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Why your street photography sucks!

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I’m going to talk to you about street photography. Do bare in mind that most of what I say is meant to be taken as tongue in cheek so please try not to cry if you don’t like what I’m saying.

The term “street photography” to me is a very broad one. Essentially what it boils down to in my opinion is anything taken on the street. Generally there are two camps on the street photography debate, and they are;

Wide Angle and Telephoto.

Wide Angle– people in this camp tend to believe that shooting wide angle gives you the great atmosphere of being on the street. They believe that because you are occupying the same space as the person you are photographing, that the image is that much more raw.

Telephoto– people in this camp feel that it is the isolation of a subject that allows you to capture the raw emotion of your subject. This also means that you are much further away and are therefore much more capable of getting “the shot”.

But which one is better?

Well that is really up to you to decide. I feel that street photography is as much about you as it is about your subject. I personally prefer to shoot with a longer focal length lens. I use the Canon EF 135mm f/2 L USM lens which is sublime! This allows me to be at a “safe” distance and isolate the subject nicely with lots of pleasing sexy Bokeh! Because we all love BOKEH!!!

However, I have been known to take a lot of street or candid photos with my iPhone which has a wide angle lens. This is because there is no shutter noise which makes it very discreet. Lovely stuff.

But why does my street photography suck?

Well I am going to assume you didn’t fuck screw up your exposure and focus so that’s not it.

Story telling.
To me an image that doesn’t work is usually down to it not engaging with the viewer. For instance photographing people from behind on the street. It doesn’t look good. All you are seeing is someone from behind. No engagement, no emotion, no eye contact. More than likely it sucks.

Interest.
If there is nothing going on in an image then it will struggle to stand up as interesting photo. Try to tell a story. A lot happens on the street, try and capture some that action. Be patient and observe. Don’t just spray and pray. Wait for something to happen. Watch people and see if you can tell part of their story. Obviously don’t go stalking people, that will more than likely get you some unwanted attention.

You are shooting in a big group.
Shooting in a big group may be good for your confidence and you might start taking shots you wouldn’t normally take but think how this looks to people on the street. You can’t exactly be discreet when walking around with a load of people carrying cameras. Grab some headphones and walk around on your own and get amongst it!

Location.
It helps to be in the right place. For instance, you ain’t gonna get many good shots on the street whilst sitting in your bedroom reading this! Being where the crowd is usually works best as well as being around at the right time. And what quantifies as being the right time is dependant on what you want to capture. Which of course is up to you. Just don’t trespass.

Shooting Dave’s final thought:
Figure out what you want to see then go looking for it. Don’t rush it, don’t force. Don’t get frustrated by it. The whole reason you are out “doing” street photography is because you are done with the contrived, controlled and planned shoots. Street photography is supposed to relaxing so don’t get stressed about missing that moment. There will be plenty of others. Just be patient.

tl;dr
To answer the question “why your street photography sucks” it is simply because you take photos that suck 😉

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Posted by

Automotive CGI Artist and Photographer

5 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Really intelligent piece here Dave and some great insight. Supported by some super image examples.

    Street Photography is an art in itself but along with the basic ‘rules’ relies heavily on timing. For some this is effortless.

    Brave matey

    Reply

    • Thanks a lot. You just reminded me that I haven’t done any street photography in a while, I must fix this! 🙂

      Reply

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