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What Makes Street Photography So Captivating?

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

What is he looking at?

There are many different opinions on street photography.

For some photographers, it is the only type of photography they enjoy, and they have discovered how to achieve a good street image every time they go out.

Other photographers may find street photography appealing but don’t live close enough to a city or town to give them opportunities to practise the genre.

Some photographers may specialise in landscape or general photography and only dabble in street photography from time to time.

Others may find candid photography on the streets to be a daunting prospect and something they tend to avoid.

There are also those photographers for whom street photography has no appeal whatsoever.

In fact, that was my earliest experience – a belief that it wasn’t for me!

When I started photography, street photography wasn’t on my radar. I was anxious about getting too close to people on the street, afraid that I would be encroaching on their privacy. But that was not my only hesitation in giving this genre a try. I honestly thought that street photographers just captured random images on busy streets and I didn’t see the appeal of that.

Fast forward to today and I can say that street photography is becoming one of my favourite types of photography.

But it has been a journey to get to where I am now; a journey of learning from others, experimenting, opening my mind to new possibilities and being happy to enjoy the experience rather than expecting perfect images every time.

Example of layering

Recently I began to think about why I find this type of photography so interesting and captivating.

Why has street photography ‘grown on me’?

I think it boils down to a sense of being part of something bigger, a sense of involvement, almost a feeling of playing the part of an extra in a huge street drama.

The main actors in the drama are the people who populate the street – the daily commuters, the workers, the shoppers, the coffee drinkers, the friends and lovers, the dog walkers, the families, the animals.

The scenery, or backdrop to the drama, is the city or townscape - the streets, shops, offices, bus and train stations, parks, signs, hoardings, colours, light and shadow.

The action is what is happening involving these actors and their environment. It is about how they interact - the intimate gestures, the looks, the interplay between people and places, the humorous incidents that take place unexpectedly, the strange juxtapositions – all the things that make up the drama.

As street photographers we are part of the events unfolding around us.

We observe the bigger picture.

We hear snippets of conversations.

We watch interactions among people.

We share a unique moment with people we may never see again.

And by standing by with our camera, ready to capture images of anything interesting that catches our eye, we see things that others don’t see.

Our camera allows us to express our unique view of what we see around us and present it to the world.

Women in market

To sum up

I hope I have answered my question, what makes street photography so captivating?

Street photography is a unique genre of photography that is loved by many.

It is this uniqueness that really appeals to me.

I love the sense of capturing a moment that will never come again.

But it is not a genre that is easy to master or immediately successful.

I believe that we have to fully immerse ourselves in the drama of the street, become an observer of street life and appreciate all that we see, if we are to make interesting street images.

Light and shade

It may not be easy and it may not appeal to everyone but street photography is a genre that, with patience and perseverance, we can grow to love.


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