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Masters of Photography

Lesson 17 of 54

The gigantic question... Colour or black and white?


Masters of Photography

Lesson 17 of 54

The gigantic question... Colour or black and white?


Lesson Info

The gigantic question... Colour or black and white?

(dramatic instrumental) There is a gigantic question, sometimes, that comes into a photographer's life; should I do this shot in color, or should I do this shot in black and white? And I get that question a lot; how did you know to do it in black and white, and how did you know to do it in color? And somehow, with a lot of my pictures that are well-known, they're in black and white, which is saying, I would say that 75 percent of the pictures I've done in my life are in color, and only 25 percent are in black and white, and a lot of the more well-known images that I've done are in black and white; if you really delve into a lot of what I've done, you'll find that there's tons of color there, and I actually love color just as much as I love black and white, and I have a great love of black and white, but I have a great love of color; partially, the black and white thing came from my deep love of printing, which I'll speak about later, and being in the darkroom printing; of course, you...

can print in color, but I just had this great love of silver-gelatin printing black and white; I just absolutely adored it. And I love silver-gelatin and platinum; these days, you sometimes don't have to, sometimes don't have to worry about whether your shot is in black and white, and having said that, there was many times when I'm working in film, and I would shoot things in black and white and color, that I would notice from a black and white Polaroid to a color Polaroid, that you would look at it and say, well, this doesn't quite work in color, but it worked in black and white, but sometimes I noticed that the reason for that was, especially in the studio, was that the lighting was different, so it's not quite as simple as shooting it in color and transposing it in black and white; it's not that simple. Now, sometimes it works, and we actually developed systems where we used a black and white style lighting, and I shot color film on it, and sometimes the black and white lighting was sensational in film, and sometimes it wasn't, so very often, it depended of course, what was I shooting, what was the subject matter? Was it a man or a woman? And sometimes, a raw light on a man is looking wonderful; a raw light on a woman can look good, it can also look terrible, so there's endless combinations of decisions that have to be made in this, so lighting is a crucial issue when it comes to deciding color or black and white; sometimes you get lucky, and one lighting system works for both; sometimes it doesn't work, somebody once said to me that black and white works better artistically, because it's surreal; in other words, we see in color, but in fact, we don't see in black and white, so therefore, when you look at a black and white image, it's more artistic; it's more like art, because it's removed from reality. And you can argue that, but also, you can argue the other side of that coin, where you say, we see in color, so therefore, why not shoot in color? So I think these are decisions that the individual has to decide as they go along the path; am I a black and white photographer, or color? Am I both? I love both, so for me personally, I love both, and I think color, sometimes it's superb, and wonderful, and sometimes black and white, and the beauty of things, is you don't really have to choose; you have to choose at the point where you hit the shutter, but later in life, you can show some of your work in black and white, and also you can show some of your work in color, and say, I'm hopefully quite accomplished in color, and you can say; I'm accomplished in black and white. So as long as you're aware of all of these questions, and that you question the shots as you take them, and sometimes you can change your mind, sometimes not. (upbeat instrumental) The decision, sometimes with color or black and white, sometimes I don't have a choice; sometimes I'm doing a job, where they expect it to be in color; of course, you can always cover it in black and white for yourself, and consider it a black and white for yourself, but for example, this shot of Denzel Wahsington, I was working on the set of a movie, the movie Deja Vu, where I met an old classmate of mine, Tony Scott, and he was directing that film, and I was photographing Denzel, who I'd photographed several times before, and actually got on very well with, and I'm actually a big fan of his; I think he's a tremendous actor, and here, I wanted to introduce; I didn't want to photograph his skin in a warm, brown tone, and I was more interested in a cold tone, something that was almost like he was getting light from a neon sign or something, and something that was slightly surreal in it's look, and I worked with him a little bit on expression, and what I thought the shot was, and of course, he's very good at that, so he's very good that you explain something to him once, and he gets it immediately. So that shot was for the movie Deja Vu, and was used in several of the international posters for it, and blue was really the dominant color that I chose for that, and why was it blue? I don't quite know, it was just what I felt like at the moment; I guess I was feeling blue, so I chose it, and it was a shot that he loved; as for the technique on the Denzel Washington shot, it was done by strobe; I had some gels on the lights themselves, and also some backlight, so it's a strobe shot; it's also not a four by five shot, which I was shooting a lot of at the time, but it's actually a Hasselblad shot, so it's two and a quarter, and the lens is a 150 lens, so it's a fairly traditional portrait, but the approach to his attitude and the color is not so traditional. When you do a shot like that, once again, you should have some of this prepared, planning, planning, planning; of course, you can do blue filters the correct way, unless you bring the blue filters with you, so if you don't have blue filters, you're not gonna be doing blue filters, and for those photographers that think, well, I can do it in Photoshop later, it's a different kettle of fish when you're adding blue later, as apposed to blue on the lights; there's all kinds of different magic happen when you begin to put blue on lights, green, red, pink, whatever on lights, than is opposed to putting that in in Photoshop, so I would recommend always to consider filtering the lights if you want some color in there, not absolutely necessary, but I would recommend it. (dramatic instrumental)

