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  1. #1
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    B&W / Sepia shots... Talent or hack?

    This is a question i've had for a while now. So often ive seen photo competition winners go to black and white / sepia shots.

    But in my mind, and i am happy to stand corrected, converting even an average colour shot into black n white / sepia gives it stronger contrasts and definitions often and can end up being quite popular, but I question if there is any real talent then behind these. One can even get a poor shot and add a B&W/Sepia filter to it, to make it look into something creative, and some people will love it. It just feels to me like its a 'hack' thing to do, cheating almost.

    So my question is what are others thoughts on this? Does converting an image like so then turn a boring shot into a good one, and is a shot which is originally shot as B&W and looks good better than an average colour one converted to looking better as B&W?
    Cameras: Nikon D300, Panasonic Lumix G2, LX3 & FZ20
    Nikkor Lenses: 24-70mm f2.8 - 70-300mm VRII f4.5-5.6 - 50mm f1.4 G - 35mm f1.8 G - 50mm f1.8 - 18-200mm VR f3.5-5.6
    Other Lenses: Tokina: 11-16mm f2.8, Sigma: 17-70mm f2.8-4.5 Macro, Lumix: 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 & 20mm f1.7
    Other: Nikon SB 600, Vivitar 1/2/4 Close-up Lens, Cokin Graduated ND Filter and more...
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  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyberwlf View Post
    This is a question i've had for a while now. So often ive seen photo competition winners go to black and white / sepia shots.

    But in my mind, and i am happy to stand corrected, converting even an average colour shot into black n white / sepia gives it stronger contrasts and definitions often and can end up being quite popular, but I question if there is any real talent then behind these. One can even get a poor shot and add a B&W/Sepia filter to it, to make it look into something creative, and some people will love it. It just feels to me like its a 'hack' thing to do, cheating almost.

    So my question is what are others thoughts on this? Does converting an image like so then turn a boring shot into a good one, and is a shot which is originally shot as B&W and looks good better than an average colour one converted to looking better as B&W?
    Using anything and everything at the artist’s disposal turns the work into whatever the artist decides it is. People can choose to like it or not. It is the artist's expression, not yours. Making value judgments about an artist because of the "palette", materials or techniques they choose to use to express their vision is ignorant at best. The artist's choices of expression are under the sole purview of the artist. You have a right not to like it. You have NO RIGHT to judge the integrity of the artist because of it. None.
    Last edited by JTL; 12-12-2007 at 08:46 AM.
    Some Gear: Nikon D700; Nikkor AF-S 50 f/1.4 G; Nikkor AF-S 24-85 3.f/5-4.5 G ED; Tamron 28-300 f/3.5-6.3 VC; Nikon SB-800; Velbon Maxi-F; Canon Pixma Pro 9000; Canon S3IS, Canon SD500; Epson 4990; Epson P5000; Wacom Intuos 3

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  3. #3
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    Dec 2006
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    I think that certain shots and subjects lend themselves to B&W and converting them is an art in itself. I was actually at a commercial photography portfolio judging session last week. By far, the B&W shots produced the most negative comments and those comments were coming from extremely competent eyes. B&W conversion is more than hitting a gray scale button or pulling a slider to desaturate the colors.

    Can a B&W conversion make an average shot look great? Yes, but so can proper color post processing and of course, one can make a good shot look bad by either color or B&W processing.

    At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with any treatment that makes a shot more appealing and doing so doesn't necessarily make one a hack. Not any more than using an in-camera focus, framing, DOF or other 'trick' to make a shot more interesting. It's art so it is all very subjective. Color film was seen as gimmicky and hacky by many when it first appeared on the scene, by the way. Seems pretty harsh now. Anyway, just my opinion.
    The respect of those you respect is greater than the applause of the multitude.

  4. #4
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    Pics removed to save bandwidth since discussion is done.
    Last edited by Jason25; 12-13-2007 at 08:32 AM.
    Jason
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  5. #5
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    May 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by JTL View Post
    Using anything and everything at the artist’s disposable turns the work into whatever the artist decides it is. People can choose to like it or not. It is the artists’ expression, not yours. Making value judgments about an artist because of the "palette", materials or techniques they choose to use to express their vision is ignorant at best. The artist's choices of expression are under the sole purview of the artist. You have a right not to like it. You have NO RIGHT to judge the integrity of the artist because of it. None.
    Amen!

    Just a question to Cyberwlf. Did you recently loose a photo contest or something? LOL

    And yes, I'm a hack and Jason's a hack

  6. #6
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    Aug 2005
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    I was expecting some emotive responses as well as some rational ones as well, so it's an interesting start to this discussion.

