Beginning Street Photography II: Color In Street Photography

Beginning Street Photography II: Color In Street Photography


I’ll be honest, I prefer my street photography mono. It’s classic. Like Rob Heron has said, it has a timeless feel to it. However, I’m slowly warming up to shooting color. I believe this is because I’m technically becoming a better shooter. I have found my beginning shots that are simpler, more stark mono compositions have yielded some pretty palatable results. However, the more I shoot, and the more I grow in my skill set, the more I like the more vivid, rich color pieces. Let me try to explain why.

Being still very much a novice to street photography, and photography in general, I keep things very simple. I shoot JPEGS only. The reasons why is this: Due to schedules, I have an extremely small window of opportunity to shoot every week. So, I spend what free time I have just shooting a TON of pictures, practicing my composition skills and working on building my technical skill set. Eventually, when I think I’m ready, I’ll shoot RAW, and that wonderful world and the full glory of post processing that goes with it, will be a new bag of tricks to play with.

For now, JPEG suits me. The decision to shoot in color has already been made by going this route. I know Spyros Papaspyropoulos has said in his most recent blog, it’s best to decide beforehand whether you’re going to shoot in mono or color. In mono, we look for shapes and shadows. In color, we look for the combinations of color, or color versus the lack of color in an image. This is definitely the best approach. Eventually, I’ll be doing this! At this point, I take an insane amount of pictures, and I decide after the fact what looks better in mono or color. If I think it would look better in mono, I’ll do a quick convert in post processing.

Now, for me, as horrendous as it may sound, it’s almost quantity over quality. I shoot like a madman and sort through it later. Before you click away in disgust, hear me out, please! After going through all shots for the day, I comb through the mess and analyze. I’ll see what has worked! Why the shot was good or bad, what was the situation, and how the shot could be better… all are questions I ask. It’s at this point I also think about mono vs. color. Why would the shot look better in color or mono? What makes the shot look better in either? I don’t think about it at the time of the shot. Again, I focus on a sweet composition.

So truthfully, I’m always shooting in color! What a backwards way of doing things, right? But I’ve never walked a straight line in my life, so why start now? The biggest thing? I find it enjoyable! It’s helping me to figure out my own style, I guess.

So, why use color for street photography? What’s good about color street photography?

Color Is Life

We don’t live in a black and white world. We see in color and we dream in color, too. Color grabs our attention on the street. The clothes people wear, the landscape, architecture, signs, advertisement… all use color to appeal to our eyes or to draw our attention. From the screaming red fire truck to the sports team’s colors on a hat or jersey… we identify and associate colors with some thing or some purpose. In Street photography, color can represent things that you may lose in black and white. The beautiful floral print of a woman’s dress may get lost as she’s waiting in the dreary subway station if the shot’s in mono. But it will stand out against the bleak surroundings in color. The long shot of the street, with five or six traffic signals showing green could make the shot more dramatic. For example…

Color Helps To Convey Messages Or Feelings

That long run of greenlights means go, man go! A shot in mono may not deliver the same feeling or meaning. Lush greenery or landscape juxtaposed against cold, urban harshness is another example. I believe some of these feelings just can’t be captured with mono. This is where contrasts really come in to play for me. Vibrant color against a bleak background can really deliver a message, a feeling. I love the idea of the color contrasts making the viewer think and interpret their own message about what’s happening or implied!

Skin Toned

We people come in all shapes, sizes and colors. That’s what makes all beautiful. Sure you can differentiate between skin tones in mono, but color is where we all really shine. It’s where our deep, rich beauty comes through. Along the same line, eye colors can really be brought out in street portraits when shooting color. Lips are another great example.


Mono is tough to beat when it comes to stark contrasts, but color can trump the king when it comes to warmth. A sunset backing the city buildings, or the glow of the streetlights, won’t be quite as warm in mono.


I cannot tell a lie. Mono images are what drew me to street photography. Mono, for me, is more artistic. It’s the reigning champ. But, color is powerful as well. It has a place. I’m looking forward to the day(soon) when I go on photo missions that are specific to color or mono. I’m anxious for the day when my eye is ready to look for the shot in either color or mono.


  1. Thank you for explaining your position… and finally I think most of us we have the same interrogations…

  2. Thank you for explaining your position… and finally I think most of us we have the same interrogations…

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