How to Improve Your Black and White Street Photography, Without Being Obnoxious

It's always good when you can learn about different styles of photography by practicing them at the same time. It's even better when they are genres of photography you can do any time, at any location, and can be done without offending people. 

I must admit, when I first started out with photography I thought black and white imagery was pretentious and uppity. Perhaps that's because I grew up around the ocean with high-paced adrenaline action sports and didn't spend much time around cities or urban places. I never really understood why you'd deliberately take the color out of an image and went on my merry way shooting. However, as time's gone by and I've learned so much more about photography, I've really come to love shooting in black and white. Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing at first, but with practice I've come to a greater understanding with what makes decent black and white images.

In this video brought to you by COOPH, pro photographer Alan Schaller offers seven tips to improve your black and white street photography. Schaller is a London based street photographer who shoots exclusively in black and white and is the co-founder of Street Photography International, a platform for talented yet unrepresented photographers. This video is done with Leica, but it's applicable to anyone. It also goes to show that you don't need to be a offensive to create great moments of life in monochrome.

For me, I think his third piece of advice resonates the most: let the environment dictate the type of images you'll take. As a father with two young daughters I don't get a lot of time freedom to go out with my camera, so I'm often out in less than desirable conditions. But as Schaller says, there's never bad light, you simply need to adapt to what you're given. I think this is a hugely important tip for any aspiring photographer. Take a look at the video and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

If you're passionate about taking your photography to the next level but aren't sure where to dive in, check out the Well-Rounded Photographer tutorial where you can learn eight different genres of photography in one place. If you purchase it now, or any of our other tutorials, you can save a 15% by using "ARTICLE" at checkout. 

Iain Stanley's picture

Iain Stanley is an Associate Professor teaching photography and composition in Japan. Fstoppers is where he writes about photography, but he's also a 5x Top Writer on Medium, where he writes about his expat (mis)adventures in Japan and other things not related to photography. To view his writing, click the link above.

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Regarding tip 7. If you have to spend a lot of time in post processing, you should accept that the image is not recoverable and go to the next one. That assumes you're doing straight photography rather than something like compositing or some other photo manipulation.

“Without being obnoxious”? Pretty sure that wasn’t the point of the video.

Unfortunately, this article was posted a bit later than I hoped. There was an article on Fstoppers about a week ago about a Japanese photographer who’d been dropped by Fuji as a representative because of outrage over his rather obnoxious style. This was in response to that but kind of loses its context now that the other one’s not trending......