Street photography. It’s one of the most versatile and interesting genres of the medium. It’s also an elusive one, based on capturing real life situations filled with fleeting moments, light, expressions and interactions. And today, with a resurgence of lightweight mirrorless cameras and smartphone photography, more people are getting into it than ever before. Yet, despite its widespread adoption and high level of discipline and creativity needed to accomplish it, it is a genre largely ignored by the fine art world.
One possible reason for this may live inherently in the work itself—it’s supposed to be hard to like. One of street photography’s living masters, Joel Meyerowitz, describes it like this:
“[Street photography] was something made out of your guts, out of your instinct, and it was unwieldy in some way, not capable of being categorized by ordinary standards. So it was tough. It was tough to like, tough to see, tough to make, tough to draw meaning from.”
Most accomplished street photographers will tell you the same thing – they don’t do it for the fame. It comes from somewhere deeper inside; a desire to capture life as it is, to document and to reveal. Maybe in too harsh a way to be defined as “fine.”
Ready to leave the safer world of still lives and nature to capture a bit of real life on the street? Great! Here we will cover some of the best tips for getting yourself ready to do street photography at a high level. Stepping onto the streets to document is wild work, so having the basics down is essential. But remember, you’re not alone out there. Folks like Vivian Maier, Gary Winogrand, Bruce Gilden, Helen Levitt, Weegee and Meyerowitz have laid down a beautiful set of footprints for you to follow in – and these tips are culled from our observations from all of them.
And while you’re lacing up your comfy shoes, remember these inspirational words from the master of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson: