Penang Street Photography graphic

Penang Street Photography guide: Inspiration & More

If you are in Malaysia, you must try to do Penang Street Photography. While it isn’t a location that is street friendly in many places, there is one particular area that makes it worth it.

As a street photographer that travels a lot (I live a few years here and there with my family) one thing I am used to is the visa run. I had to go to Penang to get a visa and had to stay there a while, hence I spent my time shooting there.

Penang Street Photography

I will be quite honest, I did not enjoy my time in Kuala Lumpur. Nothing against the country, there’s just something in the air that simply didn’t sit well with me. However I liked Penang better.

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There are not a lot of opportunities for Penang street photography. There’s a lot of roads that are empty and that is mostly it. So I shot wherever I was and did the most out of it, I shot everything from cats to abandoned boats.

When should you go?

There was a monkey wrench thrown in while trying to do Penang Street Photography: The air quality. This is something most of the time is a non issue for most of the world, but in these parts of Asia you do NOT want to go during burning season.

What is that? It is when people burn the forest in order to plant new crops. And while that might not sound that much, it is THAT bad. We are talking air quality that is so bad the app on the phone has someone in a Hazmat suit. Not kidding.

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Schools were closed, the air was grey and you could feel inhaling bad air. So whatever you do do not go in September / October. Not only is the air quality bad, there will be a lack of tourists so you won’t have much opportunities for Penang street photography.

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Where to shoot street photography in Penang?

I didn’t find Penang too much a street photography friendly location. That’s if you like to go off the beaten path like you would in New York or Hong Kong and others.

There’s long stretches of roads that simply are…long, boring stretches of roads. So not for you if you just like to walk and embrace the unknown. There’s nothing to shoot mostly! But go to one specific area and you are in street heaven.

Penang street art photography

Penang street art location
Penang street art location

Of course, I am talking about the Penang street art area in Georgetown. Now, let’s get something straight, this whole area is Instagram bait, and was probably made as a tourist trap.

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But as as someone interested in street photography what this offers is plenty of subjects to photograph and lots of opportunities. I am primarily a black and white street photographer, but to my surprise I was gravitating towards color images in Penang.

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There’s also something about the yellow architecture there that is very reminiscent of Hanoi. I’ve lived there two years and the yellow was strong there and so it is also in Penang. Probably a vestige of colonial times.

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The Penang street photography on this page was shot with a Ricoh GRD IV (my favorite camera for street photography) and Olympus PEN F. Right about my two favorite cameras in the world. They have been processed with these street photography presets. The color ones are form Elixir Color (the larger bundle).

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There’s a lot to do just within that area, there’s the tourists that you can incorporate within your images (Oh look, it’s me on a bike!) and this place is very street photography friendly and easy to get lost into, unlike the rest of the island, at least in my experience.

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I took a detour all the way to the pier and my wife was too afraid to go all the way. The whole thing was made of wood and she didn’t have the stomach, but there was one of the best bathrooms you could find anywhere. It was a little shack and in the middle was a hole…leading directly in the sea. Here’s some images of that area:

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Besides Penang street photography, what else should one do? The kids really enjoyed the museum of food where there’s plastic representation of food. Some huge, others tiny. They had fun, I didn’t, that’s called being a dad.

One thing I recommend is one particular Bubba tea shop. To be honest I never saw as many Bubba tea shops as much as I have seen in Penang. You can’t walk a few steps without seeing one after the other.

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There’s one I have tried and got addicted to the whole time I was there, Venzy Tea. I don’t know if they sprinkle some crack cocaine in their Venzy coffee but I am craving it from time to time.

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I hope you have enjoyed this article about Penang Street Photography. While it wasn’t easy shooting anywhere else, that one old quarter area is more than worth it, street photographers should visit there at least once and spend some time in that area. Lots of opportunities that I even see popup in the mag sometimes. Be yourself, stay focused and keep on shooting.

2 thoughts on “Penang Street Photography guide: Inspiration & More”

  1. Thank you.. So compact and clear. Actually i like landscape and Human interest to take pictures. And hope penang will do so to expand my street ones.
    Thank you and gud day

  2. Hi, I am heading to Penang for a week and would like to do some street photography. I just wondered how you approach the issue of taking photos of people. Do you ask permission? Do you try to take it without them knowing? I would feel uncomfortable not asking but then you probably lose the moment if there’s too much of an exchange.
    Any thoughts on street photography and the ethics of taking photos of people gratefully received!

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