Black and white street or colour?!

A very common point of contention or question always asked in photography is  "do you shoot colour or black & white" or "is black and white better than colour"

I shall from the outset give an opinion that you may choose to agree or disagree , as art is subjective.

The basic premise for me is simple.

- Does the colour in the image add to the narrative?

If the answer is yes , only then do I retain colour , edit and play around with it.

Conversely, if there is insufficient colour and/or it does not aid the narrative, its is then  a valid reason to consider monochrome.

As a rule of thumb I really don't have a preference .

I genuinely enjoy black and white photography as much as I do colour.

For me it's about intent.

Yes there are some photographers who will only shoot in colour as there  are those who will only shoot black and white, this is an age old question which has been debated  for decades.

First and foremost we must shoot images for ourselves and only we can determine what works for us.

There are of course general practices such as silhouettes and certain shots which are timesless work that look  better in black and white.

Having said that photography literally means drawing with light and in this respect shadow and light play can achieve a classic look somewhat easier than colour.

The idea is to play and have fun. With digital,  the possibilities are endless.

Don't just stick to one style over another .

Try different styles and even genres to see what sits well with you .

Experimentation is part of the journey of getting to know onself too.

We see the world around us in colour daily  and  if we were  represent reality in our work (as much as an image can be true) , then colour would surely take precedence over black and white.

Then again it is said we dream only in black and white.

I have pondered for some time now and come to the conclusion that if black and white was truly important in Art, why then  are there not more films made in monochrome and why  did the great painters not paint in monochrome.

This finally brings me to a quote by

Saul Leiter, who I consider  one of the top 5 most influential photographers  in history. And yes,  he  was a master of BOTH colour and black and white.

"I have been told that some of my photographs maybe indicate that I am a painter."













Systematic Colour

Colour in imagery can be a vital part of our story telling; equally colour has the power to sway thinking in a certain direction, we see this daily by way of branding colours etc...

It is vital when we look at colour we don’t only look at colours which we feel are pretty but rather we think upon their deeper subliminal / subconscious connotations as opposed to the simple denotations.








Street and People

I mentioned in my earlier post that we shall be looking at the subject of Street Photography to help us to understand, learn together and grow in this genre. Thus,I think it’s only fair that I give you my definition of my personal thoughts on what Street Photography means to me.

Firstly no one really knows who coined the term ‘Street Photography’ and how it came into existence and there are as many definitions, opinions and answers as there are fish in the sea.

Some folk consider a photograph taken only in an urban environment as streetphotography, but how and when do we make a distinction between a street in a developed industrial nation and a patch of packed earth in an underdeveloped third world nation.

There are some photographers who consider images are only valid as a Street photograph when the subject matter, either people or setting are not staged or tampered with. As much as I respect their view, I do not share this belief as many photographers including HCB (Henri Cartier-Bresson), one of the pioneers of Street Photography was reputed to have staged a multitude of photograph’s with his subjects and scenes in frame to create the famous phrase ‘the decisive moment ‘.

Some photographer’s shoot urban settings without a person in frame and this may also be considered as Street Photography. I personally feel that an image comes alive with a person in view and I class any photograph taken in public, with a human element, be it in urban or non-urban setting in frame as a Street photograph.  I am also of opinion that a portrait made in the street staged or otherwise,for me, also fall into the concept of street photography. I mentioned portraits as portraiture as a category of photography has many subsectors, namely in Fashion, Portraiture, Documentary, Photojournalism and Street respectively.

Finally,I find this way of photography lies in the interaction with our subjects whether we know them or not and if we choose to ask them to stand in a certain way or not; the whole process is about creating art and ultimately that’s what we should all really be focusing on and not getting too extreme on the definitions..!

I guess the point I’m making is there is no clear definition of what Street Photography is even though there has been numerous effort made by many to best describe what it is precisely. This is for me, the most beautiful aspect of Street Photography, that it is open to interpretation in so many ways.


Faces of Cambridge    ©Zahyr Caan      

Faces of Cambridge 

 ©Zahyr Caan




Easter Tea Party

©Zahyr Caan


 ©Zahyr Caan

My first blog

Hi all I’ve been taking street photos for a while now and I’m still amazed by what people believe constitute’s Street Photography. I have a rather large criteria which over time I’m sure you’ll figure out and few no no’s some of you may choose to disagree with.

The idea of this blog is hopefully to engage the viewers as well as myself in chat be it light hearted or deep. The aim is to help people starting out in street photography or even someone who has shot street but with room for improvement whilst looking at ethics, technique etc.


The image below was taken using a 35mm sweet pro Lensbaby recently purchased so a few experimental images to follow. I leave your for now by way of a quote:

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”

  • Ansel Adams



Title: Night Walk , Cambridge UK

 ©Zahyr Caan