Let me just cut to the chase, to make a good photo in color is very difficult. If the scene or location doesn’t have much color or contrast to begin with then it’s probably better off to shoot in black and white.
If the colors do not enhance the photo, it’s probably better to shoot the photo in black and white. Color does offer something different, fresh perspective, a new challenge, but for me black and white street photos seem to always touch my heart, my mind and my soul more often than a color street photo. I see the analogy that black and white photography is like liquid medication, where it enters your body and the effects kick into gear quicker while color photography is like if you were swallowing a capsule form of medicine. The effects will eventually kick in but not instantaneously.
In this day and age with all your accessible photo editing softwares, people tend to put color photography on a pedastal for better or for worse. Most people will judge a photo if the colors are nice, if its bright and contrasting before even observing what was even meant to be taken. My thought with color photos is that it’s more of an aesthetic than it is a feeling.
With black and white photos, you strip down those barriers, the aesthetic barriers, the barriers of discrimination, it strip down any distraction that may bear to the human eye.
Personally, I shoot color from time to time, simply to mix things up, maybe I’m temporarily bored of shooting in BnW, or wanting a new challenge. However, in the end I always end up reverting back to bnw photography. with color street photography, i feel that all the pieces need to be aligned for the photo to be spectacular. From the framing, to the location, to the subject, etc. With bnw street photography, an honest mistake may enhance your photo, such as a tilted composition or mistakenly blurred out something. The human eye can see so much, so with black and white photos more of the viewers attention are drawn to what’s either in black or in white. Bnw also exudes more raw emotion (sad, happy, frustrated, hungry, mad, disgusted, tired), the more gritty the photo is, the better it can communicate a particular emotion.
Both genres serves their own purpose if done right. Not one is better than the other, it really depends on the situation, but for me I enjoy shooting in black and white more because it helps me convey my ideas, feelings, emotions and beliefs better. Creating a photo in black and white really subtracts anything within the frame that’s not meaningful. And while anything that vividly stands out in a black and white photo may be something of importance. While color photography, everything seems to stands out, basically black and white seems like an easier approach to street photography especially if you’re just starting off.
So keep in mind the difference with color and BnW street photos. Again these are from my experience and my subjective opinion. I don’t claim to be an expert on this topic, by creating this blog I wanted to start an open discussion on street photography. I’m always more than willing to hear what your thoughts are and to encourage you to share your knowledge with others.