A few weeks back, my intention was to experiment with colour with my Lumix FZ38.
Also, I recently changed my phone, and the Realme 6 Pro I settled upon was another option for colour photography.
But despite this, about 95% of photographs I’ve made since have been black and white.
The Realme has a fairly decent in camera b/w mode, which I use to enable me to see compositions in b/w before making the picture.
However the final image is still a bit too low contrast for my usual tastes, so I’ve reverted to tweaking my favourite shots in Snapseed afterwards. Not zero processing, but very little, and with a workflow that is very quick and simple.
So this has me thinking again about my aversion to colour, perhaps almost a fear of colour.
This was further amplified by an experience with colour paint a couple of days back.
We’re having some rooms decorated, and chose a deep, classy blue for one of them. When the decorator cracked open the pot, the paint was far bolder and brighter than either of us expected.
He suggested it had been mixed wrongly at the shop (it was paint mixed to order, rather than a pot off the shelf), and offered to take it back.
I wanted to take a picture to show my wife (who was at work, I was working from home) but soon as I held my phone camera over the paint, I could see the colour was different still, to how it looked to the naked eye.
The decorator tried with his iPhone and that was different again, so there wasn’t much point either of us making a picture to try to show its true colour, when neither camera was capturing it with any degree of accuracy.
Turns out, the shop wouldn’t take it back and insisted that it was the correct colour. Once he painted a couple of coats and it dried, it was indeed exactly like the test card we originally picked out because we liked the colour.
We couldn’t quite believe how different the shade was to the liquid paint in the pot – and this is from a very experienced decorator.
It made me think about how some photographers seem to be on a quest to make every photograph they make look exactly the same colours and tones as their eyes saw the scene.
I can see why one might want to do this, to have the most accurate document possible.
But it is, for me, a futile quest, with so many variables as to make it almost impossible.
Which I why I think I’ve always liked alternative film photography experiments that I know won’t end up anything like the “true” colours I saw with my eyes.
These approaches remove any expectation or ambition to replicate colours perfectly at the outset.
They relinquish that control and perfectionism and instead say let the camera and film do what they will, and show me the world in their own unique and curious way.
It’s similar with black and white images, which is already a step removed from reality, simply because of its lack of colour, whatever further processing you embark on with your monochrome images.
Again this offers a simplicity and a freedom from trying to force something to look a certain way, and just letting it be what it is.
Even if we can capture a colour image very close to what our eyes saw, then this will almost certainly look slightly different to someone else.
What I call “red” and what you call “red” may largely overlap, but subtle differences in tones may be interpreted differently between us, not only in their objective colour and how we describe it, but in the emotional connections we have too.
A certain red for me might evoke a romantic carefree summer day in a field of poppies, but for you it may resurface a gruesome, bloody accident.
And then there’s the variance in the equipment we share and view our pictures with.
A dozen people in a room, handing round the same physical photograph at least remove some layers of variation between what they each see, personal interpretation notwithstanding.
But a dozen people with a dozen different screens (at least, as most of us have a phone and/or tablet and/or laptop and/or desktop computer, each with slightly differently calibrated screens) means a far higher level of variation, and the red we each see in the same digital image shared originally will span a wider spectrum than that single print photograph viewed in the flesh in the same room, at the same time.
In fact, the more I consider colour as a photographer, the more I fear it. There are too many variables, too many decisions.
I adore colours out in the world, and in our current late spring season there are delights such as woodlands full of bluebells, that couldn’t be experienced as vividly without colour.
But I don’t want to be spending hours trying to find and set up a camera that captures those bluebells exactly as I perceive them, and know then that the screen you view the same picture on won’t portray them with the exact same tones anyway.
There’s too much to try to control, that I can’t, so it seems pointless to even try.
So, for the foreseeable future, despite – or maybe perhaps because of – the colours blooming all around me, I’ll be sticking to black and white photography.
Specifically, the Lumix FZ38 with its moody film grain mode, and the Realme 6 Pro with a Snapseed tweak to boost the contrast and drama a little.
How about you? Do you have a fear of colour?
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