Class Description


  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs
  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs


Learn how Albert creates his amazing photographs on location and in the studio using simple explanations.

Albert reveals his shoot secrets on how he photographs Presidents, Hollywood stars, music’s greatest artists, landscapes, nudes, chimpanzees and still life. We follow him on location in Morocco, Paris and in his studio in New York. You will find out where he suggests you look to get inspiration, how to approach a portrait session, see how to light like Albert.

We show you exactly how Albert works on these images after the shoot, it’s all about Albert giving you his ideas and advice and helping you see and create better images for yourself.

It’s not about what camera to use, it’s about how to see and develop ideas, concepts and narrative to make stunning photographs.

As Albert says..."You have to stay switched on"


  1. Meet your Master

    Albert welcomes you to his course.

  2. Learn from the journey

    You will learn how to use your passion and dedication to get to where you want in photography. Albert explains to us how his own journey developed from early days in Scotland to creating the biggest photography studio in LA, and then establishing his studio in New York.

  3. Using inspirations

    Albert teaches you how to use inspiration from your past and present to form you work. Learn his tips on the relationship between technique and creativity, and how to create work that shows your own personality.

  4. Photography is stopping time

    Learn from Albert how he discovered his passion for photography and how to apply his "stopping time" ethos to your own work.

  5. Albert's library of ideas

    Join Albert in his own library where he shows you which books and artists he suggests you look at and study for inspiration and motivation. He also reveals his tip for buying inexpensive photography references.

  6. Tips on preparing for a portrait shoot

    Albert teaches you how to work with your subjects to get a great portrait shot. Learn his tips for putting people at ease when they are in front of your camera.

  7. Setting up the studio

    Learn to control the shooting environment. Learn how Albert begins to set up a studio session. Albert shows you how he begins to approach a portrait session in the studio.

  8. Understanding studio collaboration

    Albert teaches you about his different types of work ranging from test shoots to editorial shoots and advertising shoots. He explains his thoughts and techniques to help you understand how to make each a success.

  9. The importance of casting and hair & make-up

    Albert teaches you the importance of communication between yourself and a team. Albert also explains his tips on working with hair and make up to create a look.

  10. Foreground studio set up

    You will learn how Albert moves out from behind the camera while setting up for a shoot. He shows you how to look at your light from a variety of perspectives.

  11. Studio session with a model - set up 1

    Learn how to work with your subject. A unique insight, Watch and learn Albert working in the studio, explaining his thoughts and showing us exactly how he shoots.

  12. Studio session with a model - set up 2

    Learn how Albert creates his iconic beauty shots. See and listen to Albert as he explains his thought processes when creating this type of shot.

  13. Studio session with a model - set up 3

    Albert teaches you another of his lighting techniques. Watch and learn as Albert explains exactly how he creates a beautiful portrait.

  14. Picking the best shot

    Albert discusses and shows you his techniques for selecting the best shot from a shoot.

  15. Working with photoshop

    In this lesson you will learn how Albert uses post production to further refine his images.

