Lady in conical hat on a small boat
Lens-Artists,  Street photography,  Travel galleries,  Vietnam

Gallery: street photography in Hoi An, two ways

When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls!

Ted Grant, Canadian photographer

For most photographers the old town of Hoi An is a riot of colour, as it was for me too. The beautiful lanterns adorning the streets; the rich ochre of its buildings; the traditional costumes worn by many Vietnamese visitors; the boats bobbing on the river …

But I also took a lot of street photos there, and traditionally most street photographers work in black and white. Perhaps the quote from Ted Grant above explains why? Personally I tend to use sometimes colour, sometimes monochrome. For some images I am clear in my mind which of the two works better; on other occasions I find myself in two minds, torn between the two.

For Tina’s Lens Artists Challenge theme of ‘One Photo Two Ways’ I thought it would be fun to share a selection of the photos I took in Hoi An, presented in both formats, and ask you which you prefer. Let’s see if you all chose the same option in each case, and if it’s the one that I too favour!

All B&W edits were created using Silver Efex Pro 2, one of the Nik Collection of editing tools.

Man lying down with hat over his faceMan lying down with hat over his face
Taking a break
Lady in a hat walking past a buildingLady in a hat walking past a building
Two ladies in conical hats with traditional baskets on yokesTwo ladies in conical hats with traditional baskets on yokes
Street sellers
Old lady in conical hat with traditional baskets on yokeOld lady in conical hat with traditional baskets on yoke
Selling fruit by the river
Lady in conical hat with traditional baskets on yokeLady in conical hat with traditional baskets on yoke
Fruit seller near the Central Market
Lady in conical hat sitting at a table in a marketLady in conical hat sitting at a table in a market
Food stall in the market
Lady in conical hat at a fruit stall in a marketLady in conical hat at a fruit stall in a market
Fruit for sale
Elderly ladyElderly lady
In the market
Elderly lady looking surprisedElderly lady looking surprised
Watching the world go by
Young lady with bright yellow hairYoung lady with bright hair and traditional hat
Young shopper
Young couple posingYoung couple posing
Wedding photos by the Japanese Covered Bridge

I visited Hoi An in early 2020, just before the Covid pandemic took hold


  • rkrontheroad

    The colors of Vietnam are so vivid. But the portraits seem more poignant in black and white. I always have difficulty giving up the color. I like them all.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Ha yes, I find it hard to give up colour a lot of the time. But I do like to experiment and sometimes a shot does work better in B&W. I think the old lady in the market is a must in monochrome but the jury’s out on the others 😉

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I agree about taking a break – the yellow flowers and red crate are a bit distracting in colour. But I quite like the orange Halloween shirt of the fruit seller so I’m undecided on that one!

      • Teresa

        You have a few fruit sellers there. The one i Like in bnw is the one selling fruits by the river with the 2 baskets on both sides. However the red slippers is quite attractive too. Oh well, not really sure now haha

  • Alison

    Such lovely photos Sarah. It really is hard to choose but as there is so much colour in them I think the colour for me. The exception being the one of the old lady which looks brilliant in black and white

  • Forestwood

    I love the image compare feature. It is so fun and interactive. I don’t really have a preference – they are all very interesting in colour and monochrome. Each version gives a different atmosphere. Most striking is the young shopper with the bright yellow hair. I will ping this post for this friday’s challenge, Sarah, so hope it works.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Amanda – yes, that feature is fun and engaging I think 🙂 As you know, the pingback didn’t work 🙁 I will have to look into the problem again …

  • Rose

    This comparison was interesting. I like how the B&W brought forth the contrast in the hat of the passer-by in #2. The next photo with the street sellers in color makes that colorful hat pop. The young shopper photo would be missing a lot if we only saw it in B&W. The Wedding photo seems/feels more nostalgic in B&W.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you for the detailed feedback Rose 🙂 I agree with you about all the images except the passer by, where I prefer the colour version for the vibrancy of the wall and the green detail in the hat 🙂

  • Tina Schell

    loved your approach to this one Sarah. i found generally that i preferred the B&Ws of the older people and color on the younger ones. interesting and really beautifully captured in all of them

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Tina 🙂 I can see what you’re saying about older v younger people – B&W tends to bring out the character of the face and emphasise lines and other details.

