Listen Up Photographers! 10 Awesome Global Cities For Street Photography, Right Here.
Ever day dreamed of capturing that front cover shot of next year's Lonely Planet guide to beautiful New York City…..?
“I wish, I wish, I wish”, you say to yourself. Anyway, you know the feeling, on the plane, beverage in hand and you're flicking through your top photography magazine bought at the departure lounge, your tablet articles or laptop to get some last-minute ideas for where's first on your hit list!
Of course, I am talking about hitting the streets armed with nothing but you and your camera gear!
Let the excitement and anticipation commence…
Street photography as well as being a discipline in its own right, is also an important part of a travel photographer’s repertoire.
Capturing the essence of everyday life, the humor, the sadness, the mundane and the ridiculous are just some of the elements that making street photography such an engaging pastime.
Today we are going to look at ten of the best cities for shooting street photography (in no order, you gotta start somewhere, though).
It is inevitable that any list of cities for street photography is going to have Paris amongst the list (and certainly near the top). It is arguably the home of street photography and the canvas for some of the greats including Cartier-Bresson.
The streets are lined with photographic opportunities from chic fashionistas to elegant waiters. It’s architecture and culture combine to make it one of the best places in the word to shoot street images.
There is, however, a caveat. French privacy laws are some of the most stringent in the world, if you are shooting street photography for commercial purposes or even to share online, you may run into some difficulties.
2. Rio de Janeiro
Our next on the list of greats. Rio – a beautifully bustling city you can actually supplant street for the beach. It is a city where beach culture rules and photographic opportunities lie around every corner.
Be it the colorful beach vendors selling their wares, the body-beautifuls working out or the handball or football players playing, Rio has fantastic street photography.
Of course, the city is not without its crime issues, so being streetwise and using discrete cameras is the order of the day. Some great street images can be captured in the Rio favelas but make sure you go on a professional, well organized tour to them.
They are not places to wander alone with expensive gear – common sense will ensure you're keeping on the right side of things. This is not to put you off, but just to say be observant of your surroundings, after all, there are beautiful opportunities everywhere in this city!
Some street photographs just look better in Black and White. And we have the perfect article on this.
However, learning to create those Black and White images in post production takes some patience and practice – here's a guide by Kent DuFault on Better Black and White, without having to spend money on Lightroom presets and plugins!
3. New York City
The city that never sleeps is full of iconic street images. It is a city of contrast, extreme wealth and extreme poverty, often in the same location.
Contrasting the rampant commercialism with poverty is one idea for the streets of this amazing city but it is also a city where you can capture humorous street images, some of it’s residents bordering on extreme eccentricity.
It's a favorite amongst photographers for good reason…Culture. NYC oozes culture and it has welcomed all walks of life for many many decades, creating a vibrant city, rich in diversity which is understandably a real magnet for any tourist (and photographers too).
4. Mumbai (aka Bombay)
India in general is a street photographers delight but Mumbai is the jewel in the crown.
It's frenetic crowded streets are full of street images with amazing colors. For some great shots head off to Dhobi Ghat the famous outdoor laundry. A local will take you in where you can photograph the laundrymen cleaning huge piles of clothes.
It's actually part of Mumbai's sprawling slums, which to westerners appear overcrowded and dirty, but don't judge a book by its cover. Mumbai's “slums” are home to many IT and technology professionals – where choosing to live here as opposed to inner city apartments is a way of life, retaining their culture and identity.
Dharavi slum was founded in 1882 during the British colonial era – home to an estimated 700k – 1 million people.
The street around Dhobi Ghat are also full of life, Chai Wallehs dispensing sweet hot tea, women carrying impossibly large loads on their heads and of course the sheer color of their saris make Mumbai a great destination.
Mumbai is a city full of color and bold character.
Marrakech is perhaps one of the best places in Morocco for street photography. Its streets are full of photographic opportunities from side street shoe repairers to horse drawn buggies.
You will no doubt come across snake charmers who will want paying and mint tea sellers who might not, assuming you buy some tea from them. Spice vendors make great street subjects with their vibrant and perfectly stacked spices towering impossibly above their stalls.
You cannot resist taking photos the busy markets – again, I'd ensure you have a light camera – perhaps consider a prime lens, keep it simple and discreet…you'll capture the best images that way and really get a feel for the local culture!
6. Hong Kong
The narrow streets of Hong Kong are full of contrasts.
The towering icons of modern commerce cast shadows over old traditional Chinese vendors. Expensively attired business people walk alongside locals in a mix of ideals and cultures.
There are small markets everywhere selling everything from knock off watches to live chickens. Men rush through the street with trollies laden with goods as this is the quickest way to deliver in the crowded traffic jammed streets.
The sheer numbers of people rushing everywhere will mean you need to work fast to capture shots. Alternatively, find a spot (if you can) and set up for some longer exposure street photography – capture the rush, the hustle, the busyness in your images.
