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Street Photography and Back & White

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by knikki, Oct 11, 2015.

  1. knikki

    knikki Mu-43 Regular

    34
    Sep 28, 2015
    Up North, UK
    Street Photography is not something I do, well have tried it but not quite got the hang of it.

    I do like looking at the threads that have them but one thing that does puzzle me is why do so many people make them black and white?

    The world is a colourful place and people are colourful so why make them B&W (excluding portraiture and fine art)?

    Is it homage to the likes of Vivian Maier or Caritier Bresson?

    I mean lets be fair, an image that is well, not great, is not going to be saved by making it B&W and yes I have tried the same trick and need up binning the image.
     
  2. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Well, I am a proponent of B&W street photography, even though I frequently use color. Color can be distracting and clashing. Personally I feel that if the color doesn't actually contribute in an artful or harmonious way, we ought to take it out a little more often than most modern digital photographers do.

    Although I will say, there are those who claim if it's in color it's not street. Those people are morons.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    my personal viewpoint is that with street photography, and indeed many other genres of photography, it is not about just reproducing faithfully what you see in front of you , but more about attempting to extract and emphasise from the world in front of you a moment, a juxtaposition, an interaction, a contrast, a relationship or maybe even an action.

    This often involves paring away all the extraneous information in order to focus your audience's attention on what it was that you saw in the moment. Removal of colour can often aid this, as can cropping, composition and choice of viewpoint or indeed choice of focal length.

    The reasons for presenting an image in B&W can be many... sometimes it covers up odd effects of mixed lighting and shooting at high iSO, other times it allows you to manipulate the tones to emphasise a composition, sometimes it better suits the mood of the image.

    And yeah sometimes its an attempt to evoke the qualities of past photographers.

    cheers

    K
     
  4. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    As a followup, here is a practical example of my way of approaching picture taking and the decision to present the final result in B/W.

    Its not a streetshot, as I am in a very sunny and colourful Hawaii at the moment, and I don't have many original shots in my library, but hopefully you get my drift.

    This is the original shot

    P9140031 - Version 2.

    and here is what i did to pare away the extraneous information

    P9140031 - Version 3.

    and finally the B/W version, which to me , by removing the colour emphasises more the shapes, particularly of the spray.

    P9140031.

    hope this makes some sense

    cheers

    K
     
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  5. tyrphoto

    tyrphoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    May 25, 2014
    Seoul | NYC
    ㅇtㅈyㅅr
    For me, choosing to convert an image to monochrome or keeping it in color almost always is a matter of whether color is important to the scene versus the subject matter.

    The reason why a lot of street photography is done in B&W is to avoid the "distractions" of color when viewing the image and therefore focusing on the subject matter and the story behind the image. Of course, there probably are quite a few that do it for other reasons.

    Of course, there are times when color may be vital to a street photograph and there are those who choose to shoot only in color. There is no right or wrong. For anyone that reiterates these stupid rules of "street photography has to be B&W" or "street photography has to be shot on film" are just plain and simple idiots.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
  6. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 Top Veteran

    758
    Jun 4, 2014
    Maryland
    Loren
    I actually really liked the color crop. It framed the surfer and the spray well, and I don't think the blues, whites and blacks were busy enough to be distracting. They give a better sense of context, and they contrasted nicely enough to accentuate the spray. Just my opinion...

    I can understand the point for street photography, though. If you are trying to capture human emotion or condition in a spontaneous moment, an environmental feature like color could be extraneous. As I'm more interested in nature photography, I generally prefer to use color for the exact opposite reason, unless I too am trying to isolate something other than color (for example, texture or shadowing). That's one great thing about photography. It's exacting techniques that can be applied in any number of varying styles and intentions.

    But... And this is no criticism of anyone here or anything already said... Sometimes techniques are overdone, or used to try to embellish an otherwise pedestrian shot. Certainly there are plenty of examples of this in b&w street photography. If I went out and inexpertly shot street photography, then processed it in b&w, it wouldn't automatically make it good. I think the same complaint photographers have with tone mapping, for example, could also be applied to b&w, if it weren't for the almost holy status b&w has in many circles. I'm not saying tone mapping and b&w are the same, just that they can be equally misused.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2015
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  7. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    Loren

    I agree that there is not much between the crop versions - but it was the best example I had on hand...

    I agree that many techniques can be overused, and that applying a technique, or indeed a particular brand of camera or type of lens does not always lead to a successful image.

    To me the content of an image and how it is presented to the viewer is more interesting than the techniques used to achieve it.

    K
     
  8. Ricoh

    Ricoh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    906
    Nov 2, 2013
    UK
    Steve
    We see in colour, black and white makes a refreshing change.

    A dominant colour in a 'street' shot can be distracting, especially at the edge and more so if it's not balanced compositionally. However, when converted to a tone , an annoying colour can be adjusted to help balance the image.

    Although colour is generally distracting, there are exceptions, eg street shots of people with dyed hair, red, green or blue for example. Or colourful umbrella shots.

    And, as a side note, Leica make the M246 (oh, what lust!) and they clearly know what they're doing, so shooting B+W must be right. :)
     
  9. knikki

    knikki Mu-43 Regular

    34
    Sep 28, 2015
    Up North, UK
    OK I understand now why people convert some images to B&W, suppose doing Street and shooting from the hip means you can't always frame the shot as you want so the distracting colour could be an issue.

    Think I am going to load up some B&W film this week and explore it some more :D
     
  10. Ricoh

    Ricoh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    906
    Nov 2, 2013
    UK
    Steve
    I always frame as much as possible. Shooting from the hip is, and looks, rather sneaky.
    It may be counter intuitive, but strangers are less inclined to throw a wobbler if you're honest and open. One of the most important things I've learnt is not to look at the person(s) you've photographed, in the eyes especially. Take the shot and calmly move on, they'll be confused and look around wondering what you were photographing. Equally counter intuitive: get in close, it's less likely to get a reaction from the public.
     
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