  16. Creating a portrait of Alfred Hitchcock

    Discover the idea and thought process behind Albert's iconic image of Alfred Hitchcock and what it was like to photograph one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.

  17. The gigantic question... Colour or black and white?

    Which should you use? Albert explains his own ideas to you on how and why you might use one or the other.

  18. One day with Kate Moss

    Albert explains his ideas and how he created his iconic images during a day photographing Kate Moss.

  19. Learn to have your ideas ready

    Albert encourages you to have faith in your own creative instincts and how to always think creativity to persuade a client toward agreeing to your photographic ideas.

  20. Using Polariods

    Discover ways to go back and create projects and new images from your older work. Albert shows us the technique he used to create his iconic Running Man image.

  21. Creating beautiful photographs of hands

    Learn to appreciate the expressive nature of photographing hands. Albert explains some his most defining hand shots.

  22. Controlling natural light

    Discover Albert's tips on how to make the most of natural light and how Albert controls it in his images.

  23. Shooting a monkey with a gun

    Albert teaches you to always be on the look-out for new projects, and to recognise the power of conceptual thinking. Learn how monkey and a gun came to be created.

  24. Choosing your format

    In this lesson you will learn about formats. Albert describes different examples from various formats he has used as guidance, discover tips on how to use each type of format and his camera of choice.

  25. Composition and lens

    Get tips and suggestions on which lens to use and when. Albert gives you his thoughts on using the compositional elements available to you in order to produce a better photograph.

  26. Shooting landscapes. The Isle of Skye

    Albert teaches us how for him, its essential to raise landscape photography above the "picture postcard" shot and give the images more meaning. Albert explains the approach to his Scottish landscape series of images, one of his most unique, personal projects.

  27. Planning and ideas for a landscape shoot

    Albert details for you how he carefully prepared for his Isle of Skye project: taking care to be as organised as possible, whilst also remaining open to taking advantage of the unexpected.

  28. Creating still life images

    From shooting bed pans in L.A., to photographing Tutankhamen’s possessions, Elvis Presley’s iconic gold ensemble, and Neil Armstrong's space suit. Albert teaches you to persevere in the face of difficulty, and to always inject your still lifes with meaning.

  29. Photographing the Lost Diary

    Albert shows you how one simple idea can blossom into the creation of true art. An entire advertising campaign was based on his magical concept: that of an intergalactic anthropologist’s photographic diary, depicting tribes on earth 30,000 years ago. Discover how he brought this unique vision to life.

  30. Shooting album covers

    This lesson we go behind the scenes of a shoot with musician Sade. Albert reveals how he produced her beautiful Love Deluxe album cover, and how important it is to make your subject feel comfortable on set.

  31. The Strip Search Project

    Albert tells you how he prepared and created this immense project. He suggests ways for you to create projects and images that document your own corner of the world in images.

  32. Shooting Las Vegas landscapes

    Albert tells you how he prepared for the Las Vegas project, how he approached and shot his landscapes there. He passes on to you how the difficulties he faced helped him, and will help you, to develop as a photographer.

  33. Photographing Breaunna

    Albert tells you how to always be alert to chance encounters. He tells you how he met and was inspired by Breaunna. He explains how some of his most recognisable Strip Search photographs of her were created .

  34. Balancing daylight, God bless America

    Find out why Albert stopped to shoot a bill board. His serendipitous discovery reaffirms his main piece of advice: always remain “switched on”.

  35. Creating the Maroc Project

    Learn how Albert put together his exquisite Maroc book. You will be inspired to create your own projects and to look for potential in every aspect of a project, giving added meaning to your photographs.

  36. Creating the Maroc shoot

    Albert describes his own, personal methods and ethos in creating the Maroc project. Find out what equipment he used, how he documented his journey, and what he shot to create this iconic book.

  37. Photographing sand dunes

    How did Albert capture the breathtaking, rippling sand dunes of Laayoune, Morocco? Find out as Albert encourages you to be innovative; to always strive to add something new and different to scenes photographed by others before you.

  38. Photographing Moroccan children

    Preparation is not the death of spontaneity. Albert explains some his most breathtaking, impromptu shots of children in Morocco, Albert shows you how he suggests you intertwine careful planning and impulsivity to ensure you never miss your shot.

