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Street photography

Street photography

Street photography is the genre of photography that records everyday life in a public place. Usually, the street photographer takes candid pictures of strangers, most of the time without their knowledge.
Street photography doesn’t necessarily have a social purpose. Often, the goal is to capture moments that otherwise can be unnoticed. Instead, it starts with the impulse to visually document life and people in public.
Street photography tries to capture the chance interactions of everyday human activity within urban areas. Therefore, the content of the images and the exact location of street photography, different from documentary photography, are most of the time immaterial.
The main thing in street photography is to capture something unexpected, interesting, funny, unrealistic, and extraordinary. The most important thing, in other words, is the creative quality of the photograph.
The scene’s timing and angle are fundamental to making a successful street photo. For example, the exact location is photographed two seconds later or from another perspective, and the image is entirely different.
Time and patience are crucial in street photography. The street photographer needs to put his vision and sense of timing to succeed in this photographic genre.
A photograph is just light bouncing off something at some point in the past. This is all the magic about a picture. The view of the photographer is what makes the difference.

In the street, the photographer becomes the hunter, seeking exciting subject and compositions.

pauline verlaine

How to start in Street Photography.

Street photography is about capturing the exact moment in time when what is ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Anyway, in the beginning, street photography can be pretty overwhelming. So many things are happening in the street just in front of your lens. If you have no idea how to start photographing the street, try to find a great light at first. The light can make a place or a subject more exciting and also draw the eye of the viewer to the photograph. So, wait for a compelling subject to pass as you find an interesting background with good light. Then, has it happened, make the photograph. It is important not to overthink. Trust your feelings and passions without hesitations.
If you follow this advice (the fishing technique), you will start noticing exciting stories to tell through your photographs. Of course, these stories are happening just in front of your lens. Life and the street will always surprise you if you look with interest.
Street photography is about finding something interesting, unexpected, and extraordinary in everyday life.

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.

elliott erwitt

Street photography is essentially the way you see the world around you. As a street photographer, you are a storyteller, so pay attention to the stories that catch your attention. Through your street photos, you will learn a lot about the world around you and how you see it. Your photos will speak about you.

Be yourself. I much prefer seeing something, even it is clumsy, that doesn’t look like somebody else’s work.

william klein

The Art of Failure: a lesson by Alex Webb.

These words of the fantastic photographer Alex Webb explain very well how challenging street photography can be. Some days are tough to go back home with a good photo. Some days will be good. Some will be bad. This is why you must try to have a positive mental attitude. If you go outside expecting to see exciting things, you probably will.

Street photography is 99,9 percent about failure. So often I feed defeated by the street. I sometimes find, however, that if I keep walking, keep looking, and keep pushing myself, eventually something interesting will happen.
Every once in a while, at the end of the day, when I am lost and exhausted and hungry, something – a shaft of light, an unexpected gesture, an odd juxtaposition – suddenly reveals a photograph. It’s almost as if I had to go through all those hours of frustration and failure in order to get to the place where I could finally see that singular moment at day’s end

Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, On Street Photography and the Poetic Image.

Street Photography and Documentary Photography.

The main difference between these two genre is that the street photographer is an essentially neutral bystander while the documentary photographer is not. The street photograph speaks for itself. Usually, a documentary image has an educational purpose that a street photograph most of the time has not.

Do you need a definition of Street Photography?

Do you need the definition of street photography to be a street photographer? All the famous street photographers we appreciate made photography. No one cared about the meaning of street photography the way we do today. They just started making photographs. Can you imagine Henri CartierBresson asking himself, “am I doing street photography or not?” They didn’t refer to any definition of street photography. They just did street photography, making the photograph they wanted.

The definition of street photography we use nowadays comes out of their work. It comes from the experience of those first street photographers. And if you start doing street photography, you can’t have any experience without making some mistakes. So if you want to succeed, you need to try whatever you can walk all the possible ways with freedom. Wrong ways included.

A definition of Street Photography.

Street photography is photographing everyday life in a public place. The street photographer takes candids of strangers in the street, often without their acknowledgment.
This definition says everything about street photography. All you need is the street. Then you can take the picture with a digital camera or an analog one. You can take the candids of strangers or make a street portrait with your subject posing for you. For the same reason, you can also take photographs without people, just in the street. A definition is not made to say what is acceptable or wrong.
For this reason, I believe it is perfect to have your subject posing for you in the street, even if most of the street photographers think you shouldn’t. Even if the definition of street photography says “candids of a stranger in the street.” You can make a great street portrait with a subject posing in front of your camera.
Just make like the most excellent street photographer, grab your camera and go on the street to take photographs. For sure, you will do street photography. It is relaxing to have a walk making photographs. You can discover new places in your city or visit a new one. Just don’t care about what is street photography and what is not street photography. Your friend doesn’t include a street portrait in street photography? Do the YouTubers you follow think you can do street photography only with an analog camera? Street photography doesn’t care at all about their opinion. Just do what you want, feeling free to make some mistakes or try different subjects for your street photography.

Why it is important to practice Street Photography?

The main reason to try street photography is that through it, you can easily fall in love with photography. You can practice street photography always and everywhere. And this is something different from any other kind of photography: landscape photography, portraiture, fashion or still life.

