Exercise 1.2 – Reportage (P.33)

Find a street that particularly interests you – it may be local or further afield. Shoot 30 colour images and 30 black and white images in a street photography style.
In your learning log, comment on the differences between the two formats.
What difference does colour make? Which set do you prefer and why?

The following images are from a set of about 50 that I took in and around the market square in Cambridge. They were taken on a day with light grey cloud cover which gave a flat, even light. The images were taken with 50mm and 85mm prime lenses.

Sweets – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/400 sec; 50mm


Fruit & Veg – ISO200; f2.2; 1/125 sec; 50mm
Black Rice – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/250 sec; 50mm

Mirror – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/250 sec; 50mm
Books – ISO 250; f2.2; 1/100 sec; 50mm
Prime Number – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/160 sec; 50mm
Cakes – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/200 sec; 50mm
Cheese – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/125 sec; 50mm
Sausages – ISO 200; f1.8; 1/200 sec; 50mm
Pret – ISO 500; f2.2; 1/100 sec; 50mm
Flat cap – ISO 250; f2.2; 1/100 sec; 85mm
Cookies – ISO 320; f2.2; 1/100 sec; 85mm

Below are the same images converted to black & white

Sweets – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/400 sec; 50mm
Fruit & Veg – ISO200; f2.2; 1/125 sec; 50mm
Black Rice – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/250 sec; 50mm
Mirror – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/250 sec; 50mm
Books – ISO 250; f2.2; 1/100 sec; 50mm
Prime Number – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/160 sec; 50mm

Cakes – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/200 sec; 50mm
Cheese – ISO 200; f2.2; 1/125 sec; 50mm
Sausages – ISO 200; f1.8; 1/200 sec; 50mm
Pret – ISO 500; f2.2; 1/100 sec; 50mm
Flat cap – ISO 250; f2.2; 1/100 sec; 85mm
Cookies – ISO 320; f2.2; 1/100 sec; 85mm

Looking at the original colour images I am struck by how many muted tones there are and how little vibrant colour. I think this is a combination of shooting in an urban setting where there are not large expanses of strong colours and also the lighting on the day which was very flat, which resulted  in the colours in the images being subdued. I think the quality of light might be one of the reasons why street photographers often present images in black & white as without strong light the images look a little washed out.

Overall I think I prefer the black & white set as I think as it gives a uniformity to the images, however, I think there are several individual images where the original colour version works better. Although it is often thought that converting to black & white helps simplify an image, I think the picture Fruit & Veg works better in colour. Converting to black & white removes information from the viewer and shapes become difficult to distinguish, oranges could be onions or pears, potatoes. In this instance colour provides information to help simplify the image for the viewer. I also think the image Cookies is stronger in colour as the shop assistant stands out more against the red background.

Ironically I think that had there been strong sunlight then it would have given more scope for both colour and black & white images. Stronger light would have made the colours around the market appear more vibrant making the scene more attractive to shoot in colour. Conversely, harder light would also have produced more contrast and greater areas of shadow, two factors that work well when shooting black & white.

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