For this exercise I stuck to the two or three streets surrounding my home due to the lockdown restrictions at the time.
For equipment I used a Sony a7iii with Sony 50mm f1.8 lens as I find the focal length appropriate for the purpose of shooting in a street photography style.
In all honesty I have already shot the area so many times over the last few weeks before beginning this unit that the prospect of shooting it again wasn’t extremely engaging and therefore I have essentially posted these images as straight from camera jpgs rather than spending an overly large amount of time of post production.
The question of the exercise is do I prefer colour over black and white and what difference does the colour make?
Below are the 31 images I selected in both colour and the standard B&W conversion from Affinity Photo.
Overall I’m surprised at how well some of the images turned out despite my lack of enthusiasm for revisiting the same streets again. It’s a reminder that things change constantly and that the time of day, weather, and subtleties are constantly evolving.
Whether I prefer colour or B&W depends really on several factors. I normally choose to post process in B&W when looking to create a factual feel to the images, to create distance between the observer and the content or to focus the image by removing the density of colours which can cause distractions. I would also always tailor the post processing to each image as the different colours react differently to each adjustment, for example in the England flags the red is nearly totally lost due to the B&W conversion whereas I know I would be able to adjust the filtering to ensure the cross stays bold in the image. B&W can help create a more abstract image, removing parts of the context which places the subject, such as how colour can give a texture its ‘place’ we know tarmac is this blue/black so is therefore the ground but when in black and white is harder to place. B&W is also regularly used as a ‘rescue’ technique for images which are overexposed in colour, or as I find increasingly frustrating, to give the image gravitas and replicate a style without the content.
As for the colour treatment, I feel it brings more of a current feel to the image, depending on the post process, again we can simulate film grain and tones evoking a period of time associated with that particular look. Here some of the images are much more engaging seeing the colour and how it is repeated throughout the image. It also helps gives context to certain images such as the sprayed writing on the road tarmac or the temperature of the light giving us time of day or season. Colour also tends to enhance the depth of the image, the subtle changes colours our brain recognises as distance or shadow are apparent whereas in B&W the removal of a recognisable point of reference is deceptive.
Personally I don’t prefer one set over the other. I do however feel that certain images work better in one style or the other for the above reasons. If I was to turn this into a series I may separate it into two sets with opposing themes using the colour vs B&W as a way to heighten the juxtaposition. With the time dedicated to a full series I would be able to fully exploit the potential of both mediums by carefully toning the B&W to get the best from each image as well as glancing out the shadows more to compensate for the high contrast of the evening sun.
I would also be tempted to think about setting my camera to display the viewfinder in B&W, as I shoot in RAW this would still allow for a colour image in post processing but I feel being able to view the initial framing as B&W would be easier to maximise the medium’s potential..