Draining the color


Here’s a similar scene to one I posted recently, but this time I am including the “normal” version so that you can see what it looked like before the colors were drained out of it. As you can see, there wasn’t much color to begin with. The overcast sky and damp winter air were doing a very nice job of rendering the scene as almost monochromatic, so rather than fight it, a little voice in my head told me to embrace the conditions and see if I couldn’t come away with a pleasing photograph – one that meant something to me, and one that would ultimately end up as a black and white. Perhaps I shouldn’t show both the color and the black and white photograph side by side… perhaps I should claim to have exclusively envisioned how this would ultimately look without color… perhaps by showing both the color and non-color versions of this image I am “watering down” its impact… but for me, at this moment, and with this image, that’s a little too deep, so I’m comfortable displaying them both so that you can see the differences.

We do not naturally see in black and white, and while I absolutely love the classic work of famous past masters, photographing without color is not something that comes easily to me. I did my usual search for compositional lines, patterns, and shapes, and I tried to arrange the elements within the frame in relation to each other in a way that I thought looked somewhat interesting. I stepped back from the camera and breathed in the air… then I pressed the shutter. I’m no expert in converting photographs from color to black and white, and I’d be interested to hear your response to both of these images, and to the concept of removing color from photographs in general.


19 thoughts on “Draining the color

  1. obrienspix

    At first David, I was taking my pictures in black n white with my camera. Then heard from others to always take it in color & then change the ones I wanted to black n white. I do this with my Paint Shop Pro program & then you can add contrast, hues, brightness & all that which will spruce the black n whites ones up some…more detail. This looks good like it is.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks. Lots of approaches to this… some would give the advice that you were given, and others say that “seeing” the scene as it would appear in black and white is a good approach also.

  2. I take all the photos in color – and few times do I want to see them in black and white. And sometimes they are better! But I do it (too!) for rare. And I have many of the same considerations as you have about black and white photo. Thanks for a great post!
    PS: This photo I prefer in colors, the colors of those rocks are so fine.

    • David Patterson

      truels… thanks for the thoughtful comment. I do admit that I am drawn more naturally to color, but a good black and white photograph does look impressive!

  3. I think the color in the rocks makes the stand of trees seem out of place, but with the color removed, they are more a part of the entire image, completing it somehow.

    Beautiful shots, David.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks Karen… I’m doing some thinking about the impact of converting photographs to black and white. Still learning and reflecting I am πŸ™‚

  4. niki

    Sometimes I like black and white photos but I usually love the colored ones. I like pictures in their natural way so the first one would be my favorite and I like the color of those rocks.

    • David Patterson

      Thanks niki… I appreciate the comment. I’m doing battle in my head about if it needs to be either or… can both be pleasing?

      • niki

        Yes πŸ™‚ Both pictures can be great! But I think it’s just how people feel when they look at a picture and what they like. Some like and feel close to the black and white and some to colors. Like I said I like pictures in their natural way but, that doesn’t mean black and white photos don’t look good. I’ve seen some really great black and white photos.

        • David Patterson

          Thanks again niki… I think you are spot on when you say that what we like depends on how each person feels when they see a particular photograph. In the one above, I find the colored rocks rather bland, but when I converted it to black and white it worked better for me… and this is coming from someone who loves color. Maybe it’s also because I’ve seen this beach lit up in color, and this particular time it wasn’t so exciting… but then again maybe not everyone has seen it in full color… rambling I am, but thanks πŸ™‚

    • David Patterson

      Thanks. I’m trying to figure out if I should even process the same scene both in color and black and white. Having the two versions to choose from confuses me!

    • David Patterson

      Chad… I tried the free demo of Silver Efx Pro and liked it. Never did get around to buying it though, so I still use PS5 for all my editing. I did buy Lightroom, but haven’t had the chance to play with it yet.

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