Modern Black And White Street Photography

November 19, 2018 1:48 am by columnblogger
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Modern Black And White Street Photography

This can be very difficult, and the composition doesn’t always come out like the street photographer had envision. Often, you observe a nice scene that really catches your interest, but you also face the problem of distracting objects in the background. Especially colorful objects can distract the viewer and sidetrack the attention.

In the same vein, silhouette images work very well as monochrome versions. The picture becomes very minimalistic, but when done right can encourage the viewer’s imagination.

There are also a few characteristics that make black and white advantageous in comparison to color.

Phil Penman‘s offbeat, black and white photographs document intriguing aspects of everday life in New York City. Originally from the UK, Penman now calls New York his home and when he’s not photographing celebrities for People and USA Today, he’s out on the streets, camera in hand. “Every morning, I head out the door armed with my Leica M and bike, and all I ever hope for is to come home with just one image I’m proud of. I’m drawn to those individuals who are not trying to be cool or would even think they are, but just have great character and style.”

Modern technology is now more than able to capture colors of the real world. If necessary, editing makes it possible to change the look of colors in any direction you can imagine. And additional complexity like white balance becomes easier to deal with thanks to digital cameras offering RAW files that give photographers more flexibility to adjust the look afterward.

Who are the photographers picking up the baton from greats like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paul Martin, and Walker Evans? Today, the best street photographers often work with commercial clients or as photojournalists by day, using their own time to pursue a passion of documenting the streets.

Either way, try sticking with a style for more than only a few images and not switching back and forth. B&W might be a classic that will never run out of fashion, but with color street photography you could set the next highlight in your unique style.

Often times it is more interesting for the viewer when not everything is revealed, but there is still room for imagination. This kind of image works very well in B&W. Increasing the contrast also adds to this effect. Colors often would be too distracting and take away from the mysterious atmosphere.

By jumping in fearlessly, getting involved in the community, and waiting for that decisive moment, they are active in photographing the urban landscape. Certainly, years from now, we’ll be looking to them for a history lesson on what the 21st century looked like.

Angelo Ferrillo left behind studies in engineering to pick up a camera, and has not looked back since. Working as a photojournalist, he is also part of the Italian Street Photography Association and is a Hasselblad ambassador. Whether capturing candid moments in his native Italy or shooting a series about Bataclan one year after the terrorist attack, Ferrillo’s is the work of an adept storyteller.

Nonetheless, there is a huge amount of B&W released on the Internet very day. Standing out from the masses is very difficult when you can only show distinctions of gray. It is easy to get lost in the mass of mediocre monochrome images. Therefore, you have to develop a unique picture style that is distinctive from the rest.

Image via Constantin Mashinskiy. READ MORE: 365 Days of Documenting Parisians Through Stunning Street Portraits

The works of talented and passionate photographers from around the world capturing images of “life in our time”…

Image via Rui Palha. READ MORE: Recording Moments Along the Streets of Lisbon

Shinya Arimoto is a professor of photography at the Tokyo School of Visual Arts. In his spare time, he shoots offbeat characters on the streets of Tokyo. He spends hours out in the city, feeling that it’s fundamental to make contact with as many people as possible in order to obtain the best work. “I photograph people struggling against but again also benefiting from their environment here in Tokyo. I think that among the two, I’m interested in finding common denominators as human beings.”

The $1,300 Fujifilm X100F (left) and the $659 Ricoh GR II (right).

Un globo, dos globos….la vida es un globo que se me escapó

For landscape or portrait photographers, there are icons like Sebastiao Salgado or Helmut Newton who put out impressive black and white images. But looking back, the past decades have been dominated by color work.

One often misused misconception is converting a bad colorful picture into monochrome and hoping that it turns out better. I agree that B&W makes it easier to conceal mistakes, but a bad photo stays bad and doesn’t profit from monochrome. A picture that doesn’t work in color, because it lacks the depth of story or is badly framed, won’t be better in B&W.

With his landmark series Lost Angels, UK photographer Lee Jeffries captured stunning portraits of the homeless. Not a street photographer in the sense of shooting candid moments, Jeffries engages with the community, seeking out and creating connections with his models that translate into soul-bearing portraits.

Image via Phil Penman. READ MORE: Interview: Dynamic Street Shots Document the Quirky Everyday Scenes of New York City

About the author: Sebastian Jacobitz is a street photographer from Berlin, Germany, capturing the everyday life in the city. The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author. To see more of his work, visit his website, The Street Photography Hub, or give him a follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Donato di Camillo‘s entry into photography was unusual—he took up the craft while serving a prison sentence. Upon his release in 2012, he was introduced to the work of modern masters Bruce Gilden and William Klein, which pushed him toward street photography. Considering himself an outsider, his work often captures people on the fringes of society. “I love the amazing differences in people and how beautifully unique we all are. Good bad or indifferent; People never cease to amaze me, they often answer many of my own questions. The littlest detail, maybe in the eyes or the way someone walks can be the difference of making a photograph.”

Russian photographer and designer Constantin Mashinskiy spent a year investigating the difference faces of Paris in his series 365 Parisians. By continuing his work even after the year was finished, he’s amassed an impressive archive that weaves a tale of the people who make a city. From elegantly dressed women to overworked line cooks, Mashinskiy expertly crafted portraits both feed into and defy our expectations of the cosmopolitan city.

But the following are some of the possible reasons why B&W is still popular among street shooters.

