Challenge Yourself Using Color In Street Photography

I don’t believe street photography has to be shot in black-and-white.  Many of the people who argue that black-and-white is the only option for Street Photography do so because they believe the greats did so.  It’s often overlooked that some of the greatest photographers, the ones referenced, only had the option of black-and-white.  Color not only has a place in street photography, there are times when I would say that the scene demands it… Or at least deserves it.  With that being said, I would say that there are also times when only black-and-white would do…  Giving yourself the option is paramount.

One very important difference between color and monochromatic photography is this: in black and white you suggest; in color you state.  Much can be implied by suggestion, but statement demands certainty… absolute certainty.

-Paul Outerbridge

Choosing between black-and-white and color processing can be a difficult task.  You may spend many minutes/hours/days going back-and-forth between color and black-and-white versions of the same photograph and still not be able to make up your mind.  Of course, There is nothing wrong with marinating on an image.  It’s important that after reflecting you’re able to make a confident and deliberate decision.

*Ever stumble across a Flickr page where the person has multiple of the same image processed in different ways?  That’s what you don’t want. 

For this assignment we are going to do just that, we’re going to create street photography that looks best in color. Fight the urge to go back through your archive and try to create new images for this assignment.

When to use color?

I’ve included some examples of times I use color but by no means do you need to stay within those constraints.  Get creative and utilize your own artistic vision.


Or placed close together for contrasting effects, like a person wearing a yellow rain jacket standing in front of a red wall…  An image looking down on a sea of people with black umbrellas and one brightly colored one.  Maybe contrast would have been a better word but writing Juxtapose makes me feel smart.

Visual Balance

Experienced photographers will use color to alter the visual balance of an image.  Different colors have different weights, it’s exactly what it sounds like.  If you look at an image that has a baseball on one side of the image and a bowling ball on the other you’d feel as if the image was tilted towards the bowling-ball subconsciously.  Color the baseball red and the bowling ball a color that slightly blends with the background and you will balance the image out.  The color red is considered a heavy color and even though the baseball is smaller it would then gain visual dominance over the bowling ball (Article on Visual Balance coming very soon).


Colors can alter the “mood” of an image, or the way an image makes viewers feel.  Large corporations pay millions to alter your mood with the colors they use in their images (why is Pepsi’s logo red or McDonald’s logo Yellow?).  Do a quick Google search like “What do colors mean?” and you’ll come up with hundreds of articles discussing the mood that colors give people on a subconscious level.  Red?  Lust, excitement, envy, anger…

*Note that not all colors mean the same thing to everyone.  Different cultures, backgrounds, etc. change the way each of us process visual stimulation (or our world for that matter). 


For more information on B+W vs. Color check out my article Street Photography – Black and White Versus Color.


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