    JTL, I do have the right to an opinion, and an opinion covers what value / enjoyment i derive from what i view. As nqjudo pointed out peoples views are subjective, but I somehow don't think someone posing a question on a forum is any way telling people what they can or cannot do, I created this thread so i could see peoples thoughts on the matter.

    My feelings just are that I sometimes question whether the product of these images is caused by artistic inspiration or trying to 'fix' a shot, just to make it look good, and how much comes from an ability and an eye to produce something artistic.

    I agree with nqjudo's thoughts though on how both B&W and Colour shots can go from bad to good and good to bad via PP, and how some shots lend themselves better to B&W or Colour. Tweaking an image to help correct imperfections in the shot I personally feel is quite fine. But my thoughts as stated above are more with how the photographer got to the end product.

    It's a bit of a rhetorical question, but just to pose an analogy, if someone accidently knocks a keyboard or mouse and it creates some effect which looks great, but if it was not an action that was deliberate how much claim can they lay to it being something they envisioned.

    It's probably a bit of a case of opening a hornets nest, but it just comes out of a frustration of looking at a plethora of black n white images entered into competitions making me question were these results a result of the photographers being unable to produce a good colour image, or was this the best result they could create with this image.

    I'm guessing i'll get some more people have a go at me for my thoughts on this though :P
    Cameras: Nikon D300, Panasonic Lumix G2, LX3 & FZ20
    Nikkor Lenses: 24-70mm f2.8 - 70-300mm VRII f4.5-5.6 - 50mm f1.4 G - 35mm f1.8 G - 50mm f1.8 - 18-200mm VR f3.5-5.6
    Other Lenses: Tokina: 11-16mm f2.8, Sigma: 17-70mm f2.8-4.5 Macro, Lumix: 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 & 20mm f1.7
    Other: Nikon SB 600, Vivitar 1/2/4 Close-up Lens, Cokin Graduated ND Filter and more...
    Computers/Software: MacBookPro 2.8ghz, Dell Latitude D630, Lexar CF UDMA FW800 Reader, Nikon Capture NX 1+2, Adobe Lightroom 1+2+3

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLiPMaRC View Post
    Amen!

    Just a question to Cyberwlf. Did you recently loose a photo contest or something? LOL

    And yes, I'm a hack and Jason's a hack
    Actually, I can't help but ask. What is someone who shoots B&W film?
    Jason
    http://www.jmodzikphoto.com
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by FLiPMaRC View Post
    Amen!

    Just a question to Cyberwlf. Did you recently loose a photo contest or something? LOL

    And yes, I'm a hack and Jason's a hack
    Yes, your hilarious, it's all about me being a sore loser or something...

    Actually no, you miss the point, and what more i'm guessing even questioning the subject is something you find offensive as it may challenge your own views. But it was nothing to do with entering contests actually, it was the result of looking at competition winners / runners up from competitions, and analysing them.

    Also as i said above, i'm not actually making the call whether it is a hack or talent, i'm just posing the question. Stop being so defensive.

    Incidently I quite like Jason25's B&W shot.
    Cameras: Nikon D300, Panasonic Lumix G2, LX3 & FZ20
    Nikkor Lenses: 24-70mm f2.8 - 70-300mm VRII f4.5-5.6 - 50mm f1.4 G - 35mm f1.8 G - 50mm f1.8 - 18-200mm VR f3.5-5.6
    Other Lenses: Tokina: 11-16mm f2.8, Sigma: 17-70mm f2.8-4.5 Macro, Lumix: 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 & 20mm f1.7
    Other: Nikon SB 600, Vivitar 1/2/4 Close-up Lens, Cokin Graduated ND Filter and more...
    Computers/Software: MacBookPro 2.8ghz, Dell Latitude D630, Lexar CF UDMA FW800 Reader, Nikon Capture NX 1+2, Adobe Lightroom 1+2+3

  9. #9
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    It's a bit of a rhetorical question, but just to pose an analogy, if someone accidently knocks a keyboard or mouse and it creates some effect which looks great, but if it was not an action that was deliberate how much claim can they lay to it being something they envisioned.
    Well, that's the beauty of post-processing. You can learn from trial and error. Some of the best things are created by accident!
    Jason
    http://www.jmodzikphoto.com
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  10. #10
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    Jun 2007
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    Jason its nice to post a black and white pic and say its your favorite but post the color version as well so we know where you are coming from. While I quite like your B&W Id like to see the original to compare. This is an interesting thread in that it asks a basic question. What is the purpose of photography? When Matthew Brady was running around taking Black & Whites Im sure he wished he had color. We have a choice now and for realism we choose color. To fake historical accuracy or to make a photo timeless we go B&W. Some pics like machinery or Canada Geese in winter look the same in B&W or color. Why someone intentionally creates a B&W from a good color pic is a good question. Ive only done it a couple times and that was to cover up some color problem that I was too lazy to fix.

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