What’s the point of a photograph?
Without wishing to be trite, that’s not an easy question to answer. Photographs serve as many things. They can document, explain, illustrate, invoke and there might be n-n-n-nineteen other things aswell.
"Marine da nang" by United States Marine Corps. © No known restrictions. Public Domain.
So when, the question becomes:
What’s the point of a colour photograph?
it’s still not an easy question to answer. But there, are lots of good reasons why you might want to shoot in colour. Here are a few:
Colour is real. It reflects the way, humans perceive the world… and its use jolts us back into reality. The veil between the camera and viewer is lifted and the world comes flooding in.
If our young soldier, were in black & white, the photo wouldn’t matter. It would be YAPOW. And what is that good for? Absolutely nothing.
By shooting in colour, the painful reality, that he’s just a kid, fer-crying-out-loud! smacks us in the face, just moments before it dawns on us what that means to him, his life, his mother, and perhaps even what it says about the old men that started his war and, ultimately, us.
Human emotion, real human emotion, has colour.
"Smile" by AP Photographie. © Some rights reserved. Used under Creative Commons BY_NC_SA licence.
Joy, anger, fear, love and lust all have colour. It is only, perhaps, sadness that does not. But even sadness isn’t monochrome. It is not without colour, but rather, if it has colour, it is muted. It is life. But, it is life, turned down, not off.
Black & white images can be just a bit, well, poncey.
They’re just trying too hard to be taken seriously. Look at me, I’m in Black & White. I’m sooo arty. They’re like surly youths, pouting and smoking and pretending to be cool and scary; whilst desperately longing to be lurved and accepted. The truth, as all us grown ups know, is that choosing not to take the obvious route, is the where the real confidence lies.
If you don’t care what other people think, you don’t expend lots of time effort and energy, telling them. You just do what you do.
"Daydreaming..." by Nikki J. Gritti. © Some rights reserved. Used under Creative Commons BY licence.
Colour just does what it does.
Whoever came up with the saying “The camera never lies” either didn’t know what they were talking about or had an over-developed sense of irony. Finding truth in photography is no easier than any other walk of life, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying.
Turn off your flash, chuck away your filters and your lighting rigs. Give us the truth. We can handle it.
"Joseph Pacome Peintre Marais" by lomalakamera. © Some rights reserved. Used under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA licence.
Colour can be a fickle mistress; but that is why we love her so.
She might be troublesome and unpredictable at times, but so what? When she’s good, she’s very, very good, and sometimes when she’s bad, she’s even better.
"Sweet Pastel" by Joanna Kustra. © Some rights reserved. Used under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence.
What is your favourite thing in the world?
Would it be better if it was grey? Do you want to live in a grey house, eat grey cheese or watch a grey sunset? No, of course, you don’t.
In an oversaturated world, the quiet sobriety of monochrome can be seductive, but monochrome is only ever appreciated. It is never, ever beautiful.
"Earth Rise" by NASA. © No known restrictions. Public Domain.
Earth Rise: the Greatest Photo of All Time™
Colour is one of the cornerstones of photography and developing an understanding of it, playing around with it and using it will help you get the best out of your images.
And, we’re weirdly keen on that.