Seeing Black and White In Color

Separation Anxiety, Mono by Jann Alexander ©2014
Separation Anxiety, Mono by Jann Alexander ©2014

Separation Anxiety by Jann Alexander ©2014
Separation Anxiety by Jann Alexander ©2014

I see in color. I shoot in color. I dream in color. So I rarely give black and white photography a thought, until I come across some compelling work that makes me wonder, how would this have differed in color? How would the viewer’s impressions have differed?

Still, color lures me too much to ever want to shoot in black and white intentionally. Unless challenged—as I am once a month by Sally Donatello’s challenge to share my black and white work. Challenges, of course, push us to try new things and learn from them, and my experience is no different. As I compared the two images, I gave a good deal of thought to the changes in compostion, focal points and even the mood when a color image becomes black and white, despite the fact that the image was one and the same.

Which takes me back to my questions about color v. black and white. I’ve answered the first by sharing a color and black and white version of the same image. So I hope you can answer the second:

How do your impressions of the color and the black and white images differ?

Both images were edited using iOS 8’s new editing options on my iPad Mini. Edits to the color image included contrast, shadow detail, highlight emphasis and color saturation. The Mono image filter was applied to create the black and white image, with a boost in temperature for warmer blacks and greys. Read more about editing images with iPhone and iPad apps and Adobe Lightroom HERE. 

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18 thoughts on “Seeing Black and White In Color

Add yours

  1. The black and white looks more sinister or foreboding to me. I also have a realllly hard time with black and white, and not using color all the time. But! Sometimes, when I do go the black and white route I surprise myself. It’s a conundrum.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Conundrum! Great way to look at it. Great that we can choose so easily now. When I started shooting, it was a commitment: Tri-X and the darkroom, or Kodachrome 64 and the color lab?

      Agreed, the black and white has a more sinister feel. That’s the mood you can get with monochrome, sometimes, not always. Thanks for your insights. Nice to hear from you.


  2. Yes, I was a Tri-X devotee too. I happen to be one of those individuals who are enamored with black and white. The monochrome focuses on key elements that bring s specific story that can be missed or not apparent in color. We are so used to our technicolor world that it can often distract. I actually am drawn more to your monochrome, because it conjures a more layered image, including the design of the building with the smokestacks all lined up like guardians. The interesting thing about the color is the way the stacks reflect the blue of the sky. Happy Photo Challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sally, thanks, great to get another viewpoint. Monochrome surely makes the image clear, and whether it can stand alone without color is its test . . . Indeed, it clarifies. I’ll admit to being not so happy in the darkroom. I preferred the — light!!


    1. It does look modern, in the sense that black and white photography strips away the frippery of colors and leaves the essence of the image, to sink or swim on its own. Thanks for your comment, and causing me to think a bit more about the value of one medium over another.


  3. I think B&W can feel retro (for those of us who remember when there was only B&W), sinister (depending upon subject or just how the viewer feels) or focused (when color might distract from the shapes, etc.) I find it hard to choose. While B&W can be lovely, I tend towards color for the uplifting factor. On the other hand, there’s Ansel Adams, so…


    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re causing me to wonder what Ansel Adam’s wonderful imagery would look like in color. Which of course wasn’t such the thing in those times. But today our documentary photographers and our fine art photographers have long since broken the “color” barrier. Still, it’s hard to argue Cartier-Bresson. Or any of the other b/w legends. Thanks for weighing in, Janet, nice to hear how you reacted.


  4. I never really thought about this difference. The black and white is definitely more powerful than the colour photo. Must be the contrasts and how appropriate they are when there is a fence involved.

    Liked by 1 person

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