When I first sat down to write this post I thought to myself, “this will be easy”, but how wrong I was. The thing with Street Photography is that a lot of it is spontaneous so you don’t get time to think, you just react. Anyway I’ve given it some thought and here it is;
1. A Lifelong Interest in People Watching
As I mentioned in my profile, I only started photography at the beginning of this year and street photography a short time after that. Throughout my adult life though, I have always been interested in people. I love watching them, their mannerisms, the way they dress etc. Be it while having a coffee at a street cafe, in the park, on the beach or just walking the streets there are infinite opportunities. This is what probably influenced me, more than anything else, to take up street photography.
2. Social Awareness
Street photography makes you much more socially aware and alert to what is going on around you. You notice people having a conversation, people interacting on mobile devices, that woman with the incredibly high heels, shadows on buildings, piles of rubbish. Again the list is infinite but your eye gets trained to see it.
Street photography can be done with any type of camera or even a camera on your phone. At the moment I only use a relatively cheap compact camera but, although there are some areas where it is lacking, I can still produce at times some pretty good results. There are people that use a DSLR, people that use film cameras, compacts, mirrorless and those lucky ones that will only use Leica ;-). Basically anyone can do it and start practicing. Doing it well though takes a LOT of practice and patience.
I love a challenge and whatever I do I push myself and my equipment to the limit. The same is true with photography. Anyone that tells you street photography is easy or is just snapshots has either never done it or doesn’t do it very well. It is incredibly hard, frustrating and challenging. The frame, light, circumstances etc are constantly changing. People can walk across your path at the vital moment or walk into the frame and spoil the scene. Once the moment has gone it’s gone forever.
Exercise is important so if you can combine it with your passion it makes it a whole lot easier. When I go out to shoot I tend to walk about a lot looking for material. It’s not unusual for me to walk 4-5 miles when I go out shooting for a few hours.
Most of my work is based on compositions so, for me, finding a good composition with good light, shadows, textures etc, then waiting for the right person to come along to complete the composition is exciting. When you get the shot, you have timed it well and it turns out how you pictured it in your mind it is a great adrenaline rush. The same can be said for getting close in and getting that candid shot of someone, although I don’t do that as much.
7. Documenting Life
As an Englishman currently living in Spain I have found that street photography is a great way of documenting my time here. The places I visit, streets I know and walk, people I see, cultural differences between here and my home country etc. Hopefully in years to come I can look back on these images with fond memories of time here. The same can be said for anywhere in the world.
8. Unique Shots
Another great thing about street photography (or any candid photography with a human element) is that every shot is unique and cannot be repeated (that can also be a frustration if you miss the shot). I like and admire all forms of photography but if you take for example some famous landmarks, the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Sydney Opera House, how many times have you seen these things shot from the same perspective? After a while, unless the photographer gets creative, they all look the same.
9. Working in Monochrome
I prefer to work in monochrome and 95% of my images are monochrome only. I just don’t work too well with colour. Street photography as a genre is traditionally, although certainly not exclusively, a monochrome genre. This fits well with what I like and the way I like to view images and want to show my images. I find that monochrome, in a lot of situations, has a timelessness to it that I really like. There is nothing wrong with colour in the right image but it’s just my preference to work in monochrome.
I love to get creative with my street photography, particularly with light, shadows and reflections. I push myself and my camera to the limit. Sometimes it doesn’t work but other times it can produce some pretty satisfying results. For me it’s all about experimentation, continuing to learn, gaining experience, getting better and hopefully creating my own recognizable style. If I can do all of that I will be a happy man.