Robert Surtees: Color vs. Black & White

From American Cinematographer, Photography for The Last Picture Show interview by Herb A. Lightman (Jan. 1972)

From the cinematographer's standpoint, which do you think is more difficult to shoot, black-and-white or color?

"From a technical standpoint, I still insist that black and-white is more difficult. For example, while shooting an actual interior in color, if you pan from a well-lighted figure to an area that is dark but too cramped to place lights where you really like them, you can just flatten that area out and get by. But in black-and-white, if you want shadow, you've got to put it in there, man. You can't depend on fill light to take care of it. You really have to model the subject with light instead of counting on the colors for separation. Of course, the right makeup, wardrobe and sets become more important in color photography. You can sometimes get by with the wrong makeup in black-and-white, and you can help a bad set. You can use smaller lamps, get in behind chairs, and break up walls by putting shadows on them. But on the other hand, in shooting black-and-white, you have to do it. You can't count on the process you're using to do it for you."

- Robert Surtees, ASC

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