Why I Still Enjoy Street Photography
Updated: Aug 29, 2022
I recently decided to return to street photography after an enforced absence during lockdowns and travel restrictions and I have re-kindled my love for this type of photography.
For the last 2-3 years I have mainly concentrated on landscape photography.
One of the reasons for this is because landscapes are the most accessible to me. I live close to a few woodlands, I am within 30 minutes’ drive of the coast and I can be in the countryside, with its mountains and lakes, in less than an hour.
I have grown to love all types of landscapes for photography and I particularly love photographing trees and coastal scenes.
My preference is to capture intimate details of each landscape rather than sweeping vistas and I think this is the reason I also enjoy street photography as it is mainly about capturing candid moments that may disappear in a few seconds, unusual features in an urban landscape or small details that might go unnoticed by most people as they hurry past.
Here are some of the reasons I still love to do street photography:
#1 Means of Self-Expression
I spoke in my last post about expressive photography and why it appeals to me. I find that I can express myself through street photography in a way that has meaning for me. This is particularly true when I am in a new location, when I can observe people in their own surroundings or pick out scenes and features that interest me and draw my eye.
By spending time observing what is around me I get a good feel for what I like to shoot.
Sometimes it will be capturing people in their natural surroundings, other times it will be certain objects (bicycles seem to be a favourite!), and sometimes I will be drawn to architecture, shapes or interesting colours in street scenes.
Street photography images are often not glamorous, but they do depict real life and real people, and that appeals to me.
And if there is good light on an interesting building or scene, that is always a bonus and something I like to include in my images.
#2 Keeps Photography Simple
The simplicity of street photography appeals to me.
I carry a camera and one lens and am not concerned about changing lenses mid-shoot. I move closer if I need to get a clearer shot and let people know if I am including them just by being transparent about what I'm doing.
This man was having a rest on a hot market day. He spotted me taking his picture and waved. I made no secret of what I was doing. If he had been unhappy about it I would have apologised and deleted the image if he wished.
Recently I have chosen just to take my phone camera for street photography as it offers all the advantages of a small street camera and by using features such as burst mode, or easily switching between the three lenses, I give myself the best opportunity to capture a scene from a good perspective and not to miss a precious moment that may be happening when I am there.
#3 Exciting and Unpredictable
What I like most about street photography is that it is a new canvas every day.
While landscapes tend to be static and after a while don’t offer anything new to shoot, streets, towns and villages are ever-changing.
Different people are out and about, their interactions are different, different objects are placed around, different scenes are unfolding all the time.
Go there in the early morning and you will catch people setting up their business for the day.
Go later and you will catch the buzz of a typical day in the location.
There might be a market, there might be a street café, there might be a chat among locals on a street corner, there might be splash of colourful umbrellas on a rainy day or a busy park in the sunshine.
‘I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heat of the known awaits just around the corner.‘
All of daily life can be found on the streets of towns and cities and it is being part of this experience that I love. It requires patience at times, and often you'll take a lot of photographs and only find that one or two of them are any good. But you'll still have an enjoyable experience - a sense of being part of life's bigger picture - and to me that is the secret ingredient that makes street photography so wonderful.