Street Photography – in color or black and white?

We hear it often. You should only shoot in black and white, when making street photos. Colors distracts.  B/W is more pure and gives you a more distinct story. Only shoot either in b/w or color, otherwise you don’t have a personal photographic style, etc etc…

B/W or color? I chose the color version.
Copenhagen January 2016

I always struggle with this dilemma. Should my photo, and maybe all my photos, be in b/w or color only?

One of the best cameras around, the Leica M Monochrom (typ 246), has a sensor that only captures b/w. Should I sell my car, work a little harder a couple of years and buy one? With this camera all my struggle would be over 😉

No… I have come to the conclusion, even that I never will have a photographic style, I will do both. I just love both b/w and color street photographs.

Take the photo above, with the man in the yellow jacket. Not a very interesting street photo, I know. But compare the color version to the b/w. To me, the color version adds something. Maybe it is a bit of warmth in the Danish January coldness. To me there were no doubt. I like the color version more. I know that many would disagree. But as the photographer, you should always go with your own feeling!

Below is an example, where I chose the b/w version. Two very different photos and stories. In this case, I like the simplicity  a black and white photos can have. The colors are simply to distracting for me here. Again many would disagree. Some would even say that the color version would add something. And yes this is maybe so. But again – I went with the feeling.


B/W or color? I chose the b/w version.
Copenhagen January 2016


This beautiful woman below was captured on a street café in Copenhagen, where she had a smoke and coffee break. This one is difficult. I like the b/w version. But the color version has something. Look at the red jacket, the red table and the red hair.

B/W or color? I chose the b/w version. Copenhagen October 2015
B/W or color? I chose the b/w version.
Copenhagen October 2015

But in the end, I decided to go with the b/w version. Somehow the red color was to dominating. But a good example on how difficult it can be to choose. At least for me 😉


Finally a photo taken in Rome, where I never was in doubt. Without colors, this photo would not be one of my own favorites.

Rome March 2015


I have the deepest respect for those who choose to only work in b/w or in color. It not an easy choice. But it will give you a distinct style, a language. It will also give you less frustrations, when your choice is made. But personally I simply love both to much. So I will continue to do both, and continue to struggle. And sometimes make the wrong choice. But in all – you are the photographer and the artist. Its your choice. And don’t listen to all these “street photographer rules”. Just photograph the world as you see it, and not how others want you to see it!


You can see my more of my photographs on Flickr or my website.


Add yours →

  1. Nicely put Jan. I have a similar workflow. I cant seem to decide on either, obviously for a certain project I would choose colour Or bnw but otherwise I love the both ways

  2. Fair points. I definitely agree with what you are saying here. I almost often try both the monochrome and the colour version in ACR before I decide on what fits best. Sometimes a colour just pops and makes the Picture; sometimes it doesn’t.

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