum / bulletin board and my practice is to link a 1280 or 1600 pix max side length. But these images happened to be hosted elsewhere and because RFF downsizes the display size I had not appreciated the hosting site I used here actually defaulted to the full sized image for its linking mechanism. In fact it does not even give an option to D/L smaller images if I recall correctly. Something for me to remember in future when using that site.
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