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Masters of Photography

Lesson 11 of 34

Black And White vs Color

Joel Meyerowitz

Masters of Photography

Joel Meyerowitz

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Lesson Info

11. Black And White vs Color

Lesson Info

Black And White vs Color

(emotional music) You are all so lucky, today. You have digital cameras that you can shoot black and white, or color, or sepia, or you could do anything you want with an algorithm to set your camera to give you this tonality that is either like the real world or an abstraction of it but it wasn't always the case. In the past, when I began in the 1960s, black and white was considered the high art form of photography. Although, I didn't know that. When I began to make photographs, I had been an art director and a painter, and then I discovered photography, and the first thing I did was load my camera, borrowed camera, with colored film. Why? Because I thought, if the world's in color, why wouldn't I want to be photographing in color? Only later on did I feel the resistance that the fine art world had to color photography, which they thought was commercial or for weddings and family, you know, festivals. It was considered something that was too gaudy or cheap, or was good for, you know,...

repertoires for some magazines but I saw it as an incredible description of the world that I lived in, and I wanted to promote this idea of color photography against the kind of restrictions that the art world was placing on it, so I did something very personal. When I could afford two cameras, two Leicas that I loaded one with Kodochrome color and the other with Tri-X black and white, and I walked around with these two cameras, and whenever something happened that was interesting enough but slow enough for me to make one shot and another shot, I would do it. And then, I put these together as pairs so that I could then study them, so I, myself, would know which one do I like better? The one that takes the color out of the world and leaves it as a graphic solution to a photographic problem or the one that maintains the color and adds an emotional depth to the photographs? So, I'll show you. I have lots of these pictures. Hundreds of them, actually, and I put them together in a very innocent way, right at the beginning. I mean, for example. I was in the American South and I see the wind blowing a quilt on a line, and I make a photograph of it, and then, I make this other one, and of course, when you see this one, it is black and white. It's black dots on a white field but when you see the colored one, you realize it's red on a white field with green tones underneath and a storm coming in the background. The sky's gone blue-gray or slate gray and then, around the picture, there are signs for a traveling circus in yellow and red. Suddenly, this simple photograph is full of notes of color. So, I had to make that kind of distinction early on to commit myself to seeing as black and white or seeing as color. Now. You have a different situation, today, because in your camera, you can change these things or you can change them in post-production easily enough. But there should be in either case a reason for why you're using one or the other. You have to ask yourself, what is it I mean to say? And if the graphic world is more important to you, if the strengths of black shadows, and white highlights, and the forms of, you know, bridge ironwork or the way a building comes into a frame, if that graphic, you know, management of space is what really interests you, then you should do that. It is your destiny for that period to do that and do it open-heartedly so that everything you see is shaped by this belief that black and white, and gray will give you a kind of rendering of objects in space, and time, and light in a way that pleases you. But. If color and the emotional range of all of the millions of colors that the world expresses, if that's what gets to you, then open yourself up to that and see how complicated, and rich, and interesting, and musical... color shooting in digital could be. You have a... It's almost like two languages. It's almost like you're speaking French and English. That way, you've got these two things that are very different, they communicate their message with different sounds but they both are languages. So, look at it in that regard and I'm sure. Like I had in all of these pictures, you will have the same kinds of playful responses to things and more than anything else, your mind will be stimulated to think in these two forms of the media, and thinking about making photographs, thinking about yourself in the world is an advance. It lifts you up a level. You're not just somebody who's wandering around, wondering what to do. You're posing a problem for yourself, which can be solved photographically in very interesting ways. So, you become a more interesting person and isn't that what we all hope for, that anything we do with passion, or obsession, or desire ultimately teaches us more about ourselves and the medium we're using. So, you get two for the price of one. Enjoy yourself. (upbeat music)

Class Description

Internationally renowned and award winning photographer Joel Meyerowitz is known for his iconic images that encompass decades of capturing all genres of photographs. Masters of Photography is bringing Joel’s class to CreativeLive to share the learnings from his vast career.

You’ll learn:

  • How to find a subject to photograph
  • How to improve your compositional skills
  • How to determine correct lighting
  • How to print your images and also create a photo book

Walk with Joel through picturesque Tuscany, bustling Siena and the vibrant streets of New York as he shows you how he creates his photographs. He will shares ideas, experiences, and his secrets on how to make great images. Joel will also suggest ideas for projects to try yourself. You can use any device from camera phone to DSLR, but in the end it’s all about you and your photography.

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I have an all access pass and thought oh no, I have to pay for this one? I bit the bullet and I am so glad I did. Joel has a great deal of wisdom and experience because of his age. BUT, despite his age, he exudes a fountain of enthusiasm, playfulness, curiousity and constant wonder surrounding his subjects. He opened within me the possibilities of exploring different photographic subjects and allowing myself to experience the fun in pursuit of those subjects. I love the way he shows how someone can take the same ho hum scene, but then look around for a different point of view. He is indeed a Master and I thank Joel for the class.


This is a absulutely fantastic class. Joel Meyerowitz takes you on an journey of little but important advices. In each short video you got some jewels to improve your approach, your view and your art. I own a lot of classes here on CL, but this one is one of my favourits! Gentle and human. Thank you Joel Meyerowitz, you helped me a lot on my journey to develop my photography.

Cosmin Dolha

What do you do after you learn all the mechanics, the technical stuff, exposure triangle, lights, where do you start? Because I am starting, now! You will find encouragement and guidance, and real applicable wisdom. If you are new to photography as I am, this course will point you in the right direction. What a treasure! Thank you CreativeLive for this and thank you Joel Meyerowitz for taking such a gentle approach to such a complicated subject, that is photography.