A Question of Color

“It is the norm for street photography to be in black and white. People almost expect it to be in black and white. Personally however, I much prefer to shoot in colour and very rarely put out black and white images.”
–Chris Gouge from his new Street Photography Magazine piece, “Why I Shoot in Colour.”

I love this article (you can access it with the entire current issue for $4.99 here at the Newsstand: http://streetphotographymagazine.com/newsstand/ ) because I’ve thought about this a lot. I LOVE black and white images. I began shooting and processing in black & white as a teenager and have spent many very happy hours in the darkroom immersed in the magic of bringing the classic beauty of a black and white image to life, looking for the black blacks and white whites and gorgeous textures. Maybe because we see the world in color, the black and white world calls to us in a unique way.

But I do agree that excellence in Street Photography shouldn’t be defined or constrained by color.

It’s an interesting question and I’m always looking at images to see how they are best portrayed, such as these street photos from Paris. What’s your preference and philosophy? I’m interested to know.

Gina_Williams5Gina_Williams_black and white

6 Comments on “A Question of Color

  1. It’s great that you bring this up. Like you, I discovered and learned photography through black and white. Hard core. Photography for me was a Nikkormat, film developing, and paper printing–from start to finish. It’s what made me understand how to be technically ready for a shot, compose it, process it, print it and, eventually, learn how to begin anticipating things–which, incidentally, I think is one of the main components of street photography. Now there’s the question of colour. Personally, I like colour because it’s yet another parameter to consider. It ups the challenge and brings another dimension to an image. It doesn’t mean I don’t like B&W (I still do it now and again, and once did a whole series of street photography in Italy in B&W). But currently I focus on colour. Much of my street photography now includes colour as one of the main components, I think. There is one in particular, titled ‘Seeing Red’ on my blog, that is all about colour. So while I continue to shoot with the basics learned from my first stints in B&W, I now find a finish with use of colour. The one thing that B&W does accent over colour (for me) is the extra focus on shapes you get because of tone values and differences. However, I find it challenging (and therefore interesting) to integrate shape relationships while shooting in colour…

  2. Ah, thank you for commenting! I’ve been shooting for the most part with my little Fuji X100 set on black & white with yellow filter and I love the results. With the raw+jpg setting I have options. But I still love to go out with film, especially infrared. Infrared street film is something I haven’t yet tried. I look forward to reading your blog post “Seeing Red.” Occasionally I’ll give myself a color challenge or a texture challenge. Thx again.

  3. I find its more complicated to shoot colour, thats why i love it. I think; what will the colour bring to the image, look for contrasting colours ( cold tones vs warm tones ), what role will it play in the story.
    In case of images above; the colour image (for me) says a different story than the b&w – the red painted wall behind the main subject draws attention and associate with either passion or anger that relates to the two women in centre.
    However the b&w image simplifies the scene and i only look at the centre and there’s a feeling of despair/sadness that i get.
    So in the end i think it really depends on how YOU feel about a photo and what YOUR intentions were while taking it and what you’re trying to tell the viewer.
    Hope that helps 🙂

    • That’s GREAT! I love it, Yuri. I totally get what you mean about the despair/sadness. It would be really interesting to do a set of “mood” images based on classic color theory, along with the corresponding B&W’s.

  4. I believe that there is a time and place for black and white and a time and place for color. Too many people overdo b&w in my opinion because it is easy. And everything looks a little more in depth in b&w. Like the person above me has said, color is harder. It takes real knowledge of lighting, contrast etc to make a colored photo stand out against black and white. Great article! I will follow you 🙂

  5. I agree, Jake & maybe black and white is also overused because it’s considered “classic.” There is some amazing color work out there. Thanks so much for commenting. –Gina

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