A Difference in View: The Aspect of Color

Last weekend I strolled through the city and captured an early carnival event. A strange experience, though – because I worked for newspapers and agencies for more than ten years, including the annual coverage of all kinds of carnival processions. Reason enough that I refused to take any photographs of the carnival season for a long time. Nothing could be less funny for a photographer than being stuck in the middle of a crowd in masquerade, surrounded by people having fun grabbing for camera gear or showering photographer and lenses with beer. Completely unexpected I regained the joy of photographing people in colorful costumes, on the streets. And certainly I’ll be back and into new discoveries this carnival season!


A rather interesting thought struck me, when I came back to the office and started into my choices among a dozen photos. I found myself torn between the different possibilities of color and black and white. Partly I still wonder which one I prefer. The colorful above? The B&W below? Same photograph, different edits, same situation; both are identical in lighting and crop, they show a joyous moment of sound and music. The first photograph is focused on color and costumes; it’s a nice shot of a street scene, with a slight reduction in saturation. The second B&W image turns into something completely different: It is not about outward appearance, it is about people, gestures and atmosphere. Additionally the absence of color leaves enough space to inspire the beholder’s imagination. In some ways this means for me a peaceful rest amidst tons of technicolor pics of any provenience.

The reason why I finally prefer the black and white version of the image: Since my photographic education at Lette Verein Berlin I’m addicted to B&W photography. „A bright white with still visible structures, a dark black with still visible structures as well“ were the parameters of perfection in printing. These skills were the basis for my first newspaper assignment: The former picture editor saw my portfolio prints, handed me without any explanations some negatives and asked me to print them for him. Cropping, dodging and burning, with all those darkroom tricks I managed intuitively to print exactly what he wanted to have. I got the job and always had my own darkroom at my office. It was only after I started with digital photography that I didn’t print myself anymore.

After years of experience in printing and editing on the computer, I now produce the same high quality of B&W as in my former darkroom time. My colleague and dear friend Charlie, who prints now my photos, is a true genius: To know each other for more than 20 years means also to know the idea of every single image, my intention and personal style and – as a result – the way how each photo has to be printed.

Now it’s up to you: What are your ideas about color and B&W? Do you prefer one of them? What are your individual reasons? Do you make a difference in view, concerning the aspect of color? I’m looking forward to your opinions and suggestions; please feel free to comment!

Photo: ©HeikeRost.com, 19.01.2013 – All rights reserved.

  6 comments for “A Difference in View: The Aspect of Color

  1. 21. Januar 2013 at 21:30

    I`d go for the color one. The colors match nicely, they are melting in with each other. And the guy in the middle gets the focus by his tender orange jacket. Color and action work well together.

    • Heike Rost
      21. Januar 2013 at 21:33

      Thank you! Happy to read you here!

  2. 21. Januar 2013 at 21:33

    … well i suppose i never ever discovered that very tall guy with the glasses in the background if it was coloured. Only in the B&W-version he literally jumpd into my face! For the rest i was suffering trombones for so many years as member of the reed section in different big bands – i don’t like Jericho any more!

    • Heike Rost
      21. Januar 2013 at 20:41

      With a smile: I consider the view on details much clearer in the B&W-version. A kind of „mind walk“ within the image …

  3. 22. Januar 2013 at 06:25

    Tough one. For your photo above, I’d say the black & white one is the one I’d prefer – its final rendering and quality (in a print?) just looks perfect for/to me.

    But as a general rule? I don’t think there are many things that could be generalized. May I point to two of my own examples for an explanation? I also took some local carnival photos at some time, and while the one at http://www.flickr.com/photos/wjlonien/5499963325/in/pool-1606966@N24/ would most probably also be better in black & white, I’d really hate to lose the colour in http://www.flickr.com/photos/wjlonien/5500651306/in/pool-moerfelden-walldorf this latter one. It’s a question of light, subject, intention, maybe even feelings you (as a photographer) put into the image (or subject). Hard to explain, and then I’ve made some really nice black & white ones of cute young women when I was much younger myself (like some 30 years ago or so).

    But thanks for bringing the thoughts back.

    • Heike Rost
      22. Januar 2013 at 08:23

      Not a general rule, but a passion: Time to consider on every motive whether it works out better in color or B&W. And frankly – I’ve seen too much color photographs turned into B&W via „it’s just a click away in PS“ … with a terrificly gone wrong result. Lack in composition is a threat for every photograph; but B&“W unveils it in a very evident way.
      I remember a lot of digital photos in my archive, which started as 4C – as I absolutely avoid using the B&W mode of any camera system while shooting (except Leica M Monochrome, but this is really something else!). The decision whether color or B&W is an individual one, but I clearly know and feel – while taking the photo – that it simply has to be a B&W one (exceptions prove the rule, as usual …).
      All begins with seeing and a photographer’s decision about the photo itself, even before taking it. And as mentioned above, editing isn’t a one click solution. There’s a long way from RAW/DNG to excellent quality, either in data or in final printing. Failure included, as every editor knows the frustration of missing gray scales, eliminating fine tones „by accident“ etc.etc. 😉
      And I feel really happy and deeply grateful to know my colleague Charlie. There’s nothing better than two people who are not only experts in photography and editing/printing, but also great buddies and – friends for years. Call it „the human factor“ as a strong basis for everything. 😉

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