Street Photography - Is It Right For You?

A classic street scene featuring a street performer and an elderly passerby in San Telmo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This series of street photography was made in the districts of San Telmo and La Boca in Buenos Aires on a photo walk I led with a group of folks I'd taken to Antarctica on a special photography tour.

I'm an experienced photographer and I've been travelling since 1988. Nonetheless,  despite all this experience, I've done very little street photography during my career. I've had a lot of fun making portraits of strangers while traveling. However, even so-called candid images, like several of the pictures you see here, are made with the primary subject of the photo being aware of my presence.

One of the things that's special about candid photography is that, while it may appear that the subject is unaware of the photographer or the fact that they are being photographed, it's not necessarily the case. Think about sports photography. The athletes are aware of one or more photographers, but are so caught up in the moment that their movements and expressions appear quite natural. There's just no time to strike a pose in the middle of a boxing match.  

It's my practice to ask permission prior to photographing people. On occasions that's not possible or practical, but it's my preferred way of working. I really don't want to be that guy jumping out of the bushes trying to catch locals unaware with a big telephoto lens.

Street Photography Has A Rich And Varied History

I do enjoy looking at street photography and am familiar with the work of many of the greats in the street photography genre. In particular I'd suggest you study the work of the following Master photographers:

A classic street scene of an ornate shop front in the La Boca district of Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Why It's Important To Deconstruct Your Photos

Take a look at the above photo made outside an antiques store in the La Boca district of Buenos Aires. I very much like the surreal and serendipitous moments within the above image. Take a closer look and you'll see what I mean.

Can You See The Faces In this Photo?

There’s the young woman in the foreground; the elderly men, partly obscured behind the doors; the bust in the window in the bottom right of the image; and the face of the woman behind the curved glass on the left side of the frame. There are plenty of other faces in this image, but these are the most prominent ones.

The photo seems to me to be very much structured around relationships, both real and imagined. There’s the actual relationships between some of the figures in the image and the structural relationships that have come together, through composition, within the picture frame. These faces are focal points that, as much as anything else, lead our eye around the frame

I feel this image is a great example of how a photograph has the capacity to freeze a moment in time. It's also an image that speaks to me of transition. The world appears solid, on the street, yet a more fluid existance is suggested for those who might pass, through the doors, to what lies beyond.

The photo looked fine in color, but the subtle various in tone and the variety of textures and shapes throughout the scene suggested it was a great candidate for rendering into black and white.

Let Your Photos Explore The Beauty Of Duality

I also like the sense of quiet and nostalgia that’s been brought to the image through this black and white treatment. Despite the bustling crowds that passed by as I composed this photo, it's the sense of quiet light within the image that I find most interesting. That's because photos have their own inherent truths which can be very much at odds with the facts under which you find yourself making the image in camera.

A dramatic and surreal photo of two women, though not what you might expect, in the La Boca area of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Discover The Reality In Your Best Photos

So you see photos have their own reality which is often quite different to the reality under which the picture was actually made. The lesson is not to let a hot, bright, noisy and crowded street prevent you from making beautiful, indeed poignant images.

I truly love the ability that photography has to allow us to create our own reality and to enter worlds beyond our normal, everyday experience.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

Tell Your Story And Share It With The World

The next time you're out an about, whether in your own neighborhood or one far away, try to explore that locale through your camera's viewfinder and the magic of photography. In addition to interesting images that tell a story, from your own perspective, you'll also begin to discover your own unique perception of the world around you. All that remains is to share that unique vision with the world. 

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru