5 Tips to Bring Color Into Your Street Photography

When you think street photography, you’re probably thinking black and white, raw, pure and honest photos. Why is this, and what if you want to capture your surroundings in colour? In this article we take you on a journey through the subject of street photography and give you 5 tips on how to introduce color into your work.

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Street photography shows you the world in its true form. Because you have very little influence on your environment as a street photographer, you have to look for interesting subjects. Most street photographers start with black and white. This may feel purer, add mystery and can be a lot more forgivable when it comes to lighting conditions. As a street photographer you have to make do with what your surroundings give you, often dealing with difficult lighting conditions. That is why you’ll most likely find yourself shooting around the golden hours (sunrise and sunset). In difficult lighting conditions your photos generally translate better in black and white than they do with color. Sometimes as a creative this becomes tiring, and you will want to find more complex ways to capture your world. You can challenge yourself by shooting in color. This allows you to look at your surroundings in a new and refreshing way. When shooting in black and white you’ll mainly be paying attention to contrasts in light and dark, with shooting in color there’s a lot more you’ll have to pay attention to. A random object in your frame by accident, can be very distracting or, add an interesting element to your photo. You might not have even noticed the object in the same photo in black and white.

Color in street photography Tip 1: Golden Hour

You got it - here we go again! Our beloved golden hour! For the most spectacular, warm colors, the best time to shoot is around sunrise and sunset. During these hours the sun is low, which causes long and dramatic shadows, and the light also creates beautiful, warm tones. This makes it a very enjoyable time to head out and shoot.
golden hour street photography

Tip 2: Find Contrast

You can make your photo stand out more by looking for good color combinations. For example: you see a beautiful blue wall, but instead of snapping right away, you can make your photo much more interesting by waiting for a passerby with a bright orange coat. If you want to emphasize purple graffiti in a photo, see if you can find a moving or secondary subject in yellow.
color contrast
These color combinations make your photos pop, because they are complementary colors. This means that they complement each other. Find your favorite, popping color combinations in the color wheel below. Colors opposite each other in the circle reinforce each other. That is why we call them "complementary". The strongest contrasts are yellow-purple, blue-orange and red-green. These combos will do very well in your photos.

Tip 3: Repetitive Colors 

If your photo has a striking object in a striking color, make the color appear in other parts of the photo too. This balances out the overall image.

This picture repeats the tones of the blue house from the sky to the other houses in the area.

The telephone box and the bus together provide an interesting picture. The red is very striking in both, and together they provide a balance in the image. If either one were to drop, it would make the photo significantly less compelling.

The ochre yellow walls and the dress of the walking woman are quite similar, which gives this image a very serene/calming quality.

Tip 4: Learn from the Best

View other photographers' photos to learn what makes them interesting or be inspired by the beauty of their subjects. For example, Google photos by Alex Webb, William Eggleston and Jeff Mermelstein. Their color street photography could inspire you, and it might also teach you what makes a photo intriguing. View and criticize works of others. Check out the use of light and color, and try to recreate an atmosphere or image. By viewing other people's work, you learn to view critically and also to be more critical of your own work.

Tip 5: Find the Emotion of Colors

Street Photography is a reflection of reality. We, as humans, react to emotions instinctively. Happy music makes us happy, being surrounded by sad people makes us sad. Use these emotions to influence your audience. A photo can create an atmosphere and emotion. Try capturing some emotions through your use of color and light.

Sad, anxious, melancholy

Cheerful, warm, cozy

Use of Color in Street Photography - What to keep in mind

As you can see, color use in street photography is a very important tool. Whether you choose bright, happy colors to cheer up your audience or dark, melancholy colors to make your audience think, always pay attention to the colors in your photo. They make or break your image. A photo with little color can make an image too boring. Provide some accent colors in the picture to make it interesting. Find good lighting. In street photography you mainly deal with natural light. If you photograph late in the evening or at night, you have to make do with artificial light.This influences the atmosphere of your photo and the story you want to tell.

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