I just enjoyed reading The Search for Our Missing Colors by Amos Zeeberg in The New Yorker, and it gives me mental wire to hang some words and pictures on color and its absence.
Color is hard · I spent a few years in the publishing-technology business. I’d go to the conferences, and there’d always be seminars and boot-camps on Color. Like, twelve hours over two days, advertised as “An introduction to a few of the basic issues in color.”
Spend a little while digging into gamuts and color spaces and Pantone and CMYK and transmission and emission and reflection and so on, and you’ll see what they mean.
Computer programmers are, uh, what’s the word for “worse than ignorant”? We absorb this notion that you can express everything you need to in three 8-bit values for R, G, and B (well, 4 values if you have an alpha channel). Which is deeply wrong. These days, the wrongness doesn’t matter that much unless you’re doing print. But if the Zeeberg article is right, maybe Web-design geeks will start having to do grown-up color for the screens of tomorrow.
Having said that, I don’t want to diss the 24-bit RGB space that much; among other things, I once had fun generating 768 256x256 color planes to expore it.
Should photos be in color? · Mike Johnston, my personal favorite photo-blogger, has been known to argue that you should generally shoot B&W, because shape and proportion and shading are at the center of photography. I don’t agree at all, but there’s a lot to think about in that argument.
If you think that’s an interesting point of view, you’d probably really enjoy his One Camera, One Lens, One Year challenge. I’ve never tried that diet, but the proportion of my photos that are via the Fuji 35mm/F1.4 + X-T1 combo is trending toward 100%, so I might as well be.
Anyhow, I like pretty colors. But this last couple of years, I’ve found myself more willing, when I notice strong shapes in a photo, to start exploring the B&W space.
There are two approaches to this. First, just slide the “Saturation” knob in Lightroom all the way left. Second, pull out the nuclear cannon, by which I mean Silver Efex Pro.
Have I mentioned recently that we’re in the golden age of photography?