How to Produce Compelling Street Photography

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1/200s @ f/4 ISO 160 @ 200mm

Quito, Ecuador

I’ve written about the elements of good street photography ad nauseam. Feel free to browse my archives for posts related to this particular genre of photography (there are quite a few). The key elements of good street photography include human subjects, candidness, environmental context (showing some of the surrounding environment), and provoke questions and/or tell a story. The history of street photography would suggest black & white, but color also works on occasion (if it adds to the subject instead of detracting from the subject).

In this photo there are two distinct subjects, mother and daughter. The daughter’s facial expression is the point of interest. It’s obviously a candid shot, and not posed (at least I hope it’s obvious), the environmental context is the street, sidewalk, and pedestrian traffic in the background. It provokes the question: What the hell is going on with the kid and the mom? The back story is the mom was listening to live music farther down the street, and the kid found it boring. If you’re a parent you’ve seen that look a few times before. Right?

Color would have distracted, so I stayed with traditional black & white (this is not a hard and fast rule, and color can often enhance a candid street shot). See the shot of the street mime below (also photographed in Quito). Here color works to the subject’s advantage.

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Street photography is very documentary in style, it’s like taking a historical snapshot. It gets you out of the house, among the people who make up our world. Big cities are great, but you can practice street photography almost anywhere. Step out of your comfort zone and give it a whirl.

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Stephen F. Dennstedt

Photographer, Writer, and World Traveller

Lima, Peru 

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