How One Photographer Shoots Black and White Street Photography

There are as many approaches to street photography as there are streets in any major city. Some photographers use autofocus cameras and long lenses to capture candid scenes from a distance. Some shooters point their manual focus film cameras at funny street signs. Others look for shafts of lighting falling between tall buildings.

My approach is to photograph couples in the subways of NYC. Often I approach the couple and photograph them with permission but there are times that I shoot candids. Many photographers opt to shoot in black and white while others embrace the myriad of colors found in big cities.

Often, the process that the photographer uses to capture street imagery is as interesting as the final shots. In his latest video, photographer, James Parsons utilizes a shoulder-mounted GoPro to show his thought process as he searches for the best composition to photograph the various elements in front of him on the streets of London. He uses a Fuji x100v. This is a camera that we don’t seem to hear much about these days, but one that is small, silent, and ideal for street photography. Because he is shooting in black and white mode, James looks for ways to maximize the contrast between these 2 tonal extremes. At times he shows why he has chosen to frame his image in a specific particular way with regard to distracting elements or drawing the viewer’s attention to the subject of the photograph. Although my approach to street photography has little in common with James’ I found the exploration of his thought process interesting.

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14 Comments
Sam Sims's picture

I will give the video a look but I am very dubious when a YouTuber claims to teach us how to shoot ‘professional grade’ photos. What is ‘professional grade’ anyway?

James Parsons's picture

Hey Sam - Thanks for your comment. I guess there is no such thing as 'professional grade'.

However, I wanted to give an insight into how I shoot black and white, as well as some considerations I make while shooting as a professional photographer/ videographer. I don't believe I am the best photographer in the world, but I make all of my income from photography rather than YouTube.

I hope that gives you a little more context as to my thought process behind the titling :)

Let me know what you think of the video; I would love to hear it.

Best wishes,
JP

Sam Sims's picture

Hi James,

I did enjoy the video and definitely got a sense for your enthusiasm for street photography, Depending in how much you want to divulge with your audience, I went on a photo walk earlier this year with Mark Fearnley who took us to some of his favourite spots and showed us and talked us through how he created some of his favourite photographs. He gave us an insight into how he sees a scene and how he captures unique photographs that define his style. Might be an idea for a future video if you are prepared to share that much about your though processes with your audience.

Anyway, keep it going, I enjoy plenty of your photos. Thanks to the pandemic and my now totally different outlook on life, I too am making photography my main income because it’s time I dedicated myself to the things I enjoy doing.

James Parsons's picture

Glad you enjoyed the video man! Yes i've heard about Mark's experiences, and I've considered doing a video that discusses a similar topic. For me, the catching point is delivering it in a way that's engaging over YouTube vs actually showing someone in person. Do you have any ideas as to how that could be done?

Amin Motin's picture

James, if you took a couple of your subscribers with you on a day out shooting you could film what you tell them in person, show the results (including near misses and complete fails). It would, effectively, be a workshop that is recorded. And the photo walk street photography workshop model is very lucrative, so you might even consider running some in the future.

Perhaps a recorded one on YouTube could be your calling card/advert?

A GoPro in the hotshoe of your camera (you may already do that, I've only seen a few of your vids) would also give a very direct view of what your camera is pointed at.

Amin Motin's picture

Mark's workshops are great - I've done 3 now and once my health has improved to the point I can manage all the walking again I'll be booking another.

John Ricard's picture

I agree the term "professional" can be slightly problematic. Sort of like "cinematic". Doesn't strike the right chord with me. But, I think it's a pretty minor thing because it's just a title. The stuff that annoys me in You Tube videos has more to do with the host talking unnaturally slow, music playing underneath the talking, wasting too much time with introductions or vlog style story elements. Even YouTubers who create content that I really enjoy like Evan Raft and Peter McKinnon use questionable titles on occasion.

Sam Sims's picture

It’s just a pet peeve from the days where YouTubers would talk about ‘getting the film look’ and all they’d do is use their cheap DSLR and tell the viewers to shoot video with a shallow depth of field.

Brokenland Fine Art Photography's picture

You know, I shoot and have been shooting stuff like this for a very long time and sometimes I think those writing these topics are deliberately avoiding adding topics about my shooting style, because they are jealous how my images are turning out and without all the fancy gear.

James Parsons's picture

Thanks for sharing my video dude - Appreciate the love <3

John Ricard's picture

I'm actually going to steal your shoulder mounted GoPro idea and film a video next week of my street photography process ;)

James Parsons's picture

Do it! Looking forward to seeing what you create :)

Stuart C's picture

Been watching James for a while now, great channel that deserves many more subs.

James Parsons's picture

MY dude <3 thank you. Appreciate the love, and you're continued support