How to approach Street Photography

Please note that I have not colour corrected/toned the photos posted here.

I was one of those photographers who believed that I had a right to make a photo of anybody anywhere if I wanted to; especially in public spaces. The more photographs I made, the more I discovered my interests and myself. Today, I probably make only a fraction of the photos that I once did. But I understand my reasons behind wanting to make a photo (and not wanting to). If a person does not want to be photographed, I simply walk away. Unless I’m making a much wider photo wherein the role played by that one person is insignificant.

What do I look for?

I no longer look for that person by the street or on a park bench reading a newspaper or pulling a handcart/cycle rickshaw or the flower vendor etc. Instead I look at the space and the way people interact with it… I look for verbs rather than nouns. And if for any reason I wish to make a tighter subjective portrait, I will try and get to know a little about the person first.

“A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it.” Edward Steichen


For example this fisherman (above) was curious about my Yashica Mat. He was so intrigued that he just stood there staring at it. And this farmer (below) was happy that someone just asked him about his life…


A photogenic person or someone having distinct features will almost always photograph well. It’s the use of the space surrounding the person that tells a good portrait from an outstanding one.

Wide-angle versus telephoto

A decade ago, I would use a telephoto lens almost exclusively. I was obsessed with making tightly framed portraits. But in the last four years, I have not used a lens having a focal length more that 35mm except when I use my medium format 6×6 Yashica Mat that has a lens equivalent to 50mm (with respect to a 35mm camera).

I have come to believe that making photos on the street/outdoors using a telephoto lens (especially anything beyond 50mm) is being disrespectful to the people being photographed.

Lalbaugcha Raja

A wide-angle lens drives me to look for simplicity in complexity, equilibrium in chaos and the integrated use of space… in doing so, I store a little bit of energy in a photo that will refresh me every time I look at it.


Street performers will almost always make great photos. I came upon a man juggling three fire torches on a high unicycle in Amsterdam’s Dam Square. He had managed to build a small audience by the time I arrived there. Most live street theatre artists engage a person from the audience as a volunteer. I was looking to capture this interaction between the artist and his volunteer.


Old City Bikaner in Rajasthan, India

A country such as India has a lot on offer for photographers. Little scenes such as this (above) amaze me but local people wonder why I’m strolling through their neighbourhood when there are so many ‘tourist points’ just a few kilometres away! “There’s nothing here… you should go down that way, that’s the tourist point…” was what one gentleman said to me shortly after I made the photo. He was trying to be friendly.

But over the years, I’ve come upon some fantastic photo opportunities where I’d least expected them.

Photos of skylines must have a good measure of perspective rather than forms/contours of the dwelling that line it. I would have had a lot less regard for the above photo but for the conflict of cars on the street (verb). Some of the buildings in Prague are the tallest medieval constructions that I’ve come upon. It was very important for me to capture this perspective with respect to us, the people and also find a vantage point from where I can accommodate Prague’s most important landmarks in one single photograph.

Look for an alternate perspective

Beat the crowds! Get there early…

louvre museum paris photograph


Sometimes, you need to be lucky. But the more you pick your spots and hang around, the luckier you get!


Jewish Quarter Prague

Amsterdam Roots Festival

  _  BE HAPPY!


19 thoughts on “How to approach Street Photography

  1. I enjoyed your post and pics – I also love street photography! Not the easiest to sell without releases (which I hate pestering people for, so don’t bother), but certainly the most rewarding and memorable photography to work on. They are all able to tell a story and capture a moment – which is what I love about photography. If you keen, have a read of my article on ‘travel portrait photography’ – and if you want to contri any tips/articles on this site of your own in exchange for a link to your website, pls let me know!!

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting Moment « Mike Hardisty Photography

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