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Colour & the street

Find a street that particularly interests you – it may be local or further afield. Shoot 30 colour images and 30 black and white images in a street photography style.

In your learning log, comment on the differences between the two formats. What difference does colour make? Which set do you prefer and why? (OCA C&N)

I chose the high street in Preston for this exercise – I was visiting Preston for Wilkinson Camera’s annual ‘Digital Splash’ exhibition and to watch two of the presenters there; so Preston was convenient and interesting because of its mix of old and new, well-maintained and dilapidated.

All photos were taken with a Fuji X-T1, using jpeg and Fuji’s in-camera colour (velvia) and black and white (monochrome). Using ISO 1600 and 3200 due to the dim light conditions of the autumn afternoon. The lens used was a Fujinon 35mm f1.4 (53mm efl). I deliberately did not use RAW to avoid the temptation of simply selecting which photos to treat in B&W or colour on post-processing. This way I could experience the impact of working in colour and black and white had on the choices I made when taking the photos.

click images to launch full-size gallery

These images are the selects from the photos I shot over a period of two hours. Comparing the two formats:

  • The b&w are more dependent on structure and patterns within the images for their effectiveness. This is illustrated by photos 6 and 7 – I converted the colour jpeg to b&w for this exercise; while both photos are full of shadow areas, the colour of the sky adds interest and lifts the image. Image 1 shows the repetitive pattern of the sweet jars in the shop window and doesn’t miss the colour.
  • Without colour there is no obvious feeling of temperature in the images – they tend to appear cold unless light and warmth are signified. B&W Image 2 – showing a bankrupt book shop – has a heightened atmosphere of gloom that would not be present in a colour version.
  • Colour allows another level of connection or contrast between elements within the frame, like in image 2, where there is a connection between the reds in the display of the shop window and of the lady’s jumper. Or, the KFC sign and the sunset.
  • Colour can grab your attention – in image 4) the bright red for sale sign in the middle of the image draws us in. This image also shows a greater dynamic range than is possible with b&w.
  • The removal of colour from images that include no colour of interest allows the viewer to concentrate on form or texture in the image. An example is photo 8, of Café Nero’s facade in the dimming light. The image is simplified by the removal of colour.
  • As we don’t see the world in black and white, B&W images can appear more interesting (less every-day).


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