Posted on: June 9, 2021 Posted by: Stuti Shiva Comments: 2
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Street Photography
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“If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Robert Capa

Simply put, it is capturing the beauty in the mundane; ordinary people doing everyday things. It is capturing a slice of life, unedited and raw. It is an affirmation of the world around us and all the things we are often too busy to notice.

Since the advent of the camera, there have been photographers whose mission is to record and interpret the public sphere in all its aspects. Eugene Atget documented evidence of everyday life in the streets as well as the buildings and monuments of Paris. Henri Cartier-Bresson pursued what he called “The Decisive Moment,” the moment in which the meaning of an event was most clearly captured in a photograph. Their work, and that of many other masters, has inspired generations of photographers to wander public spaces, camera in hand, searching for meaningful moments in time.

When is it street photography?

Cyprus, Limassol Carnival 2019

Bruce Gilden once said that “If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph”.

When it comes to capturing great moments on the streets, I’ve learned that there are basically three ways to approach it. The first way is rather obvious. Just walk around in your city or village and simply look for interesting moments happening around you.

You must be a really good observer and your reaction time has to be as short as possible to capture moments within milliseconds.

The second and third way still keeps everything authentic, but lets you become the director of candid scenes on the stage of life.

“The best camera is the one that is with you…”

 – Chase Jarvis

8 simple exercises to get you going

side view of woman in illuminated city at night
Photo by Pixabay on

Exercise 1. Start a conversation

Have a conversation with a stranger and ask him or her for permission to take a photo. I personally like candid portraits. There is no rule or right way. Just figure out what you like and follow that path until you get it right.

woman wearing black tube dress painting
Photo by AG Z on

Exercise 2. Look for signs

Look for signs (billboards, advertisements, arrows, and so on) and juxtapose one with a person either standing next to it or walking past it.

Limassol Carnival 2019

Exercise 3: Not asking for permission

Find someone you want to take a photo of, approach him or her, and take the photograph without permission. After taking the photograph, wave at your subject, smile, and say thank-you. In the above photo, it’s a carnival scene and the people are in a festive mood. No one minds a photographer.

person in winter coat holding umbrella walking on snow covered road
Photo by Josh Hild on

Exercise 4: Be in the middle

Stand still at a busy intersection for twenty minutes and take photos of people who come near you. This makes for some interesting shots and mostly people are too busy to take heed. Dramatic weather conditions can make these pictures even more interesting.

women s black leather jacket
Photo by Zachary DeBottis on

Exercise 5: Walk around

Walk around holding your camera to your eye as if it were a video camera, but don’t take any photos. Note people’s reactions. This is a good exercise in catching those fleeting moments.

Cyprus 2019

Exercise 6: Be selective

Work on being selective. Spend an entire day shooting street photography, but limit yourself to a thirty six to fourty shots.

young asian woman in evening street with bright lights
Photo by Khoa Võ on

Exercise 7: Make eye contact

Capture a photograph while making eye contact. If you see someone you want to take a photograph of, aim your camera at him or her. Wait for the subject to sense your presence and turn toward you, then take the photo.

teal volkswagen beetle
Photo by Quintin Gellar on

Exercise 8: Work on a theme

Spend an entire day photographing only one thing, such as cars, the color red, feet, hands, hair, and so on.

In Conclusion

Shoot! Always have a camera with you. Educate yourself without turning into a copycat. Be aggressive, but know when to back down and respect other people on the street. Know your rights and hold your ground. Shoot more, edit less. Learn how to educate your eye, create your own pace, and be true and passionate about what you do.

“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

To be successful, requires the street photographer to be proficient with their equipment, to be constantly aware of their surroundings, and to have a keen eye. Quick reflexes and self-confidence are essential: Street photographers know from experience that hesitation or procrastination could mean missing a once-in-a-lifetime shot. The adage “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” was probably coined by a street photographer. 

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Masters of Street Photography

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