Black and White

I'm not really surprised at the proliferation of black and white images today, I must depart from some of the tones in the language some photograhers use to describe themselves and the b&w images. And this always leads me to ask them the same question, "So, did you shoot the original in b&w film or digital, or merely convert or desaturate a color image to black and white?"

I've often heard, "It doesn't make any difference.", or asked, "Why does it matter?", to which I say it does, not because I'm a curmudgeon about this issue, but because it's about the original image and the photographic thought process to produce it. It's nothing I'm inventing, it's the traditional difference between b&w and color images of the past 50 or so years. I'm only keeping it going as I see photography.

Am I right? No. Are they right? No. There is no right or wrong, and it's not a semantic difference either, or a debate about which is better. It's a difference of the field work. When you're standing behind the camera, you think differently when shooting color or b&w, you have to look in terms of shades of gray and not color. The old Zone System and its variants don't have value to be thrown away by Photoshop.

And if you don't buy the argument, test yourself. Buy a few rolls of black and white film and go shoot, or turn your digital camera picture mode to monochrome and go shoot. Then view the images. What did you do to think in terms of black and white? What did you miss? What was the challenge to produce an interesting black and white image?

While many photographers don't see or see and dont' care about the difference, there is a difference to me between a photographer producing black and white images and a black and white photographer. You can be both, but it's in the original image and thinking that matters.

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WSR V2.8, January 2013