Later on for me, the noise wasn’t an annoyance anymore but instead became an aesthetic choice. It is a lot easier to emulate old pushed Tri-X film than the ever popular Kodachrome. Color has to factor in a lot more variables which make it near impossible to emulate them perfectly.

While beauty itself often isn’t the sole subject, the contrast of light and darkness is a frequently used subject. A lot of street photographs revolve around subjects being in the spotlight while a lot of the scene is hidden in the dark.

Take a look at our list of contemporary street photographers who are shaping the way we view the modern world.

In contrast, street photographers never quite made the full transition and therefore beginners are more likely to try their luck with monochrome images first, following their idols.

To restore the original focus of the image, it can be helpful to display the picture in B&W. This way, the content becomes king and the look becomes less important. Since street photography often tries to show a story or the interaction of people, B&W can help to emphasize the content, by fading out distracting colors.

Just as light and darkness can become subjects on their own, colors play an important part in color images. Whenever the photographer decides to stay away from monochrome versions, the colors shouldn’t just be there randomly. In a way, they should make sense and really add something to the scene as if the photographer painted the scene himself. Otherwise, why should you include them?

Tags: b&w, blackandwhite, oped, opinion, sebastianjacobitz, streetphotography, thoughts

Working to capture mirror images of society, street photography is a reflection of the urban landscape. Street photographers create time capsules of our world, documenting the big and small moments of life. And while we often reflect back on the top photographers of vintage eras, what about street photography today?

Street photography is one of the hardest and most fast-paced genres, leaving little to no time for the composition. While studio photographers can often take all the time they want to create their image very carefully, street photographers have to react on the street very quickly.

When I started my journey into photography, I didn’t want to invest too much money in a camera. A consequence was that ISO noise became very apparent, especially in low light situations. In color work, this can become very distracting and lowers the overall quality of the image. For B&W, some noise can actually work very well, because it resembles the old analog look. You don’t need a Fujifilm X100F to begin with. A Ricoh GR works wonders, even in low light situations when embracing the film look.

In general, I’d advise you to think about which style you chose before you go out and shoot. Both variations are unique and aren’t interchangeable with a simple click in the post production. You have to observe the world very differently. With B&W, you will focus more on the light and shadows, while color requires you to have a look at every possible combination of annoying colors that could break your image.

This led to the development of free film presets like the Silver Efex package. So for the classic film look, monochrome has a lot more to offer and is much easier to replicate, than his colorful alternative.

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10 Street Photographers Who Are Immortalizing Our Modern World


Eric Kim is one of the most influential street photographers today, not only due to his candid photographs, but his willingness to interact with fans. His blog is an informative resource for any street photographer, with musings on how to make your work go viral and how to find personal meaning in your photography. His popular YouTube channel not only gives street photography tutorials, but takes you behind the scenes while he’s out shooting.

Black-and-white still remains the photographer’s favorite for street photographers, and with very good reason. Where in other genres monochrome has become a niche look, street photography is different. Why does B&W remain the favorite choice of street photographers, and are there logical reasons to go for it?Black-and-white was naturally the first choice for photographers of old due to technical restrictions. Film wasn’t able to showcase color, and it took a long time until more and more street photographers explored new opportunities for color work. Nonetheless, it seems most modern street photography photos are still in B&W.

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Based in Lisbon, Rui Palha shoots his images in the style of classic street photographers. Sneaking stolen moments off the streets of Portugal, he paints a portrait of the capital city. He actively shares his work on Facebook, via his Street Photography, page. “Photography is a very important part of my space… it is to discover, it is to capture giving flow to what the heart feels and sees in a certain moment, it is being in the street, experiencing, understanding, learning and, essentially, practicing the freedom of being, of living, of thinking….”

Therefore, I feel that colors should match in some way. This could be that one color is very present in the image, or that different colors create either a very harmonic picture or tension. But including color just for the sake of not doing B&W doesn’t work most of the time. Color is too complicated, especially in uncontrollable situations like street photography.

Because of that, B&W is often the “easier” choice by reducing the complexity and difficulty of an image.

Vladimir Milivojevich, better known as Boogie, is a Serbian street photographer who gained recognition through his work on the streets of New York. Shooting classically in black and white, Boogie’s work is an unflinching look at society. He’s known for shining a light on situations we’d rather overlook, whether it’s people doing drugs or children left neglected in the street. His photographs serve as a reminder that we cannot pretend the rougher sides of life do not exist.

Image via Donato di Camillo. READ MORE: Man Who Taught Himself Photography in Prison Captures Raw and Intimate Portraits

Documentary photography is one of the oldest genres, and a lot of street photographers try to replicate the look of classic photographers like Robert Capa or Henri-Cartier Bresson. Even until the late 70s, most icons didn’t make the transition but continued to shoot in B&W. Exceptions such as Joel Meyerowitz or Saul Leiter were pioneers with their beautiful color work, but they also had to fight a lot of criticism.

Based in Atlanta, photographer Zack Arias is a force in contemporary street photography. Also a commercial photographer, he’s known for his work with music stars and commercial giants like Coca-Cola. He brings the bold, dynamic style of these ventures into his street work and via his role as Fujifilm’s official representative photographer, his influence encourages others to bring their cameras into the streets.

For interested photographers in the modern age looking to make their way into street photography, it is much more likely to discover the work of Vivian Maier, Robert Capa, or Bruce Gilden, who almost exclusively shot in B&W. Quite interestingly, Vivian Maier also had a collection of color images that have mostly remained unpopular.

Image via Shinya Arimoto. READ MORE: Eccentric Characters of the Streets of Japan Captured on Film

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