Colour or Black and White?

Cream phlox

HeyJude is challenging us to compare a colour picture with a black and white version and say which we prefer and why. While b&w most obviously lends itself to landscapes or portraits, I wanted to try some flowers.

Black and white phlox

I prefer the colour version of the phlox, if for no other reason than I like the colour combination of the flower, although the b&w hides the faded flower towards the top right corner. The flower has an innocent look in both versions that appeals to me.

Cream rose

The ethereal colour of this rose appeals to me – cream, with a hint of pink – but it has a touch of botrytis. After working with roses, I have a mild horror of botrytis: the browning on the edge of the petals which, taken to the extreme, converts the petals to brown mush. While this rose is beautiful despite it, fully fledged botrytis can be a disaster, particularly in a bucket of cut roses earmarked for something special. It loves cool, humid conditions and is one of the reasons experts suggest that many cut roses should not be misted in an attempt to keep them fresh.

Black and white rose

Even my critical eye doesn’t pick this out on the black & white version. The shadows show up well here because the petals are pale, the contrast giving a feeling of depth. A crimson, red or mid pink flower would be less effective converted to b&w (I tried them), particularly so if the flower is against mid green leaves.

I like the way the b&w seems to accentuate those wiggly petal edges and minimises my hand holding up the rose. Sometimes a hand is essential to make the flower face the camera so we can look inside it, but it is an unwelcome visual distraction.

Whether a b&w picture of a rose can ever be truly satisfying, I’m not sure. The first question of anyone seeing it would most likely be ‘What is its colour?’

Black and white picture of Rosa 'Golden Celebration'

Still, I’m trying another rose – a large, sturdy flower, looking upwards because it’s not fully open. The petals overlap evenly and also have a nice wiggle on the edges. Because of the beauty of the form, I feel quite happy with the b&w version.

Did you guess the colour?

Rosa 'Golden Celebration' | yellow English rose
Rosa ‘Golden Celebration’

As an afterthought, here’s an example that illustrates my point about crimson roses in black and white.

Rosa 'The Bishop' | Crimson rose
Rosa ‘The Bishop’

Black and white version of a crimson rose

The b&w has worked its magic on the blackspot, if your eye runs to such things, but has also hidden the rose too much for my taste. There might be someone out there who thinks the b&w version is really romantic, but I wouldn’t bet on it!

What do you think? Check out HeyJude’s submission and find out more about the challenge here.

42 Replies to “Colour or Black and White?”

  1. I think the Golden Celebration B&W works better than the two before it because it has better exposure resulting in a less high key image than the other two which results in more tonality and detail. With regard to The Bishop B&W I’m with you on that. Given it looks more like an ornamental cabbage I don’t see it as being romantic.

    Very interesting and fun comparisons. 🙂

    1. I’ve never liked the ‘Golden Celebration’ one because the colour is unlike the flower, mainly around the edge, but I agree it works well in black and white.

  2. Jude sent me here and I can see why, Susan. And no, I’d never have guessed the colour of that rose. It’s wonderful in black and white 🙂 🙂

  3. What a provoking challenge. I prefer old pictures that were originally black and white to remain as such, but sort of expect all modern photography to be in color. The clarity of some modern photography can look odd in black and white. Well, I am no expert on color anyway. By the way, I would have guessed that the yellow rose was pink, because that is what the form suggests.

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