A Post By: Kevin Landwer-Johan
Coming up with fresh, interesting street photography ideas can be a challenge – especially if you’re first starting to explore the genre.
But don’t worry. Because in this article, I share 11 ideas for beautiful photos, all designed to help you get excited about street photography.
Some ideas are a little more abstract than others; some may suit your tastes and others may not. But don’t only consider the ideas you feel comfortable with. Step outside your comfort zone and try something new. It’ll help you grow as a photographer, and it’ll add a richer dynamic to your portfolio of images!
1. People connecting
Instead of photographing individuals or groups of individuals, look for people interacting with each other. Aim to capture their relationship. This may be as simple as the exchange that takes place when someone buys a newspaper or street food.
I photographed the ladies below in a street market in Myanmar. The place was packed, and busy, too, with people coming and going. The two women met in the middle of the street and had a good catch-up. I have no idea what they were talking about, but it seemed like they had not seen each other for a while.
Standing close to them, I took a series of photos. They were engrossed in their conversation and quite oblivious to my presence.
I think you’ll find bicycles in most cities, towns, and villages, no matter your location. And they make wonderful photography subjects! You can photograph people riding bicycles, or bicycles that have been parked, bicycles with their owners, and bicycles without.
Look at the shapes and lines. Emphasize the wheels, handlebars, or seat. Come in close and consider the details. All bikes are unique and have some special features that you can focus on.
I’ve been photographing bicycles since I got my first camera. By now I have a pretty good collection of bike images.
3. Shadows and reflections
This idea is a little more abstract, and it’s all about looking for interesting shadows and reflections to photograph.
Note that you can find shadows and reflections made by pretty much anything. And it’s not about the item itself, just the effect of it interacting with the light.
Dark shadows on a bright, sunny day are created by interestingly shaped items. Bikes make wonderful shadows. Trees do, too. Use your imagination when the sun’s out, or at night when passing under a street light.
(Also, think long and hard about whether you want to photograph just the shadow, or whether you want to include the item making the shadow, too.)
Reflections are all around you: In shop windows, the chrome of a classic car, puddles on the pavement after rain. Once you begin to look, you’ll start to see them everywhere.
4. A bird’s-eye view
Look for locations where you are above the action. Capturing a bird’s-eye view of a street scene offers a perspective most people won’t otherwise experience.
After all, a view from above shows the world differently from how most of us see it.
So how can you achieve the bird’s-eye view perspective? Search for a footbridge or an overpass. Balconies, second-floor windows, and mezzanine floors are also all great places to shoot from above.
5. Interesting modes of transport
How are people getting around? What are they using to carry their stuff from one place to another? Look for unusual and interesting modes of transport to photograph.
You might find an old person pulling a cart or an entrepreneur with a vehicle crafted to fit their specific needs. Maybe you’ll see a business person in a suit on a scooter or skateboard.
Many cities have public transportation that may seem common to their inhabitants – but it’s unique to the location and very unusual outside of those places.
6. Find the best light
Morning and evening are often considered the best time to take photographs because the light is richer and more flattering. But whatever time of day you can get out and about with your camera, always try to determine where the light is best.
In street photography, you need to study your locations and decide where to position yourself to make the most of the light. You can’t change the light, so you must do what you can to manage it well.
When you can’t get out in the morning, late afternoon, or evening, you’ll need to try harder to find the best light. It’s not impossible, just challenging. Look for where the light reflects and plays off surfaces in an interesting way. Position yourself and wait.
You may be surprised at what you can photograph.
7. Work one location
Shoot in the same location, over and over again. For a week, a month, or a year. Commit to spending time at the same location regularly – for longer than you think you will need to.
By sticking with a single location, you’ll be forced to push yourself creatively.
Consider what makes the place unique or special. Aim to capture its character. What do you observe happening each time you’re there? Visit at different times of the day and night. How does the light vary? Shoot from as many different angles as possible.
Sure, it’ll seem hard, especially at first. But it’ll be great for developing your eye and your creativity.
8. People working
Find people doing what they’re good at. Ask permission and offer free prints of your best photos.
When someone’s engrossed in what they’re good at, it’s easy to capture expression and feeling. You may be surprised at what you can photograph just from walking down the street.
Once you’ve found a person to photograph, observe them carefully. Look for peak moments in their activity. Watch for repetition. Capture the most significant aspects of their tasks with the aim of telling a story about what they are doing.
9. Shoot in black and white
Working in black and white is a classic – and somewhat cliché – street photography idea, but I feel compelled to include it. Black and white is easy to overlook. But it’s a great way to produce powerful photos.
Some photos are simply stronger in black and white. Some subjects and lighting conditions just lend themselves to monochrome.
Are you struggling with inspiration? Thinking and photographing in black and white can be the perfect way to get your creativity flowing!
Strip away the color. Pay careful attention to the light and tone. Look to present more feeling in your photos.
10. Photograph people (and interesting things)
Get bold. Take some street portraits. And if possible, get your subject to pose with a prop.
Why? Props help people feel more comfortable. Plus, when a person’s holding something interesting, their attention will be a little distracted. They won’t be totally focused on you and your camera.
Ask the people you photograph some questions about their prop. Show that you are interested. This can also bring up valuable information, which can then lead to other street portrait ideas.
11. Local animals
Look for birds, dogs, and cats in the street to photograph. Capture them as they sleep and as they eat.
Find a cat who owns the space it lives in. Look for a dog that wants attention from everyone who passes. Capture birds as they clean up crumbs left on an outdoor cafe table.
You’ll end up with some wonderfully intimate street shots!
Street photography ideas: final words
Hopefully, you’re now feeling far more motivated – and you have plenty of ideas worth photographing.
So choose one or two items that resonate with you. If none of the above work, check out the list below, where I’ve included some additional options. Work on a few to see which ones stick. Then go with the flow, and you’ll soon find you don’t want to put your camera down!
My list of additional street photography ideas:
- Environmental portraits
- People and signs
- Empty streets
- Current issues
- Close-up portraits
- Slow shutter speed
- Decisive moment
- Street art
- One color
- Shapes (squares, circles, triangles)
- Looking through things (frame within a frame)
- Worm’s-eye view
- Photograph from inside
- One lens
Street photography idea FAQs
What makes a good street photo?
It captures the essence of a place as you perceive it.
How do I start street photography?
Pick up your camera and head out the door. It’s as simple as that!
What are the rules for street photography?
I know of no rules for street photography. But here are a few suggestions: Photograph what you’re interested in. Be polite and stay safe. Make good art.
Is street photography legal?
In most countries, you are allowed to photograph whatever you like so long as you are on public property.