5 simple ideas for street photography


by Bellamy /

3 min read

Street photography doesn’t have to be a battle
Recently there has been a lot of talk about what is good street photography and what constitutes invasion of privacy, especially in light of the video by Fabio Pirez. The video, which he has now taken down showed Pirez jumping in the face of people on the street in London. To me, this is not street photography it is more like assault. When I saw his attitude I was reminded of the video from the riots last month when the rioters mugged the injured boy on the street.

For me this is not what street photography is all about. Street photography is about documenting a moment without overly influencing it or changing the course of the action. This may not be what street photography is for everyone, but this is what it means to me.

So, as a reaction to what was happening I decided to write a little piece about what I would consider to be common sense rules or ideas for shooting on the street. Not everyone will agree with them, I don’t expect them to, but they should be straightforward enough that you can take at least a couple of them away.
So, here goes….

1. Manners maketh the man
Just because you are an edgy street photographer doesn’t mean you have to be a ill-mannered imbecile. Did your mother never teach you your P’s and Q’s? Many situations that may be getting a bit feisty can often be diffused with a smile and a “thank you”. I am not suggesting the you be obsequious, but saying thanks to your subjects can help you a lot, and you might get some brilliant portraits if you ask.

2. Look where you are bloody going
Look where you are going. This may sounds obvious, but you can easily get in peoples way by being a street photographer. Keep an eye on where you are going and watch where the situation is going. Trying to predict what will happen is impossible, but you should be able to get enough of an idea from experience to see where things might go.

3. Be prepared
The boy scouts were not wrong, make sure you are prepared. That doesn’t just mean keeping a pack of sammiches in your bag (but it does help), looking after your gear, making sure it is working is vital. Keep spare batteries, film, business cards, a notebook, memory cards and anything else you might need. Oh, and a bottle of water might be a good idea too, a dehydrated photographer is bloody useless.

5. Get out there
A biggie, get out there. By this I mean that you should be going out and putting yourself in the firing line, it is no good staying at home everyday and surfing the net, you need to be taking pictures. If you are going to the same place everyday then you need to be finding something about that place that you can maybe use in a project.

6. Open your eyes
This is something that we are all guilty of, but we should all look a little bit more. Be aware of your surroundings. You don’t have to run around with a camera all of the time, sometimes you can stop and watch. Grab a coffee or something, watch and learn, you might even find out something interesting about light spots or characters.

Everyone has their own rules, these are just ones that work for me. If you have rules that work for you then let us know, it is always interesting to hear what works for others. Come on, don’t be shy.


7 comments on “5 simple ideas for street photography”

    jänis liepa October 12, 2014 at 2:59 am / Reply

    Had a look at that video, just wow! Wow! Not even looking in viewfinder! Wow! Sad, that asian guy didn’t knock him out in the video.

    Nuno Brandao October 13, 2014 at 1:15 am / Reply

    Hi, i cannot find the Fabio Pirez video, can you share the URL?


      Bellamy October 13, 2014 at 5:09 pm /

      Sorry, it is long gone. He removed it a long time ago.

    Dan Castelli October 13, 2014 at 8:25 pm / Reply

    Thank you for the article and your spot-on observations!
    If I may add two more:
    a. I have a flickr account app on my iphone. I can easily show people my work. This happens after I snap a pic…
    b. Offer to send them a copy of the shot. I shoot film, so I usually send a paper print. If they don’t want to share a mailing address, I will email them.
    I give them my business card w/an email address. I ask them to contact me with an address.

    John October 16, 2014 at 5:23 pm / Reply

    Here’s a link to the video, I hope you don’t mind that I posted it: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzAyMDYzNTY4.html

    In all honesty it doesn’t surprise me that Bruce Gilden is his influence, both come across as obnoxious and overly aggressive in their approach. Great advice by the way and yes I agree 100% manners and politeness go a hell of a long way when Photographing strangers in the Street. Also I find bringing business cards and a few 6×4 prints in my pocket showing examples of my work diffuses certain situations and relaxes most people.

    Billy January 3, 2015 at 9:15 am / Reply

    Mmmm, sammiches!

    I didn’t see the video in question, but I have seen others do what I THINK you are describing here. Thomas Leuthard (Switzerland) is one of my favorite street photographers, but here is a video of him using an in-ya-face approach:


    And here is Bruce Gilden doing it in New York:


    Both of these are great photographers–meaning that the work they produce is superb–but I don’t know if I could do it they way they do. Shoot, in this vid, Bruce even says “I have no ethics.” :)

    Efrain Bojórquez Garcia March 12, 2015 at 12:24 am / Reply

    I totally agree with you, Bellamy. They talk about getting honest reactions and the “true personality” of the characters they choose, but I don’t anyone will be comfortable being blinded with a flash in the face or with a lens almost hitting you in the nose. What’s natural about that? And, really, if you look at these guys work, the best photos are the ones where they are actually capturing something happening, not just people with eyes wide open or pissed off

    This Fabio guy said it himself “it’s exciting because you get into all sorts of trouble”. That’s not a photographer’s attitude, that’s a bully, or a daredevil, at best!! Hell, even war photographers know when to back off!

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