  • Oh, the Places We See

    Excellent, excellent shots. I prefer the color shots in all instances, and I especially love the Street Sellers and the Young Shopper. Both speak to the people as well as the situation. I love how you have shared your photos, too. I don’t know how to split the screen, but it works so very well for this challenge.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 😊 I can understand why you would pick colour for most of them but do you not think #8 works better in B&W? I thought maybe so 🙂

      The split screen is easy! Choose the ‘image compare’ block and it does the work for you 🙂 You just have to be sure to use two images of similar size, ideally exactly the same – and when you have two edits of the same shot that is easy too!

  • Manja Mexi Mexcessive

    Ok, since you ask, let me see. I’ll number the pairs and then state c or bw for preference:

    1. bw
    2. c
    3. c (but neither of the pair appeals much)
    4. bw
    5. bw
    6. c
    7. bw
    8. bw
    9. can’t decide
    10. c (urgently c! you cannot lose the hair colour!)
    11. c

    How interesting, 5 for c, 5 for bw, 1 undecided. 😀

    • Sarah Wilkie

      How interesting, and thank you for taking the time 🙂 #8 is the one I am convinced is best in B&W. As to the rest, I 100% agree about #10, but I’d also say #7 should be colour because of the Halloween theme shirt? I lean towards colour for #5 too, again because of the shirt, but I could be persuaded B&W is better! For the rest, I’m inclined to agree with you 🙂

      • Manja Mexi Mexcessive

        About #7 you’re probably right, but the b&w gets more detail in the background. The same goes for #5. You can see her face better, and all sorts of things in the back. (That said, I only speak from my feeling, I don’t know what I’m talking about. 😀 Far from expert!)

        • Sarah Wilkie

          I do see what you mean, and neither of us is an expert 😆 Both versions work in different ways I guess, because they emphasise different aspects of the image!

  • maristravels

    I always go for colour, it’s how we look at the world. I like the artistic effects offered by b.&w. for landscape shots but only when they are stark and outlined against stormy skies, otherwise I feel that colour will always convey more to the viewer.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      That’s an interesting point Mari, and yes, colour is how we view the world. So if you want to represent what you SAW, colour is always best. But is it always best if you want to represent what you FELT? I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer but I do know many of my favourite photos by renowned photographers are black and white, even though I shoot about 90% colour myself.

  • SoyBend

    Wonderful photos of the people there, Sarah. I can see why you are torn between which version is “better.” Thanks for sharing both versions. Love that slider tool!

  • Girl in Niagara

    What stunning photography Sarah! Like you, I’m torn. The coloured shots are vibrantly beautiful, yet the black and whites are soulful. Impossible to choose, though I wonder how you did the slider thing. What a great idea!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 😊 The ‘slider thing’ is using the image compare block. It works best if both images are the same size and ideally landscape format. If you can match them up exactly, as you can when you have two edits of the same shot, it’s particularly effective 🙂

  • Nemorino

    Great idea to compare the colour versions with the B&W.
    (Are these photos from Hanoi or Hoi An?)

  • yuri rasin

    Hi Sarah, interesting post there and a very clever editing tool available for us to see the both versions. Even though the colours are beautiful in this part of the world I’ve gone probably 70/30 towards B&W. Nice work!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Yuri 🙂 I normally lean towards B&W for street photography but with many of these I find myself preferring the colour version, even though that’s partly because it shows off the clothes as Grant says. The hat in the second photo or the socks and flip-flops in the third, for instance. There’s only one shot here that I am certain looks better in B&W – which do you think that is?!

Do share your thoughts, I'd love to hear from you! And please include your name in case WP marks you 'anonymous' - thank you