Would you like to capture stunning black and white street photos? Just follow these 8 iPhone street photography tips… and you’ll be taking incredible black and white street photos with the only camera that’s always in your pocket!
1. Shoot In Black & White
Did you know the iPhone camera lets you shoot in black and white?
Most people shoot in color and convert to black and white later. But for the best results, you should shoot in black and white.
(Don’t worry, you can always convert the photo back to color later!)
So why shoot your street photos in black and white?
Well, there are certain elements that make a black and white photo successful… light, shadows, patterns, shapes, lines, etc.
Removing the color allows you to see these elements more clearly.
Shapes, lines, and patterns will stand out. And you can instantly see whether a particular kind of light will work in black and white.
So how do you shoot in black and white on the iPhone?
It’s super easy!
Simply open the iPhone Camera app. Then swipe up on the screen (or tap the little arrow at the top of the screen).
Swipe across the icons above the shutter button and tap the Filters icon (three circles). Then swipe across the filter styles and select Noir.
Now you can shoot your photos in black and white!
Note that the iPhone camera filters are non-destructive. This means you can change them after taking a photo!
So if you decide you want your photo in color, just go to the Edit option in the Photos app and select a different filter.
2. Capture Minimalist Black & White Street Photos
The best photos are often the simplest ones!
The fewer elements you have in your photos, the more eye-catching they’ll be.
This is especially true for black and white street photography.
So if you want to capture striking black and white street photos, you should aim for minimalist compositions.
And the best way to do that?
Include lots of empty “negative” space in your photos.
But how do you find empty space in an urban environment?
Well, it might sound challenging. But it’s easier than you think!
The best way to create minimalist street photos is to find an open space in the city. Squares, parks, and cultural sites are great places for minimalist street photography.
If you’re not familiar with the city, you can easily find these kinds of spaces by exploring Google Maps.
Now, just wait for a single human subject to appear in the scene. Compose your shot so the person has a huge amount of empty space around them.
The negative space allows you to control the viewer’s attention. It guarantees the viewer’s eye will be drawn toward the subject.
When composing your photo, think about where you want the subject to appear in the frame.
I usually like to have my subject in the center of the photo as this often has the most impact. But you can experiment and take several photos with the subject in different positions.
Finally, make sure you avoid any unnecessary visual distractions. You might need to adjust your position or shoot from a different angle to avoid unwanted elements in your frame.
Shooting from a low angle is a great way to get more sky in the frame and eliminate a distracting foreground.
3. Use Leading Lines In Your iPhone Street Photography
The most important goal for us as photographers is to control the viewer’s attention…
And there’s no better way to do that than using leading lines!
Leading lines literally lead the viewer’s eye to the subject. And they add amazing depth to your images.
Cities are full of leading lines that you can use in your iPhone street photography.
Roads, paths, bridges, walls, fences, road markings, tunnels, underpasses, and other architectural elements can be used as leading lines.
Simply position yourself so the line leads from the foreground into the distance.
Ideally, you want your subject to be at the point where the lines converge in the distance.
For the most powerful visual impact, compose your shot with the lines starting from the corners of the frame.
This will add more structure and completeness to your photo. And it draws the eye right from the foreground of the scene.
But don’t worry if you don’t get the lines perfectly positioned. You can always crop the photo later to create the perfect composition.
Most leading lines in cities are straight. But don’t forget to look for curved leading lines, such as spiral staircases. These will create truly magical images!
For the perfect shot, climb to the top of the staircase and shoot downwards to capture the beautiful spiral line.
If possible, capture a person somewhere along the line or even right at the bottom of the staircase.
But spiral staircases look great by themselves, so always capture a few shots even if there’s no person in the scene.
4. Look For Patterns In The Urban Landscape
Patterns offer another way to make your black and white street photography more interesting.
I love patterns so much!
Repetitive patterns instantly catch the eye. And they hold the viewer’s attention while they spend time examining the details.
In cities, you’ll find all sorts of patterns in modern buildings and architecture.
Many modern buildings have facades with repeating shapes or lines. Even a row of windows, pillars, or arches can be used to create patterns in your photos.
If you’re not familiar with the city, use Google to search for images of modern buildings in the city. You can also use Instagram or Google Maps Street View to preview images from the area.
Once you start looking, you’ll find so many modern buildings with patterns you could photograph.
When you’ve found a scene with a repetitive pattern, decide which angle you want to shoot from.
I usually like to shoot straight toward the building, creating a symmetrical composition.
But shooting from a side-on angle can also work… as you’ll see in the photo below.
When you’ve composed your shot, just wait for a person to enter the scene.
The pattern will create an amazing backdrop. The person will add a strong focal point and give meaning to the image.
5. Frame Your Subject With Architectural Elements
Here’s a great technique to draw attention to your street photography subjects…
Frame your subject with architectural elements!
This technique works so well in black and white street photography. The strong shape of the frame stands out more clearly when you remove the color from the scene.
