Kolkata Street Photography guide
Kolkata is a secret street photographer’s paradise – Well, not so secret anymore, with each year more and more photographers discover Kolkata as one of the best destinations for street photography. The city is like an uncut gem, full of stories waiting to be discovered and told you just walk on the streets and stories unfold in front of you faster than you can click the shutter button.
Many people say that if you want to truly see and experience real India, go to Varanasi. While Varanasi is very high on my list of places to experience local culture, Kolkata is at the top of that list, and yes, it surpasses Varanasi in terms of variety of subjects and location richness.
Whenever I go back and look at my photos from there, I can’t help the desire to book a flight again.
I try to shoot there every ear and it is included in one of my India Street Photography Workshops
So let’s see what makes Kolkata so special for photographers:
The yellow taxis
The yellow taxis in Kolkata are simply to be told iconic they give the city that 70’s almost Cuban vibe. Calcutta’s yellow taxis have become a magnet for photographers. These vintage vehicles tell a story of the city’s enduring spirit and everyday life. Their bright, sunflower-like color contrasts beautifully with the chaotic urban backdrop.
What is beautiful about Kolkata is that you often don’t need to go to any specific place, the streets are so full of life that it is very likely that you will find interesting things to shoot by just going out of your hotel.
Following the railways
A thing that surprised me in Kolkata is that the access to railway lines isn’t limited, there are plenty of families living there and the railways serve them as their backyard, they would go on with their regular activities and when a train comes, they would just move to the next track.
It’s especially beautiful in winter times and gets busier on weekends. This is the favorite place for jogging and cricket games.
The best time for photography is around sunrise.
Malic Ghat and the Flower Market – the most popular place for photography in Kolkata
The flower market and the surrounding area are a never-ending stream of moments, you just need to be aware and make sure not to miss them.
If I need to split the place into different areas of interest I would do it like this.
The flower market itself.
Best time for photography: Before and after sunrise.
Under the Howrah Bridge
The famous Howrah Bridge has an under-bridge passage where, during certain hours in the morning, you can witness a very special quality of light.
Best time for photography: About 2 hours after sunrise
You need a few hours to let the sun come higher and reach under the bridge.
The river bank of Malik Ghat – overlooking the bridge.
The river bank is especially beautiful during the winter months, the gentle touch of morning fog makes this place look magical
Best time for photography: Before and after sunrise
The Kushti Akhrara – The Indian wrestlers training ground.
Once a place where people came to learn the secrets of Indian wrestling, today this place is mostly about photography for money. The “wrestlers” spend most of the day lying down lazily, waiting for photographers.
There is no fixed price for a photo shoot; I’ve heard prices ranging from 1,500 to 7,000 INR.
Best time for photography: After sunrise
The road up to Kumartuli Ghat
One of my favorite photo walks in Kolkata is the road from Howrah Bridge up to Kumartuli. If you pass under the bridge and keep following the road up, you can witness life as it is. You will be passing small ghats on the left side and different markets on the right. Just take your time to explore, don’t rush, and all the photographic opportunities will unfold in front of you.
Best time for photography: All day long
Kumartuli – The clay idol artist’s area
Kumartuli is another must-visit place in Kolkata where artists create different God idols made of clay. Some of these creations are very impressive and photograph well.
Best time for photography: Morning or before sunset
The place gets busy with visitors around sunset times.
The area around Kumartuli Kolkata
The whole area around Kumartuli is absolutely beautiful. This is old Kolkata at its best, with small alleys where people live their lives. It’s a fantastic place for street photography, capturing the essence of daily life in the city.
Best time for photography: All day long
Babughat is best in the late afternoon hours when the light is coming from across the river, illuminating whatever is happening under the bridge. This provides a unique and captivating atmosphere for photography.
Best time for photography: The place has always something happening, but in terms of light it is best to come early morning around sunrise, and afternoon before sunset
Kalighat is another area interesting for photography, especially when there are some holidays for the worshipers of the goddess Kali. On these days, the area is packed, and there are plenty of opportunities to photograph. The area around is really old, and you can find a lot of beautiful textures to photograph your subjects on.
Best time for photography: All day long
You can photograph in the Kalight area all day long, again I would recommend the golden hours.
Apart from the flower market that I mentioned earlier, Kolkata is full of many other markets that are interesting for photography. These markets capture the vibrant and diverse culture of the city, and they provide ample opportunities to document daily life and the unique character of Kolkata. Exploring these markets can lead to striking photographs that tell the story of the city and its people.
New market – Kolkata
If you enjoy photographing crowds, make sure to visit on a weekend evening. It gets so packed that you can barely walk through the streets. I personally like using Flash in that area.
Best time for photography: Afternoon / Evening times
Chicken bazaar near New Market – Go early morning!
This is the place where butchers come to stock their shops, and it gets very busy around sunrise times.
Best time for photography: From 1h before Sunrise
Koley and Seldah wholsale markets
Another unique place to shoot is the Koley and Seldaha wholesale markets. They are located right next to each other, so you can explore both in one photography walk.
Because it is a covered market, they use colorful lights to illuminate the vegetables, and occasionally, the roofing is missing, allowing extra rays of light to stream in. This combination of artificial colorful lighting and natural light can produce interesting results.
Since it can be relatively dark inside, it’s a good idea to use a low aperture (low f-number) lens to allow more light into your camera and capture the scenes effectively.
Best time for photography: All Day
I’ve been here at different hours of the day and it seems every time there is something happening there.
Mechhua Fruit Market
This is probably my favorite open-air market in Kolkata. The way the merchants organize their fruits in pyramids is just beautiful.
Best time for photography: Morning – Day
You can come here early in the morning, but around 11 is good as well. During that time, the light and shadows play in strong contrast, and you can really lose yourself playing with the colors, shapes, and light the market has to provide.
Places to be added in the future
There are a few more places that I have no photos of at the moment. But you should try and visit them.
Just type the names in Google Maps and you will have the locations.
- Nakhoda Masjid – Larges mosque in Kolkata
- Burtolla Street – Old market area
- Cotton Street – Old market area
- Nilmadhab Sen Lane – Laundry alley or so-called Jeans Steeet
- Sunday pet market – It gets really busy on Sunday
If you have more spots to suggest, please write them in the comments below.