  39. Advice on making portraits

    Learn from Albert that the way you communicate with those you’re photographing is always visible in a shot. In this lesson Albert suggests tips to capture your perception of a subject into a single picture.

  40. How to be alert to finding photographs

    Learn to take advantage of chance situations and moments. Listen to Albert reveal how some of his most famous photographs were created by remaining flexible and alert to what you are seeing around you.

  41. Making a portrait of Mike Tyson

    Albert delves into the inspiration behind his famous Mike Tyson photograph, reaffirming that preparation before a shoot is often key to transforming your vision into a reality.

  42. Creating intense colour in a photograph

    Albert creates intense colour in an image. Listen to Albert as he takes you through his preparation process, and the techniques he used to construct one of his most well known images, Red Devil.

  43. Portraits of rap stars and a Golden Boy

    Discover the relationship between a subject and the camera itself. Legendary Rap stars and Albert’s Golden Boy photograph feature in this lesson. Albert discusses facial geography.

  44. Photographing Jack Nicholson

    A Jack Nicholson photoshoot for Rolling Stone. Albert explains how the legendary snowy shot came to be, and gives you an insight into how he photographed the iconic actor and filmmaker.

  45. Creating a portrait of David Cronenberg

    Be inspired to get creative. Ingenuity and inventiveness take centerstage in this lesson as Albert describes how he produced his unique photograph of David Cronenberg for Rolling Stone — the old-fashioned way.

  46. How to light only using two $10 bulbs

    This is a incredible lesson where Albert demonstrates to you that expensive lighting equipment is by no means a necessity! Discover how to use two $10 bulbs to create a dramatic, high contrast shot. Simply genius.

  47. Studio fashion set up 4

    See the fashion photography master in action as we watch each step of this shoot. Watch and hear how Albert manages the body language of the model and the simple set up and lighting to create a fashion shot.

  48. Studio session with a model. The geography of a face

    See how Albert creates art with the profile of a face. Learn how to work the geography of a face with Albert's simple lighting techniques.

  49. Look inside the picture

    Albert gives suggestions on how to progress and review your photography. Find out his tips on how to look "inside" the picture.

  50. Creating memorability in an image

    Learn Alberts tips on the skill of quick thinking and analysing your surroundings. Albert uses an example where he used his surroundings to create a unique and surreal shot for Italian Vogue.

  51. Combining nudes and landscapes

    In this lesson we reveal one of Albert's very latest projects. Learn as Albert teaches you how he created a stunning series of images by combining nudes with different landscape textures.

  52. A perfect print

    Albert explains where the passion began for printing his own work and how it has developed. Listen to his overview on how critical it is to print an image on the right type of paper in order to create the perfect print.

  53. The business side of things

    Learn how Albert runs each aspect of his business. We travel with Albert to one of his exhibitions in Italy where he explains the why and how of the prints on show.

  54. Conclusion and farewell

    Albert summarises some fundamental learning points he has acquired over his 40 year career. He leaves you with some poignant tips and bids his farewell, "onwards and upwards".


Richard A. Heckler

"Unless you're Mozart"...this course is an invaluable asset. I'm a pro, humanitarian/documentary photographer, & wilderness...and I've learned much from the 40+ sessions here. This is truly a Master best thing to being with Albert. And although I could watch studio sessions forever, this course offered a very balanced curriculum of technical information, artistic encouragement and guidance, and a open, generous window into the thinking of a gifted artist and photographer, sifted from decades of first class experience. Kudos to all involved. Excellent!

a Creativelive Student

I purchased my first CreativeLive class in 2011 and have continued to purchase many classes over the years. I have learned so much from the many great instructors. This one is not a technical class that will tell you to set your camera at f4, 1/60, ISO 400 and you can get this shot. If you are looking for that, there are many other options. If you have a solid working knowledge of photography, this class is so much more. The way it was filmed is like you are there with him in conversation or in the room with him watching him shoot. To see and understand the how and why he does what he does. Not to take anything away from other classes that have helped to give me a strong understanding of photography, this is my favorite CreativeLive class so far.