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7 Tips for Better Black and White Street Photography

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COOPH recently got together with London-based street photographer and co-founder of Street Photography Internationa Alan Schaller to talk about one of the most deceptively difficult forms of photography out there: black and white street photography.

While B&W street photography is incredibly prevalent, it’s also incredibly difficult to do well. Anybody can go snap a street scene or slap a super high-contrast B&W preset over a RAW file, but the ability to craft an eye-catching and engaging B&W street photo is an age-old art. Schaller is an expert at this—in fact, he shoots exclusively black and white—and in the video above he shares a total of 7 tips for better B&W street photography:

  1. Shoot B&W On Purpose – Don’t shoot color and convert later, set aside days when you’re shooting B&W exclusively
  2. Focus on what Makes B&W Interesting – Look for contrast, light, and tonality. Wild variations in color are (obviously) not going to do much for most B&W images
  3. Adapt to your Light Situation – Don’t try to shoot “high contrast” B&W when the light isn’t cooperating. Don’t force your will on the environment, let the light dictate the look and feel of your photos.
  4. Make Good Use of Your Environment – Don’t just focus on the human element, get creative with things like geometry and reflections.
  5. Capture Lots of Contrast – Make sure your images represent a good range of contrast from the brightest whites to the darkest blacks. You don’t need super “high” contrast necessarily, but try to capture a wide range of tones.
  6. Change Perspective – If you’re always shooting from head- or hip-height, you’re doing it wrong. This obviously applies beyond B&W, but it’s easy to get “stuck” in one style with street photography.
  7. Edit Wisely – Let the material define how the edit should look, rather than imposing a certain “style” on all of your B&W street photography. If you haven’t got it in-camera, don’t force it to happen.

Check out the full video to hear Schaller expand on each of the points above, watch him work IRL, and see a bunch of incredible sample images from his portfolio. Each tip is paired with several samples that illustrate the deceptively simple points beautifully, and if you want to see even more, you can find Schaller over on Instagram.

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