There are many opportunities to use framing in the city. Archways, tunnels, doorways, and windows make great frames for your photos.
Once you find a good “frame,” compose your shot and wait for a person to walk into the scene.
Use burst mode to capture multiple shots as the person walks through the frame. You can then choose the best photo with the subject in the perfect position and pose.
To activate burst mode, drag the shutter button to the left. Or hold down the volume-up button on the side of your iPhone.
I love to create symmetrical compositions with the subject in the center of the photo. But having the subject nearer the edge of the frame can also work.
If you’re shooting from inside looking out toward the light, you might need to adjust exposure (image brightness).
Often, you’ll need to reduce exposure to ensure the bright areas don’t lose their detail.
I usually start by reducing exposure to -1. But sometimes you’ll need to drop it further, e.g. to -2.
To adjust exposure in the iPhone Camera app, swipe up (or press the arrow at the top of the screen). Tap the +/- icon near the bottom of the screen. Then use the slider to adjust the exposure.
Once you’ve set the exposure value, you can keep taking photos and the exposure will remain at that setting. Just remember to set it back to zero after!
Note that older iPhones don’t have this exposure value setting. But you can also adjust exposure by tapping on the screen to set focus and then swiping up or down.
When you reduce exposure, keep in mind that the shadows will become darker – sometimes even pure black. And while you will lose some detail in the shadows, it can actually look really great.
You’ll see exactly what I mean in the next tip!
6. Shoot Striking Silhouette Street Photos
Have you ever tried capturing silhouettes in your photos?
Silhouettes are perfect for creative street photography. And they look amazing in black and white!
The dark outline of your subject will grab the viewer’s attention. And the lack of detail adds a sense of mystery and intrigue!
So how do you shoot silhouette photos with the iPhone?
First, you need to shoot toward the light… with your subject in front of the bright background.
The golden hours of sunrise and sunset are perfect for silhouette photography. When the sun is close to the horizon, it’s easy to get the bright light behind your subject.
But a bright sky at other times of the day can work. Or try using other light sources, such as street lights, illuminated shop windows, or even a brightly-lit wall.
If you’re shooting against the sky, try shooting from a lower angle to get more bright sky behind your subject.
When you’ve composed your shot, reduce exposure to make the image darker. Remember, the goal is to have the subject as a dark outline against the brighter background.
To reduce exposure, you can tap the screen where you want to set focus, then swipe down to make the image darker.
On newer iPhones, you can also swipe up on the screen (or press the arrow at the top of the screen) and tap the +/- icon. Then use the slider to adjust exposure.
7. Use Shadows For More Unique Street Photos
Do you want to shoot more unique black and white street photos?
Then try using shadows in your images!
This technique isn’t used by many people. So your photos will definitely stand out!
Shadows add mystery and drama to your image. And they really grab the viewer’s attention.
Now, you won’t get shadows on an overcast day. So you’ll need to shoot when there’s direct sunlight in the scene.
The best time of day to shoot shadows is during golden hour (just after sunrise or just before sunset). When the sun is low on the horizon, you’ll get amazing long shadows.
Just like silhouette photography, you’ll need to reduce exposure to make the shadows dark and dramatic.
Don’t worry about losing detail in the shadows. This can actually create a really powerful image!
When photographing shadows, remember the basic elements that make a great black and white street photo… leading lines, patterns, frames, etc.
The only difference is that you’re capturing the shadows of subjects instead of the subjects themselves.
And of course, this is a great opportunity to include yourself (well, your shadow) in the photo!
8. Clean Up Your Street Photos In Editing
Shooting with the iPhone Noir filter is a great start for your black and white street photos. But you can improve your photos even further in post-processing.
There are plenty of iPhone photo editing apps you can use.
Simple adjustments to brightness, contrast, shadows, and highlights can make a big difference to the final image.
[Drag the slider to compare the original and edited images]
When it comes to black and white photography, increasing the contrast (or adjusting shadows and highlights) is a great place to start. A simple adjustment can add drama to your image and really make it stand out!
Cropping is another simple, yet powerful, way to improve your images.
Why? Because it can be hard to achieve perfect composition at the time of shooting.
Perhaps you shot too wide and want to crop in to make your subject stand out. Or maybe you didn’t notice distracting elements at the edges of the frame.
Perhaps the horizon appears slightly tilted. Or maybe you didn’t get your leading lines starting right in the corners of the frame.
All of these issues can be fixed with the Crop tool.
Remember, the most powerful photos are usually the simplest ones. For stunning minimalist street photos, you’ll need to remove distracting objects from images.
The cleaner the better!
In the example above, I used the Healing tool in Lightroom to simply brush over the sign and make it disappear!
About The Author
Maksim Kyshtymov is the founder of a design studio specializing in designing websites. His photography journey started in 2009, and he has experience shooting with DSLR and mirrorless cameras. But three years ago, Maksim realized he prefers to shoot with the iPhone due to its portability. He loves the freedom of going for a long walk in a new location with just his iPhone to capture photos. Those are moments of true happiness for him.