7. Ho Chi Minh City
Formerly known as Saigon this incredible place has lost none of its charm over the years. The moped is the key mode of transport and you can spend days just shooting the incredible loads these little two wheelers can take.
Don’t be surprised to see a family of four and a piano on the back of a 50cc Honda – this city is full of “innovative” locals. Beyond that, the street vendors with their iconic Vietnamese hats and the beautiful elegant women with their simple white dresses also make for some wonderful shots.
This city is fast-paced and bustling, mind how you cross the roads because those traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and sidewalks are just for decoration, they don't serve much purpose – so be alert, eyes open and you'll have a wonderful experience!
Get some shots of street food, it's quite fascinating (and truly delicious).
A city where ancient and modern collide and home to perhaps more cultures and diversity than any place on earth is full of photographic potential.
One aspect to look at when shooting street photography in London is the sheer variety of tourists, each with their own unique look and mannerisms.
Beyond the center, head out to the multi cultural sights of the East End where generations of immigrants from across the globe have all stamped their unique culture on the region.
It's culture-rich and a place you can get some alternative street photography shots from the iconic tourist hot-spots of the affluent West End.
The Iberian Peninsular is full of great cities for street photographers. Madrid and Barcelona are the two obvious ones but I am going to suggest Lisbon, Portugal’s pretty and diverse capital.
In many ways Lisbon is like Paris, smart well-dressed people with elegant architecture but the people have a unique look to them, very different from the Spanish.
It is a very religious country and you will find great candids can be had near churches and other religious establishments. This is a real favorite of mine for the far western regions of Europe!
Lisbon rivals Paris for street photography.
Last but not least (obviously), we have Rome.
The Italian zest for life is a driving factor in street photography in Rome. The facial expressions and mannerisms of the Italians when they are having a heated debate are a delight for the candid street photographer.
Old Italian men sitting drinking their morning espresso and women wearing the most elegant fashion whilst out shopping are other things to look for in this ancient and endearing city.
So there you have ten suggestions for great cities for street photography. I enjoyed putting this together because it brings back memories of places I've been and conversations with people I've met.
Street Photography is a wonderful area to give a try and we've got heaps of resources here at Lightstalking to get you started if you're eager! It can really enhance your set of images whilst on vacation too.
If you know a city that is a playground for street photography, let us know in the comments below. This list is compact, so let's branch out with further ideas from you traveling group of street photographers!
- How Photographing Locals Can Give a Sense of Place in Your Travel Photography
- How to Take Your Street Photographs from Good to Exceptional
- 3 Quick Fixes For Shooting Sharp Photos Without Having To Buy New Gear
- 3 Prime Lenses to Consider for Street Photography
Some street photographs just look better in Black and White. And we have the perfect article on this.
However, learning to create those Black and White images in post production takes some patience and practice – here's a guide by Kent DuFault on Better Black and White, without having to spend money on presets and plugins!
I actually think that you have missed out the best one of all: Havana, Cuba
Kolkata is my most favourite City for Street Photography for it’s lively and busy streets with various interesting activities and camera friendly people. Next favourite Indian city is Banaras or Varanasi for interesting morning activities like bathing, prayer exercising etc and painted colourful narrow allies .
İstanbul may be another amazing city for being multi cultured and having a deep heritage about 8000 years.There is absolutely wonderful spots for taking pictures of streets such as narrow streets near Taksim and Galata
Interesting that you’ve missed Istanbul in this article. It is one of the best cities for stteet photography.
Another vote for Istanbul. Wonderful city. Also going to suggest my current location, Manila. Huge and crazy place with the world’s friendliest people. Cheers.
It should have been Istanbul in the first place.
Florence, Italy is a great place for timid or new street photographers. As there are so many tourists snapping away, you can blend in and no one takes notice of you. Plus its one of the most beautiful cities on the planet!
I was only attacked twice in Marrakech, threatened once with violence and threatened with death ! I witnessed a mass battle between the taxi drivers and the horse driven taxi drivers ! Top place !
I could not wait to leave this hell hole !
Almost any big city has appeal to the photographic eye, in my case Los Angeles is the place because it is so vast, varied and textured.
Just, returned from 12 days in Istanbul, hooking up with 20 photographers, my #1, having shot in most of the 10 you have listed. One of the big highs for me was meeting Ara Guler, he of “The Eye of Istanbul”.
Just came back from Budapest and Vienna. Great for street shooting. Barcelona is also a great one and Jerusalem as well.
Agree on NYC, London and Hong Kong.
La Habana, Cuba … everywhere you look is a great photo! It is a must for street photography!
Can you enlarge on the problems in Paris re privacy laws?
I think you should consider Mexico City on an extended list.
I would add to this list Seoul, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Portland, Oregon.