Take your street photography to the next level

Been shooting street photography for some time and see a lack of progress? Or is it simply that something is missing in your pictures ? Here a few pieces of advice to avoid the easy shots and bolster your creativity.

I) Exclude signs and ads.

Of course, you can create great juxtapositions with signs or billboards, and it definitely shows how witty you mind can be. Yet, half of your picture is actually someone’s else work and you are in fact taking a picture of someone’s picture. I estimate that close to 50% of street shots posted on pictures sharing websites involve a sign or and ad, it has become boring. (click on pictures to enlarge)

“To feel that your insurance makes your life easier is wonderful”
Leica M9 with 35mm Summilux Asph at F2.8, 1/250, ISO200, ND filter

II) Don’t shoot from the back

Shooting from the back as the advantage to avoid contact with your subjects. Yet, it is also the best recipe for boring pictures.  Backs aren’t very expressive, nor especially interesting to look at.

Leica M9 with 60mm Hexanon at F2.8, 1/2000, ISO200

III) Skip on street artists and vendors.

These are the easy snaps as these people are used to being photographed all day. They work in the streets and get tips or cash from the passer-by’s, they won’t mind being portrayed. The probability is also very high that you’ll find dozens of iterations of your shot on the web. So skip on these ones too, and turn your attention to less common scenes.

Leica M9 with 60mm Hexanon at F1.4, 1/500, ISO200, ND filter

IV) Leave good-looking people alone.

A bit like signs and ads, you are shooting someone’s else good work, which is your subject’s parents. Shoot a beautiful girl and most people will find the shot amazing. But is it really your shot they like ?

Leica M9 with 35mm Summicron IV at F2.8, 1/500, ISO200

V) Not all people are lost in their thoughts.

This is a common trend I have found on street shots posted on the internet, that is pictures of people “lost in their thoughts”. To my knowledge, when I walk in the street, I don’t especially talk or smile. The probability is indeed high that  I am thinking about some common stuff to do such as laundry, football game, my boss, flowers to water, etc … Many shots of people simply walking in the street are boring, and a dramatic title won’t change that.

Leica M9 with 35mm Summicron IV at F2.0, 1/1500, ISO200

VI) Use a wide angle lens

Leave your long lenses at home, mount a 28 or 35mm lens. Not that you can’t take great shots with long lenses, obviously not, but a wide angle will force you to interact with people. When you try to avoid interaction or eye contact at all cost, you miss on a lot of great shots opportunities.

Leica M9 with 35mm Summicron IV at F2.8, 1/750, ISO200

VII) Drop the abstract stuff.

The wonderful thing about abstract shots is that you can showcase your creativity at its maximum. The bad thing is that most often you are the only one to understand it. Very few street photographers are able to convey messages or feelings consistently through abstraction, so just leave it aside for a while.

Leica M9 with 60mm Hexanon at F1.4, 1/4000, ISO200, ND fitler

So what do I shoot ?

By removing all these types of shots from you array of choices, one might think “What do I shoot then ?” Well, this is where it starts to become interesting and you’ll know if you are ready to take your street photography to the next level. Commit to these rules for a few weeks, use it as a learning experience and see where it leads you.

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