London Black and White Street Photography

Monochrome street photography has always had a special appeal. Photographers love it, photography buyers love it and it's still in majority favoured over colour.

But why choose b&w over colour?

Many would argue that the lack of colours sets a stronger mood and atmosphere. It is timeless and can have a subtle element of mystery to it.

When well executed the diversity of tones is just as elaborate as colour would be.

And then because by definition life is in colour, a monochrome image will undeniably offer a new perspective on life as we see it making it naturally more appealing.

I shoot a lot of colour street photography but it is true that colours are more challenging and can be very distracting whereas black and white does offer a more minimalist approach. 

For a street photographer a scene can easily be simplified to structure, texture and lines by capturing it in monochrome.

I could go on and on but ultimately it is a personal choice / preference.

Now let me present to you what I think is my best recent London black and white street photography with a short behind the scenes explanation:

The photo above was shot in Highgate where I live. I was sitting inside our local pub sipping on a pint of my favourite craft beer and then came this girl. She looked at the food menu outside which left me with enough time to grab my camera and get the shot. Why do I particularly like this shot? I'd say mostly because it is timeless, it could be straight out of the sixties. I also think this girl looks quite beautiful and it was serendipitous, everything came together at the right moment.

shadow-street-photography

This second shot was captured near the National Theatre on London's South Bank. This was less of a "grabbing the moment" shot, more of a "wait for the shot". I thought the composition was good and liked how the light fell on the scene but I needed the right people to walk into it. I took a few other shots but most people made the scene look messy. Then came these two guys who enhanced the composition and it all came together.

This was captured in Stoke Newington. Now you may start to think I spend my life in pubs. You're not entirely wrong. Again though it's a case of taking a break during my photo walks, grab a drink and here it is. The shot. I was inside, she was outside reading the menu and as I raised the camera... she looked at me and had that look "I've been snapped!".

The Tate Modern is one of my favourite buildings in London. When I am walking around the city and feel the crowds overwhelm me, the Tate Modern feels like a refuge. The darkness inside the building paired with light seeping through the long tall windows creates beautiful scenes. This man walked into the frame with his little girl and her scooter. She ran away, leaving him there... abandoned. I took the shot.

high contrast-street-photo

I used to work in an office once in Temple, London. During lunch breaks I'd escape my corporate prison, camera in hand and go shoot people. I was standing on Waterloo Bridge on a bright sunny day looking down. I framed my shot first as the shadow of the bridge lined nicely with the pavement. Then came this runner, I took the shot.

Part of my "Great Londoners" street photography series, I shot passers-by around London, mostly Camden and Kentish Town, for about a year. The set-up was simple. Camera and manual focusing 35mm lens at very wide aperture of f0.95. I'd zone focus at two metres away and shoot at the right moment which was tricky due to the razor thin depth of field. I saw this lady come from a mile away, she looked too cool to be missed. 

And another from my Great Londoners. This man was in Camden Town walking, lost in his thoughts while holding his shopping in one hand and a cigarette ready to be lit in the other. I thought the light on his forehead was beautiful and he has something about him. I took the shot.

There you are, these were my seven favourite photos shot in monochrome and I hope the story behind them was somehow interesting.

Most of the photos displayed here are available to buy as museum quality limited edition prints.

Love monochrome? Leave a comment!

Nico