Street photography continues to be a compelling topic within the larger photography community. It garners lots of strong opinions and debates — from whether street photography is a “dead” genre to what camera/lens is “best” for street photography.
While those subtopics are interesting (in small doses), they are by no means the main ideas street photography should revolve around. If you’re looking to find your footing as a street photographer, here are three crucial concepts you should keep in mind.
Use Whatever Camera You’re Comfortable With
The right camera for street photography is the one you’re comfortable with. Ask 10 longtime street photographers for a camera recommendation and you’re likely to get 10 different answers.
Whether they shoot with a medium format camera or a pocketable point-and-shoot, the thing that street photographers have in common is they use what they’re comfortable with.
Don’t think that you need to buy a new camera for the sole purpose of doing street photography, especially if you’re new to the genre. Whatever camera you have is all the camera you need.
Getting good at street photography is so much more about changing the way you see as opposed to changing your gear. Of course, you might decide later on that you want to make some changes in the gear you use, but it should still be something that you’re completely comfortable with and not something you pick up just because it’s popular on YouTube.
Stay In Your Lane
Street photography is largely about perspective and everyone’s got a different one. While it’s fine to be inspired by the work of others, it’s important to remember that your perspective is unique and is ultimately how others will identify you and your work.
Find your lane and own it. If using a telephoto lens is your thing, do that. If you like to do your street photography at night, do that.
Take the time to figure out what it is you like and what makes your photos worth looking at. Trying to do exactly what someone else is doing is a waste of creative energy.
Expand Your Vision
Once you feel somewhat settled in your style, you may occasionally encounter bouts of stagnation. This is a hint that you should try something new. You don’t necessarily have to adopt a whole new style, but perhaps you should try shooting in new places, at different times of the day or with a different lens/focal length.
The previous two points address the idea of being comfortable with what you’re doing. But there does come a time when you’ll need to get out of your comfort zone in order to experience real creative growth. Allow yourself to go through the process. You’ll thank yourself as you emerge from the other side as a more competent and expressive photographer.
The arguments over whether street photography is dead are inconsequential — people are doing it, so it’s alive. A discussion about whether street photography is — in a larger sense — in good hands is a discussion worth having, but beyond the focus of this piece.
The simplicity of street photography is, ironically, what makes it difficult to master. How do you capture an everyday scene and make it uniquely yours? Many have tried, few have actually figured it out.
But it’s fun to try. So take to heart the ideas above and keep trying. You might become someone who figures it out.