Why is most street photography black and white?

Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
59
Reaction score
6
Hi all,

I always wondered why street photography is mostly black and white?

Is it we (the photographers that do street Photography) just follow what has been an unwritten rule?

What else are the reasons... I posted a blog post here: http://www.andreastimm.com/photo-posts/why-is-most-street-photography-black-and-white/

Would be interested in your opinion!

Photo I attached: “Color Street Photography” – Munich, Germany, 2014
 

Attachments

  • Color Street Photography-Andreas Timm-2014.jpg
    Color Street Photography-Andreas Timm-2014.jpg
    900.9 KB · Views: 2,883

Didereaux

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Oct 29, 2013
Messages
2,372
Reaction score
1,582
Location
swamps of texas
Website
tinyurl.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
Hi all,

I always wondered why street photography is mostly black and white?

Is it we (the photographers that do street Photography) just follow what has been an unwritten rule?

What else are the reasons... I posted a blog post here: http://www.andreastimm.com/photo-posts/why-is-most-street-photography-black-and-white/

Would be interested in your opinion!

Photo I attached: “Color Street Photography” – Munich, Germany, 2014
As pgriz said ""Street" is usually depicting the relationship of the subject to the environment. B/W tends to reduce the distractions and allow us to focus on the key elements." Which is spot on. The image you posted would more likely fall into the abstract genre.
 

sashbar

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Dec 13, 2012
Messages
3,044
Reaction score
1,182
Location
Behind the Irony Curtain
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
It is partly tradition/shooting style and partly an aesthetic preference. A lot of street photographers are inspired by old masters like HCB, who used to shoot b&w in the days when most photography was b&w as was the documentary. HCB said intelligent geometry and composition were almost a physical pleasure to him, and b&w helps that. These old photogs developed their concepts, that have been copied or followed since. Often b&w was a necessity due to a chaotic colour schemes of a street scene. Later many street photogs started to travel to places like Far East or Latin America and exploring the opportunities of colour, and now there are many who shoot in colour only. For some great masters, like Webb, colour is now the main language of a street photo. One can not say street photography is b&w only these days, quite contrary. But the problem of colour is that, though a powerful instrument, it makes it more difficult to shoot street. It is just another dimention that has to be right. Having said that, modern street gives more opportunities for "easy" colour shots, like the one you have posted. The colour scheme of a modern street in US and Europe is vastly different compared to 70-50 years ago. On the other hand modern cameras with fast focus and wide dynamic range allow for more difficult street exposures that work with colours, like edge lit compositions etc.
I love colour and almost never shoot street b&w.
 
Last edited:
OP
Andreas Timm Photography
Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
59
Reaction score
6
it looks gritty and most lighting isn't ideal

Hi Trever1t - agree most street photography looks gritty and lighting is typically not perfect. So do you think this is on purpose or it "just happens" when people do street photography?

Cheers,
Andreas
 
OP
Andreas Timm Photography
Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
59
Reaction score
6
"Street" is usually depicting the relationship of the subject to the environment. B/W tends to reduce the distractions and allow us to focus on the key elements.

Hi pgriz,

makes sense - so B/W is just more simple, focussed...

Cheers,
Andreas
 
OP
Andreas Timm Photography
Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
59
Reaction score
6
Hi all,

I always wondered why street photography is mostly black and white?

Is it we (the photographers that do street Photography) just follow what has been an unwritten rule?

What else are the reasons... I posted a blog post here: http://www.andreastimm.com/photo-posts/why-is-most-street-photography-black-and-white/

Would be interested in your opinion!

Photo I attached: “Color Street Photography” – Munich, Germany, 2014
As pgriz said ""Street" is usually depicting the relationship of the subject to the environment. B/W tends to reduce the distractions and allow us to focus on the key elements." Which is spot on. The image you posted would more likely fall into the abstract genre.
 

Trever1t

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Dec 30, 2010
Messages
9,331
Reaction score
2,722
Location
San Jose, CA
Website
wsgphotography.com
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
purposely. Have you ever heard the expression clean as the streets? No? Me either.
 
OP
Andreas Timm Photography
Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
59
Reaction score
6
It is partly tradition/shooting style and partly an aesthetic preference. A lot of street photographers are inspired by old masters like HCB, who used to shoot b&w in the days when most photography was b&w as was the documentary. HCB said intelligent geometry and composition were almost a physical pleasure to him, and b&w helps that. These old photogs developed their concepts, that have been copied or followed since. Often b&w was a necessity due to a chaotic colour schemes of a street scene. Later many street photogs started to travel to places like Far East or Latin America and exploring the opportunities of colour, and now there are many who shoot in colour only. For some great masters, like Webb, colour is now the main language of a street photo. One can not say street photography is b&w only these days, quite contrary. But the problem of colour is that, though a powerful instrument, it makes it more difficult to shoot street. It is just another dimention that has to be right. Having said that, modern street gives more opportunities for "easy" colour shots, like the one you have posted. The colour scheme of a modern street in US and Europe is vastly different compared to 70-50 years ago. On the other hand modern cameras with fast focus and wide dynamic range allow for more difficult street exposures that work with colours, like edge lit compositions etc.
I love colour and almost never shoot street b&w.

Hi sashbar,

thanks for your reply and the feedback. I am just trying to do street photography more in color, but as you mentioned above: "It is just another dimension that has to be right". I fully agree! But this somehow also says: Traditional B/W street photographers are somewhat lazy... right?

Best,
Andreas
 
OP
Andreas Timm Photography
Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
59
Reaction score
6
Have you ever heard the expression clean as the streets?

Hmm.. no sorry, but that may be due to not being a native english speaker... so what does it mean and how does it relate to my initial post and the question why street photography is typically B/W?

Tx.

Cheers,
Andreas
 

sashbar

Been spending a lot of time on here!
Joined
Dec 13, 2012
Messages
3,044
Reaction score
1,182
Location
Behind the Irony Curtain
Can others edit my Photos
Photos NOT OK to edit
Hi sashbar,

thanks for your reply and the feedback. I am just trying to do street photography more in color, but as you mentioned above: "It is just another dimension that has to be right". I fully agree! But this somehow also says: Traditional B/W street photographers are somewhat lazy... right?

Best,
Andreas

Not necessarily. Colour photography can be as lazy, it all depends of demands and expectations. A top b&w street photog who spends hours on the street every day and says four good images in a year is an excellent return, can hardly be lazy :).
 
OP
Andreas Timm Photography
Joined
Sep 21, 2014
Messages
59
Reaction score
6
Not necessarily. Colour photography can be as lazy, it all depends of demands and expectations. A top b&w street photog who spends hours on the street every day and says four good images in a year is an excellent return, can hardly be lazy :).

Hmm... good point! :)
 

Most reactions

New Topics

Top