Tag Archives: monochrome

Exercise, Project 3- Street Photography

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In this exercise I am tasked to take 30 colour images and 30 black-and-white images in a street photography style and then comment on the two formats.  I prepared my shoot by first making a list in a small note-book of ideas for composition which helped motivate and provide aims and objectives.  I set about altering the settings in my camera for JPEG and familiarizing the setting between monochrome and colour.  I altered ISO settings from auto to manual throughout the shoot and I did the same for white balance and the shooting modes (manual, aperture-priority, shutter-priority).  I used just one lens a 24-120mm zoom f/4, hand-held, no flash.

Street photography

I am using a DSLR and would normally take my pictures in RAW and process them through Lightroom.  However, for this exercise I feel that to do this properly I must work as if I have only colour or black-and-white film in my camera.  Moreover, it would add to the challenge if I limit my shots to 36 each, the most from a reel of 35mm film.  So for this exercise I set my camera to JPEG, Fine, and made 36 images set to Monochrome and 36 images set to Colour – Vivid.

I find working with a DSLR on the street to be very awkward.  The camera is heavy and bulky and it is difficult to take candid shots because as soon as you lift the camera to your eye people become aware of you.  Moreover, I had an incident when a busy-body manager from the local Mall came out and tried to interfere with me working outside in the street but he backed down immediately when I told him that I knew my law.  I am sure that if I was using a smaller camera or a mobile-phone I would have been left alone and ironically would probably have been able to work in the Mall without anyone taking any notice.

Black and white

Out of 36 shots some I duplicated to get the correct exposure and some didn’t come out as I was experimenting with times exposures.

Colour

As with the black and white images, I made some duplicates to try to improve on the colour or composition.  I would have liked to have been able to have taken some of my colour images inside my local Shopping Mall to make use of the white balance feature for lighting effects but I was told that I wasn’t permitted to use my camera inside the Mall.

My preference has to be monochrome, I personally found this a more challenging and rewarding medium for this project.

Remaining monochrome images that made up my 36 image limit.

Remaining colour images taken that made up my 36 image limit.

Research point – What difference does colour make to a genre that traditionally was predominantly black and white?

The medium of photography began with the development of the monochrome / black and white image and for decades photographers honed their skills learning how to work with a very limited pallet of only shades of grey.  However, photographers quickly realized that black and white could produce stunning images and could exaggerate a sense of atmosphere that normal colour vision could not.  The portraits of the Hollywood stars of the 30’s and 40’s are a good illustration on the power of black and white.

When colour photography first came in to being it was a costly process and did not really take off until the cost of film and development fell in the late 1950’s.  At this time established photographers were reluctant to start working in the new medium.  I suggest that this was partly due to being nervous about moving out of a familiar and tried and tested photographic field in to a new area that was also gaining a reputation for amateur ‘snappers’.  Professionals with reputations may have found this intimidating and threatening and at that time colour theory was still a mystery kept and only practised by the painters in the art world.  However, in the film industry colour had been in regular use since the late 1930’s and interestingly one of the great pioneers of colour film photography was a keen painter who enjoyed making copies of famous masters for his home and to understand how they were made.  I refer to the British cameraman and film director Jack Cardiff who was the first British cameraman trained to operate the Technicolor movie cameras.  I would recommend watching some of Cardiff’s films of the 1940’s to see some good examples of how Cardiff understood both lighting and colour: ‘The Red Shoes’, ‘Black Narcissus’, A ‘Matter of Life and Death’ to name just a few.

William Eggleston has been credited as the photographer who made colour photography excepted in the photographic world of fine art when John Szarkowski, )Director of Photography of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City) discovered him and his work.

Black and white works to simplify an image creating a sense of past tense something that happened, an event, a ‘moment’.

Colour adds a new dynamic, if used well, it can add impact, by using colour theory and with the right combination on colours an interesting composition can be created from something ordinary and bland.  We see in colour; and strong colours have impact on our senses and with this in mind, interesting and attention grabbing photographs can be found.