The iconic bridge of Kolkata has been photographed many times before, and will still be used as a favourite background among photographers for a long time. And there is a reason for that. It is very picturesque and offers great photo opportunities as the main Ghats are located near the bridge. There we can find a lot of people coming down to bath in the water of the Ganges. From the bridge itself and the bustling traffic around to the ghats where people gather, and the flower market located around the bridge, it is very easy to spend a full day taking photos around the Howrah bridge in Kolkata, India.
Photograph Howrah Bridge in the morning
While running our first photography workshop in India in 2018, we spent 3 full days in Kolkata. We decided to wake up early to photograph the activity around the bridge with the morning light and colours. The traffic on the bridge kicks in at about 6 am, and there is just enough action, but not too much, happening before that. This allowed us to come up with cleaner images as the roads were not too crowded yet.
The flower market under and around the bridge gets really busy after 7 am, and we ventured into it after photographing the traffic on Howrah bridge. It is a great place to photograph as everyone is really busy dealing with the flower business. There are a lot of colours around because of all the flowers, and for once, it changes from the fish markets smells! The people working there are very friendly, but most of the people you meet at locals who walk by the market to get a few flowers. They are usually very interested in foreigner photographers coming to photography their city, so starting a chat is very easy.
Going down the river and the Ghats, the morning has a misty and spiritual atmosphere. People come to get their heads shaved and take a purifying bath in the Ganges. The bridge offers great background which really sets your image in a grand location. Then, it’s all about finding the right subject to put in front. It is also one of the birds’ favourite place to hang out, giving it some Varanasi deja vu feelings.
I personally really like the area which is right under the bridge. When people stand in that area, you can capture them being lit by a very soft and diffused light, while the background, the inside of the tunnel, is very dark.
We also found the place on the Ghat where the mud wrestlers are training. They invited us for a chat and wanted us to photograph them, but the little ground they train on has a pretty bad light in the morning, so we didn’t stay long.
Photograph Howrah bridge in the afternoon
I found the afternoon is the most interesting time to photograph the people bathing in the waters of the Ganges. When standing on the Jagannath Ghat you can be facing the sunset and silhouette the people standing along the river. The iconic bridge stays in the background and the late afternoon colour bounces on the river, a real delight.
There are also a few Sadus that live around the main Ghats. Because Kolkata isn’t as popular as Varanasi in terms of tourism, the Sadus I met in Kolkata seemed very genuine. They invited me to have a chat with them and for about 30 minutes we talked about the energy in the body… I think. Anyway, they were very cool and let me photograph as much as I wanted with no question asked.
At night, the bridge becomes the place where people gather so they can find the right bus to bring them home. We spent about an hour along the road, shooting the passengers jumping into the buses, with the angry controllers screaming their lungs out of the bus door. A great opportunity to practice panning photography.
Taking photos on Howrah Bridge
On top of the bridge, it is a different story. It is very busy with people walking the bridge to get to work or to get back home. You can often witness people walking along the rail and throwing flowers in the river as offerings. The stairs leading to the upper level of the bridge are also quite crowded, offering great photo opportunities.
Walking along Strand Bank Road
Located right behind the flower market, Strand Bank road is the extension of the flower market and follows the Hooghly river. There you can find a lot of people loading and unloading trucks and buses from the warehouses along the river. The local train stations, also located along this road, are great little stops for more photo opportunities.
The Howrah bridge area is simply a very busy part of Kolkata which is ideal to walk around and take photos. The people of Kolkata are extremely friendly and it is very enjoyable to walk around and meet them.