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Monochrome Photography


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#1 Slim

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 11:22 PM

When I was a kid, most photos were in black and white. I guess because colour film or developing was more expensive, the photos my Dad took were usually monochrome until the mid '70s or so. We didn't have a colour TV until 1973. I still watch black & white films on TV quite often.

 

What I've never understood is why we can accept monochrome photography. I can happily sit through an old film without even thinking about the total lack of colour, yet real life doesn't look anything like that. If you saw a monochrome Humphrey Bogart in the street on your way to work, you would stare at him for a long time.

 

Is it due to a sort of conditioning? Is it because newspapers, old TVs, old films have taught us to accept it? Is it stranger for young people than it is for us?



#2 baldiepete

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 11:34 PM

When I was a kid, most photos were in black and white. I guess because colour film or developing was more expensive, the photos my Dad took were usually monochrome until the mid '70s or so. We didn't have a colour TV until 1973. I still watch black & white films on TV quite often.
 
What I've never understood is why we can accept monochrome photography. I can happily sit through an old film without even thinking about the total lack of colour, yet real life doesn't look anything like that. If you saw a monochrome Humphrey Bogart in the street on your way to work, you would stare at him for a long time.
 
Is it due to a sort of conditioning? Is it because newspapers, old TVs, old films have taught us to accept it? Is it stranger for young people than it is for us?


It's certainly strange for young people. My daughter (18) cannot comprehend why anyone would watch a black & white film now. Saying that there can be an artistic beauty in monochrome images just doesn't wash with her generation.

#3 grep

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Posted 25 March 2013 - 11:34 PM

From a technical perspective, it's how the photography worked. We had no choice but to accept it. It was either that, or nothing at all. Because of the magic that it is... capturing images, we did more than accept it, we embraced the wonder of it.

 

Today, color is prevalent, and a lot of people won't even look at b&w work. It looks 'old' .  Even new work. So let them be shallow about it. Who cares?


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#4 Three Eyes

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 01:12 AM

I hope old movies always have an audience. Many of them are culturely important not to mention just plain wonderful. Films like It's A Wonderful Life, which plays over the holidays every year, show many young eyeballs just how good the old black and whites can be.


Hey there goes Alex. He's loaded with money. Wow he's really set himself up great.


#5 Wandering Hermit

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 02:05 AM

And sometimes modern directors can use it to great effect, as in this case:

 


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#6 Slim

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 11:01 AM

I really like monochrome images myself but I'm sure that's partly due to an association with the first era of photography. I'm sure that if, somehow, colour photography had been invented first, and newspapers and magazines had always been printed in colour - the artistic effect thing wouldn't work. It would just look strange.

 

My brother commented on this yesterday. He thinks that in some measure it's due to an assumption that the past actually did happen in black and white.

 

This photo was taken at a concentration camp in 1933:

 

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It does look a bit jarring, in that I'd expect a photo from that time to be in black & white. Yet it also makes the scene more real.
 



#7 baldiepete

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:41 PM

My brother commented on this yesterday. He thinks that in some measure it's due to an assumption that the past actually did happen in black and white 


I know it doesn't make rational sense but I find colour documentary film of WW2 strangely false. The great majority of footage that I've seen was in B&W and that just seems right somehow. Obviously there have been many fictional WW2 films shot in colour so perhaps I'm associating colour with those and B&W with "reality".

#8 Slim

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 05:50 PM

It completely makes sense to me. Obviously it's an illusion but I have the same reaction.



#9 MaxxQ

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 01:14 AM

Yeah, I have a hard time imagining that people back then saw the world in color, even though intellectually, I know that there was also color film being used.  It was just more difficult and expensive to process.

 

An example of what I consider bad B&W is The Walking Dead.  You can watch at least the first season in B&W, but I can't get past the first few minutes of the first episode.  It needs a *lot* more contrast.  As it is, it looks washed-out, and *looks* like what it is - a color TV show that has been converted to B&W.  Had they done a bit more work on it to make the B&W more dramatic, I would like it a lot more, but as it is, I can't watch it.


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#10 DustoftheStars

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 04:16 AM

my son is really into photography and while b&w film/processing is too expensive, he takes photos with b&w in mind, because he almost always goes home, loads up the pics, and edits them all into b&w. he likes it a lot better, as i usually do too. 


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#11 grep

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 03:28 PM

my son is really into photography and while b&w film/processing is too expensive, he takes photos with b&w in mind, because he almost always goes home, loads up the pics, and edits them all into b&w. he likes it a lot better, as i usually do too. 

 

 

I've found it difficult to get really good B&W from color on the comp. Maybe i just haven't figured it out yet... but the kind of contrasts and sharpness that you'd get from really good B&W film... when I try to emulate that from color, something gets lost.


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#12 MaxxQ

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Posted 27 March 2013 - 10:43 PM

I've found it difficult to get really good B&W from color on the comp. Maybe i just haven't figured it out yet... but the kind of contrasts and sharpness that you'd get from really good B&W film... when I try to emulate that from color, something gets lost.

That sounds exactly like what I was talking about with the B&W episodes of The Walking Dead.


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#13 grep

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Posted 28 March 2013 - 03:38 AM

That sounds exactly like what I was talking about with the B&W episodes of The Walking Dead.

 

Most likely. I don't really know what it is.. and haven't been interested enough to really research it. I do have a few...very few that I've converted and look great. Frankly, I don't know why they are different.... LOL.


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#14 baldiepete

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Posted 28 March 2013 - 10:03 PM

There's a useful Photoshop tutorial here on converting colour photos to monochrome.



#15 grep

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 07:41 PM

That stuff is awesome Pete. Thanks for looking it up for us. :) 


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#16 baldiepete

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Posted 29 March 2013 - 07:50 PM

That stuff is awesome Pete. Thanks for looking it up for us. :) 


I already had it bookmarked. There are a lot of great photoshop tips on that site.

#17 OldRUSHfan

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 05:35 PM

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