Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

September 28, 2007

Digital Black and White

Filed under: Art, Photography — Doug Stockdale @ 6:43 pm

Construction Yard

I wanted to add one last comment to the Tim Atherton dig at digital black and white images, where he has written:…

colour digital work can sing (as can analogue/digital hybrid colour). Though probably the biggest single reason that so many converted colour images look crappy in greyscale is nothing to do with technique, but rather vision – on the whole, good black and white pictures simply aren’t colour photographs with the colour removed.”

Yep, you read right, per Tim, Digital is only good for color photograhy! Now you know why I found his posts so amusing.  I think I also recall many of the silver halide black and white photograhers objecting to the chromagenic dye black and white films (e.g. Ilford XP1) for almost the same reasons as digital, the image is toooo smooth.  Heck, go outside and look at the blue sky, is is a continuous tone or do you see any grain?  I guess he probably thinks that acrylic paint, since it provides smooth, slick images is only good for houses or color paintings, or at least many fine art oil painters thought that so many years ago.  Just so you know Tim’s bias; he’s a photographer who uses black & white film in a large format camera. 

Digital photography is but one tool among many to express a vision, which has it’s own unique characteristics.  Oh well, enough already, I do not need to be the champion of a dead issue about Digital Black and White, this is such a silly discussion.  I do need to create some images and get something positive done.  And yes, from digital capture, images that are rendered in awsome black and white prints;- )

Best regards, Doug

Update: the image above may be included in my series A Sideways Glance


  1. Just so you know Tim’s bias; he’s a photographer who uses black & white film in a large format camera.

    but rather vision – on the whole, good black and white pictures simply aren’t colour photographs with the colour removed.

    a bit of hyperbole doesn’t usually lend itself to nuance… but what this meant was that it often appears a good number of people take a lot of colour pictures and then, later, decide to convert some to b&w. These are the sort I’m referring to – and hence the “on the whole”.

    They aren’t envisioned as b&w pictures int he first place. You can see this in reverse pretty well with Ansel Adams colour work – on the whole it’s really pretty blah – because he essentially took exactly the same pictures he took in B&W and just did them in colour. Most of them just look like “Ansel Adams Pictures” where someone has added the colour – and the majority of them just don’t work that well – and certainly nowhere near as well as his b&w ones.

    So I was talking about the mindset. Apart from a bit of luck and the law of averages, Fred Blogs wo takes a whole stack of colour digi photos and then gets home and thinks… hmm I’m going to make some of these b&w usually ends up with what lloks like a bunch of colour pictures… with no colour in them. And Joe Pro seems to do this quite a lot as well if you look through a lot of the mags and websites.

    While I intensely dislike the faux concept of pre-visualization, what is at work here is the issue of the pictures not being visualized in b&w in the first place. THAT often shows up far more than any of the technical differences you or I mentioned

    Comment by Tim Atherton — September 28, 2007 @ 8:09 pm

  2. Doug, I find the whole idea, like you, rather silly. More rules of what should and should not be done. :-) Everyone has their own way. Appreciate the image, not the process of making it. Who cares if it came from a Polaroid. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t work for you. It doesn’t mean that that it’s wrong.

    It was an entertaining few posts. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by paul — September 28, 2007 @ 10:20 pm

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