In color or black and white? A personal bias before everything else.

With the introduction of the digital cameras, many will said that it is now possible to work simultiniously in color and black and white (with the option to edit your final picture output). But for the « ex-analog » photographers like me, this choice between the two traditional photographic rendering have a lot more to do with our preliminary vision, color or black and white, you try to transmit from your original image content.

This one of the reason that I have chosen to select Fujifilm X-mount cameras series because of their capacity to produce excellent black and white picture files. I love to work with my different « monochrome » camera models like the X-E (2, 2S or my present 3) or the X-T (10, 20 and now 30) or even the X-H1 (the only Fujifilm X-mount model available with the internal body image stabilization – IBIS). All these camera are versatile and allow you to further configure them by using internal filter setting (Yellow, Red, Green) to bias the gray distribution  from the original image colors.

Shooting in black and white (B&W) is not necessarily easy and predictable for everybody but with the now commun electronic viewfinder (EVF) among many mirorless cameras, you can see in real time your final result which is a dramatic advancement from the dark ages of  the analog (film) photographic era.  By having access to this magnificent viewing tool, there is no reason to prevent yourself in switching to the monochrome setting. You can always register your picture in both JPEG and RAW files, this last one allowing you to get a « none-altered » color basic picture to edit further if you want to do do so.

Doing B&W photography can help you to enhance your ability to organize more specially your subject arrangement in terms of graphic positions, of light distribution and space importance of it.All these factors are also fondamental in color photography but monochrome may be an excellent exercice that can help you to better sense them.

As it is now very convenient to produce an overwhelming number of photographs and it is becoming a major flaw in our visual consumerist society. What the point to submerge people with such an abuse  total amount of pictures that will simply vanish the moment after in profit of another one? We have to be more selective and assume our choice to register an image or for viewing a particular one. In that sense monochrome photography can help to be more attentive about our subjects and spend a greater and more producing time to analyse and select the right composition, the right moment of exposure. We have to get away from the « cinematic » tendency of today photography. Let’s keep animated (sequence) images for the videography where it should be kept in first place.

Some may ask why B&W is still a pertinent photographic rendering in your world of colors. Posing the question is easy but answering to it is more complex. We could pretend that it is a matter of photographer’s emotions and feelings. Even for documentary purposes, it appears that some of the very renowned photographers are still preferring the B&W format over the actual very easy trend to reproduce colorful counterpart.

« The color of B&W » is may be a contradiction by itself but in some ways it can appear to be a second level of visual perception. And perhaps because of the fact that color reproduction process has been historically based from different layers of B&W support that we have  added the basic colors (RGB, CMYK, etc). That B&W technical approach for resolving the color representation (that many have a tendency to forget or simply not knowing it) is inducing that there is many colors which are present into a gray tonal scale. We know that some color combinations will generate more contrasty perception. In B&W photography, the colored lens filters will discriminate specific color frequencies in favor of other ones.

In  our present « color educated » society as we usually see through our different visual media, B&W has been generally associated with the past testimonies of time or with old photography even considering its more recent uses. Press photography has been also almost exclusively done and printed in B&W and the color pictures were reserved for magazine formats. The actual Internet culture has imposed an almost exclusively full color visual presentation. It is only more recently that B&W seems to resurrect often on a marginal way.

Strangely, the psychologic perception for authenticity appears to be influenced by B&W versus color, may be because it has been associated by the ancient analog way to produce pictures on negatives and prints. Sure it didn’t prevent photo alterations and montages in the past as we are able to do today when we post-process a registered image. The initial introduction of the television exclusively in B&W could have been also a influencer in this thinking. However, the new generations dont have that tendency to overrate the « realistic » value of B&W pictures.

When I have started to do (analog) photography, black and white was consider the basic school of the fundamentals to master in that visual field. Color photography was the next step. So, in that perspective, our photographic training have prioritized the study of the composition (the subject spatial arrangement in two dimensions), the role of the contrast, of the gray scale and even of the film granulation, the importance of the subject (moment) expression, the control of the deep of field (the era of net subject-object versus the blurry context zones), the time and the amount of exposure required to registrer your taking picture the film  support. In one phrase, it was technical, it was instinctive, it was formative and progressive, it was creative.

Doing digital black and white photography should ask you the same personal involvement as we used to do during the days of film photography. And it is especially true if you have completed the whole photo process by printing your picture on a paper support.

You don’t need to ask me if I am a (lifetime) advocate for B&W photography because, frankly, it is my intuitive and natural way to do it. But that « gray » and « contrasty » passion is now resugencing everywhere strongly than ever. So, just follow the « new »past trend!

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