How to Create More Visually Interesting Street Photography

You’ve got the same fear so many others have had: being way too afraid to take photos of people candidly on the street. I mean, what if they get angry and blow up on you? The good news is that it’s not the end of the world and what you’ll realize is that moment is so small and fleeting it won’t really matter. Nor will it weigh heavily on your mind later on. Once you get over this though, know that you now have to go beyond just pressing the shutter. Weird, right? 😉

Here are a few tips on how you can go about creating more visually interesting street photography.

PS: Like the info here? We’ve got a workshop later this month that we’re teaching where you can learn this stuff all in person. Sign up.

Zone Focus

Before I get into image creation to start, I’m going begin with talking about zone focusing and just how important and useful it is. Zone focusing works by stopping your lens down, focusing a distance away and knowing how much of the scene is in focus or not. Ever heard the old adage “F8 and be there?” That’s where this comes from.

Zone focusing a lens is actually pretty easy and it also negates the reason for using autofocus too. If you’re zone focusing a lens then you can simply just walk up to a subject and shoot because theoretically the subject will already be in focus.

Use this when you’re trying to photograph people or scenes. It will make the shooting process really fast.

Observe Your Lighting: How Much Contrast Is There

Pro Tip: If you’re using an autofocus lens, have a focusing point pre-selected and move around the world with the intention of framing that scene centering around that point you’ve selected.

Contrast in a scene can help you create very visually interesting photos. There’s a whole movement in street photography on creating black and white high contrast images using silhouettes, shapes, lighting, etc. Considering the way the mind and eye work, it’s actually pretty brilliant though some of the more conservative photographers in the room may say it’s cliche and overused.

So why do high contrast black and white photos work so well? In order to figure that out, we need to look at a color photo.

Image by Daniel Schaefer, one of the instructors on our workshops.

Take a look at that photo above. Notice how all of the most important details are rendered very dark. But that whatever is brighter colored is where the mind’s eye will go? Essentially what’s happening is the mind is negating the darker areas and focusing on colors and light instead. It’s very popular in portraiture these days.

Still don’t believe it works? Look at the animal kingdom and the way folks dress and do makeup. Red lips. Bright, shiny colors, etc. It makes sense in photos too and can make even more sense when so much of a scene is rendered dark.

Look at the Lines in a Scene

One of the first things that you learn in Photography 101 is working with leading lines in a scene. In fact, just working with lines is interesting because they can be used as creative tools to direct the eye and the person looking. When used in conjunction with colors and varying shades of brightness you can pretty much tell someone where to look.

Human Emotions: Do You or Someone Else Feel Something?

Look at the woman’s expression on the left

Obviously, one of the biggest goals of so many street photographers is to find a way to capture some of the candid emotions and feelings of people out there. You know, being that documentary-fly-on-the-wall style shooter out there. But sometimes this can be tough to do unless you start opening yourself up to more things around you and really paying attention to not only facial expressions but also body language.

Edited in RNI Films

We’ll be going over more of these in person and in real life in our upcoming workshop street photography intensive in NYC. We encourage you to sign up!

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.