When to Capture the Streets in Color

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While I know that many prefer their street photos in black and white, I also think it's worth snapping the streets in color once in a while. Let me share with you some of the ways I see and capture the cities I go to in glorious technicolor in this simple tipster!

I am yet to have substantial experience with street photography (in fact, it has just started to force my eyes open), but I think I am starting to learn how to play around with different styles and approaches to this fascinating art. I also have finally understood the logic behind shooting streets in monochrome, but I noticed that certain scenes and circumstances look great in color as well.

Of course, it wasn’t always this clear to me when to shoot in color and when in black and white; most of what I “know” about it came from experimenting — and the lack of black and white films to shoot with (yeah, sadly) forcing me to work with what I have. Now, if you shoot street mainly in monochrome and would like to try it out in color, determining when to do it is most likely one of the concerns you have in mind about it.

Instead of boring you with lengthy explanations and guidelines about street photography in color — which I think some of you most likely have already read about somewhere else — I thought of telling you about how I decide when to work with film out in the streets.

Credits: plasticpopsicle

If you’re faced with a scene that has vibrant, eye-catching hues, opt to shoot in color.

This is perhaps one of the first “rules” I follow whenever I think about shooting in color out in the streets. The photos above may still look good when shot in black and white, but I think the intense reds — especially the ones in the photos of the windows — are too nice and eye-catching not to show, don’t you think? Same with interesting street scenes with sunsets, sunrises, and the so-called “Golden Hour” — I believe they are best captured and showcased in color.

Credits: plasticpopsicle

Attending major festivals and local events? Don’t pass up on the chance to fit all those colors in your photos!

Festival photos are almost always shot in color, and it’s obvious why: they are full of colorful costumes, props, decorations, and fireworks! These events are also among the perfect opportunities to capture interesting street scenes in color. Following the “rule” above, this one is kind of a no-brainer, right?

Credits: plasticpopsicle

I prefer photographing colorful market and mouth-watering street food scenes in color — for obvious reasons.

While it’s not unheard of to shoot black and white while you’re exploring markets and street fairs, my personal preference is to preserve all the colors and textures of all the stuff I find in these venues. I just find them more interesting and eye-catching that way. As for street food, it’s another no-brainer for me — they look appetizing and inviting when showcased in full color!

Credits: plasticpopsicle

Street art with gorgeous hues and textures are worth snapping in color.

During my birthday trip to Penang, one of the things on my itinerary was to scour the streets for the city’s famous street art, and also attend the first solo exhibit of Ernest Zacharevic. Most of these street artworks — most notably the “Boy on a Bike” installation in the first photo — involve clever use of colors to make certain details and textures stand out. So, I think it’s best to do street art like these some justice and capture them in their original colored form.

Credits: plasticpopsicle

The streets at night also look nice in color!

I am one with street photographers who usually capture street scenes at night in black and white, since the absence of color makes everything extra dramatic. However, I’ve also found that it’s worth shooting out in the streets at dusk and at night using high-ISO color negative films, especially in vibrant, neon-lit cities like Las Vegas. Shooting in color provides an interesting view of how cities take on a different glowing form at sundown, don’t you think?

While we’re at it, I also suggest checking out this helpful and nicely detailed lesson by Eric Kim on street photography composition using the color theory, which I found while looking for some tips to help me achieve some nice color play when I’m out shooting in the streets.

What about you, do you also follow a certain set of pointers when doing street photography in color? Please do share, I’d like to learn about them as well!

written by plasticpopsicle on 2014-03-26 in #gear #tipster

2 Comments

  1. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    A very interesting article about the problems in color photography! www.egglestontrust.com/guide_intro.html

  2. iamtheju
    iamtheju ·

    I shoot almost all of my street photography in colour, mainly because I feel like I could be missing something important if I limit my image to B&W. But there are things to be gained from both perspectives. I think one good thing would be to carry two cameras (one B&W and one Colour).
    I am about to start some more B&W street shots though (as soon as my film order arrives) . So I will have a decent amount of images to compare. lol
    @sirio174 That is a brilliant piece of writing. I have even bookmarked it so I can read it again and again :)

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