Street photographer composition with light reflections on a window
”Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

What is Street Photography & How Do We Know When We are Doing it Right?

Taking street photography shots is very much about wandering through neighbourhoods, keeping an eye open for promising compositions.

Sean P. Durham
5 min readOct 22, 2023

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Street photo of an advert in a Berlin Ubahn Station
Image by Author

This can be groups of people who are involved in an action that creates high interest, or a single person juxtaposed against a building that reflects light and shadows.

This can be groups of people who are involved in an action that creates high interest, or a single person juxtaposed against a building that reflects light and shadows.

This is an opportunity to create photo compositions with a strong graphic design feeling.

Often street photographers take photos that appear similar to graphic novel settings. The framing of a shot can be varied. It’s entirely up to the photographer how he or she angles the shot, composes the frame, and what they personally see as the centre of attention in the shot.

There are no hard and fast rules in street photography. Only that it should, ideally, be in a city street, people or signs of people can be optional; some photographers would argue that people must be in the shot, otherwise it isn’t street photography. Others argue that it should resemble a street portrait, otherwise it isn’t street photography. The argument extends into many aspects and demands of what street photography really is.

What street photography really is, is photography in an urban setting. Many great street photographers have specialized in taking shots of road signs, and street markings like double yellow lines combined with white posts, lampposts, gateways, the colours on modern cars offer great foreground compositions to create vivid depictions of urban life.

Some photographers concentrate fully on street photography only. The great “street photographers” of the twentieth century, Fred Herzog, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Helen Levitt, to name three at least, would not have described themselves as street photographers — only photographers.

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Sean P. Durham

Berlin Notes — Writing about the Creative Art of Street Photography. Fine Art Photography, writing, art, cats. http://berlinstreetphotographer.com