With street photography, you need… the street! And a camera, of course. And suppose you practice street photography some days a week. In that case, you improve your eyes and skills and become a better photographer in other genres such as portrait, landscape or fashion photography. It is incredible to have the chance to grab your camera and always find an exciting subject for your images. And street photography is fantastic at it.

Thanks to street photography, you become more creative as you develop your view as a photographer, which catches your attention. In other words, you must try to tell a story with the elements you find every day in the street. Street photography connects backgrounds, textures, people, and everything you see through the viewfinder. You can find other information about the creative process in photography here.

Practicing street photography, you don’t need to take a car and travel to a fantastic landscape, or you don’t need a beautiful model to make a fashion photograph. Thanks to street photography, you can see the beauty of life everywhere.

Another great thing about street photography: you don’t need a fancy camera to start. You can even use an old camera or your camera phone at the beginning.

Color or black and white?

You can use both colors or black and white to express your feeling in a photograph. Anyway, a lot of great photographers used black and white. Something is exciting about black and white street photographs. In fact, you are removing any color distraction from the image with the black and white. Street photography can be an excellent opportunity to develop your skill to see the world in black and white. Black and white images are compelling, and you can experiment using contrast, depth, and feeling.

Where can I start making Street Photography? Do I need a big city to make Street Photography?

Here is the excellent news: you can start anywhere you want. It is easy to start in a big street, hanging out on a busy corner. But, sooner or later, you will find something calling your attention. For example, people walking through the street, exciting gestures and faces, and many things happening around you. Photography is about responding to what catches your attention and connecting with it. So keep your eyes and mind open and try to follow your instinct.
You can do street photography anywhere you live. Everything will happen in front of you quickly in the street, so be prepared to surprise yourself with the unexpected. Photographs can tell a story, so be ready to tell your story with your images. Your pictures will tell a lot about the subject, you as an artist, and how you see the world.

How to feel comfortable making street photography?

Once you know the fundamental of photography and you have a camera, you are ready for street photography. And practicing this kind of photography, you start learning more about yourself as an artist. You can do this by looking at the subjects captured in your photographs.
Moving the first steps is normal feeling insecure. For this reason, don’t hesitate if you see something interesting. It would be best if you trust your feelings and passions. Then, go for the picture and make the photograph when you feel it. What you think is a lousy photograph today may change as time passes by.

Time eventually positions most photographs, even the most amateurish, at the level of art.

Susan Sontag, On Photography.

Street photography is the best genre to quickly practice finding a subject for your photograph. You won’t need a model or drive your car to make a landscape image. However, taking sneaking photos of random people in the street can make you feel uncomfortable. For this reason, there is some advice you can follow to handle better doing street photography.

Use a small camera, possibly a compact mirrorless like the Fujifilm X100V, a Leica M, or the very small Ricoh Gr III, which is less intimidating than a big reflex. In this way, people won’t notice you. Also, wear dark clothes, which is helpful to be less visible. And finally, smile so you don’t look like you are doing something wrong and people won’t feel hostile toward you.

Settings for street photography.

The perfect setting of the camera doesn’t exit. Everything depends on the light, the location you are taking photographs, and the story you want to tell through your images. As you are probably shooting with moving people, you should try to keep your shutter speed above 1/125 sec. Contrarily if you want to capture motion, you can try to slow down the shutter speed.

If you want to isolate the subject from a distracting background or all the people you have in the street, you can try to open up the aperture. You can close the aperture if you are interested in emphasizing a great background that will stay in focus.

Good reasons to practice Street Photography.

I think street photography is rougher and, for this reason, more real than fashion photography. Nevertheless, street photography creates compelling images capturing people in the urban landscapes. Its subject matter tends to be human, but you can also make a good image with no person in the photograph.

The street may be a crowded boulevard, a park in the city, a country lane, a desert highway, or a lively café on the main street. Street photography is about spontaneity and capturing the moment (or the decisive moment of Henry Cartier-Bresson).

This impulse to visually document urban life began in the 19th century when painters (like Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec) and photographers treated the street as their studio, recording the daily life, the quintessential figures, and the bizarre of life.

To find inspiration, you can look at books by great photographers like Henry Cartier Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Garry Winograd, Robert Frank, Joel Meyerowitz, Walker Evans, Diane Arbus, etc.

You in the street.

The street is chaos, but the street is your place. Getting started can be quite an overwhelming experience. A lot of things are happening at the exact moment around you. So you have to be hungry to make great photographs. You may feel insecure about what to capture and what you should not. You have to feel comfortable in your own space: the street. Try to use selective vision to look for specific things, and the street becomes less scary.

If you are happy to do what you are doing, people will feel more comfortable seeing you taking photographs. So being positive in what you are doing is a great idea.

Capturing the essence of humanity. 

Street photography is essentially documenting human life. Recognize the pure beauty of a moment. See how some elements connect and give meaning to an image. Just immersing yourself in the street, you see something calling you. For this reason, you must be ready to react to life and everything that catches your attention. Try to be prepared for the unexpected and try to anticipate the moment.