Put a camera in front of a street photographer in a given situation, and they will use it based off of the camera and lens’s specific strengths and characteristics. Yes, gear is cool–and it can help you get specific and specialized images, but it isn’t the end all be all for street photography. The most important part of taking a picture is the photographer that composes, frames, and manipulates the images to get a specific look. However, street photographers for some odd reason love to chat about gear and how amazing it is.
Yes, gear is cool. But not many people can tell which image was taken with a Leica or a Fujifilm camera. The debating back and forth along with the gearhounding is unnecessary. If I were to tell you straight up what the best camera for street photography is I would probably say the iPhone and Nexus 5. Why? Because they’re always available, have entire scenes in focus, deliver images that can easily be manipulated in a whole number of ways, and there are people who shoot with them that make their living or supplementary income from them.
With this said, there are loads and loads of street photographers that don’t accept or validate the work of many mobile shooters.
So what actually makes for a great street photo? Let’s figure out a number of questions to ask:
– Is it an image taken in a public area?
– Is it candid?
– What is the content of the image and the main focus?
– What is the photographer trying to make us focus our eyes on? Are they doing a good job of that?
– Does the photo make me elicit some sort of emotion?
– Is it a truly incredible moment?
– Is it a beautiful moment?
– Is it worth looking at the photo again?
– How would it look as a print or in a gallery?
These questions, much more so than the question of gear, are far more important to photography and street photography specifically. Photography is about images, not gear. Paintings are about scenes, not the latest discounted oil paints at Michael’s.
More importantly, the only thing that you can use to create better street images is your own creativity and your own ability to pay attention to a scene and capture it in the space of time.