This is the latest post in my ongoing quest for colour. You can read my colour photography story so far here.
In short, whilst I’m very comfortable and happy with black and white images – either using a Snapseed preset I’ve made, or, even better, straight out of camera with the Pentax Q and Lumix LX3 – I’ve struggled to find a colour “look” I’m as pleased with.
This next phase in my search for a colour set up I like began with the premise that I wanted a “natural” look.
This arose more from the beating stick end of that old donkey metaphor than the carrot, an “away from” motivation, rather than “towards”.
In other words I was moving away from what I definitely didn’t want – garish, fake, overly digital HD colours – rather than towards what I do want. Which perhaps I’m not sure about.
The Pentax Q, my current beau, has a range of colour settings, and the default “Natural” mode indeed gives very neutral and natural colours, impressively true to life.
But somehow these are too bland for me.
For some the holy grail of colour photography is finding a camera and lens (and film) set up that gives colours exactly like you see with your bare eyes.
I realised from my previous preferences however, that I don’t photograph to capture things as they are.
That is of course a valid type of photography, but I favour what I consider a more artistic approach, and a step removed from what my eyes see, adding my own interpretation of reality rather than presenting it completely unadorned.
For a start, my favourite b/w look is, well, black and white, obviously not natural as we see the world in colour.
Furthermore, I up the contrast and lean towards underexposure to make the blacks thick and inky, and the whites crisp. Fifty shades of grey is the antithesis of my monochrome style.
The colour photographs I have liked most in the past – made with FujiFilm Superia 100 film and the Pentax K10D’s CCD sensor – have not been that natural either.
Both exaggerated colour and are more saturated and larger than life than the colours I saw in the flesh.
I also remembered another colour set up I liked, in Snapseed, which I named “Warm Colour”. I’ve used in the past shooting digital compacts with neutral settings then adding the Snapseed preset after, with very pleasing results.
So I realised that “natural” was not quite the goal I initially thought it was, and achieving what I want with colour is not going to be so simple.
Needing to start somewhere, I decided to explore one of the “Smart Effects” in the Pentax Q, called Vintage Colour.
I don’t know exactly what it does, but the colours are more on the subdued and muted side of natural, without, I think, looking too much like a digital preset desperately trying to emulate film.
The three photographs in this post were shot with the Q and the Vintage Colour Smart Effect, with no other processing.
I like the colour of these photographs, and I think they suit the fact that in each of them the subject matter is already faded and decaying in some way too, a common theme in my photography anyway.
But I took some black and white photos afterwards on the same photowalk and the best of those I vastly prefer.
Plus I haven’t had a desperate urge to photograph in colour for a long time, I tried it here as an experiment and something different to explore. I’m not sure I’ll rush out to repeat it.
We’ll see what happens next with my Colour Quest, as I contemplate this set of photographs in the coming days.
Perhaps a different colour set up with the Pentax Q, or perhaps a return to 100% b/w for a while!
How do you decide when to shoot b/w and when to shoot colour?
Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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