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Street Photography Tips: How To Avoid Boring Street Photos

Updated: Apr 9, 2019

Street Photography Tips: How To Avoid Boring Street Photos

“Photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the photo as a judgement that the photograph is good” – Garry Winogrand

Street photography is an accessible entry into the photography world. It's fun, requires little equipment and can be done almost anywhere. That's partly the beauty of it but also makes room for a lot of boring shots.

In no way should this article put anyone off going out on the street, or stop anyone from doing what they're doing. The only way to improve is to give it a go and if that means gaining confidence making some boring shots through trial and error then so be it. I was hoping to shed some light on what makes a street image uninteresting so that we can recognise it and push our skill forward.

I'm my own worst critic. I'll often look over photos over and over again before deciding whether or not I like them. I'll share them then months later realise actually, that sucks. That's all part of the process of getting better. Over time tastes change and you'll think to yourself 'what was I even trying to do with this photo?'

Don't get me wrong I've got a hell of a long way to go but I wanted to share with you some points I have considered when looking back at my photographs that helped me to discredit or throw away certain shots.

1. Not getting close enough

A photo I liked in 2017. I definitely could have worked the scene but instead settled for this image taken too far out!

“If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough” – Robert Capa A quote we all know made famous by one of the founding members of Magnum, Robert Capa, which is a little cliché but very true. Street photography allows you to connect with your subjects which translates to provoke an emotion in whoever is seeing your images. Getting in close makes the viewer feel as if they're part of the scene. Taking the photo at distance opens the door to distractions creeping in. It becomes harder to grab the viewers attention. People won't be interested if they can't 'feel' or even see what's going on within your image.

Get up close and personal to bring your viewers in to the scene allowing them to feel as if they were part of it. We want to feel what you felt when you took the image.

Slightly closer and you can see the expressions of these to fellas a lot more clearly

2. Nothing going on

Often you'll take a photo in response to the adrenaline rush that kicks in when you know you just HAVE to pull the trigger. Even now I still get that feeling. It's often the signal I need to grab the shot. In the beginning that rush plays a huge part in every photo you take. Taking a stranger's photo can be quite scary after all.

A person walking down the street (often shot from behind), an old lady at the bus stop, or a group of people crossing the road are all a part of everyday life and can be captured. Does that make it interesting? Not really. Try to look closer at the gestures, how the light is reacting, some irony, a character, just something that speaks for itself and makes you think about what's happening in the photo.

As you can see here there's absolutely nothing happening

3. Composition

Composition plays an important role in catching the eye. It's good to think about composition early as it starts to become natural. Whatever subject will be approaching and you'll know how you're going to respond taking in to consideration the surroundings. If you don't think about it, then really, you're shooting blind. Sometimes a hectic, wonky composition with people cut out and coming in all over the frame works. It usually works if you've planned for it. Composing the shot allows you to slow down to think about what's within your frame. The snapshot will always come out when you're nervous but that'll improve with time!

Shot from the hip with no composition in mind

4. Repeating the same pictures

It's an easy pitfall to drop in to, repeatedly shooting the exact same photo over and over again, with different subjects. There are a lot of pages on Instagram I see with tons of pictures of your average person cropped out of the bigger picture just sort of, walking down the street. I like to try vary what I'm focusing in on and shooting different things. That doesn't mean it's not good to work on a certain style or aesthetic you're trying to capture but remember to change it up now and then!

Shot for the sake of it. Nothing actually really happening other than people walking down the street. I do kind of like how my shadow creates an arrow.

5. Street Performers

The reason we see so many photos of street performers is mainly because it's easy! They're always around, don't mind their photo being taken or may not even notice. On the other hand I'm sure there's plenty of great images of street performers but in my opinion it's a subject that has been totally rinsed, everyone has done the same shot. It is however a good subject to build up some confidence in the beginning.

I hope this post gives you a little insight into what I'm thinking as I'm culling through the streets or when editing at home. I take way more useless photos than I do ones I like, then after stewing my preferred images I often find the ones I used to love I no longer like. You've got to just go for it, experiment, and keep trying new things.

To see all my posts check here: BLOG POSTS

Jordan Murray



See similar interviews: https://www.jordanmurrayphoto.com/street-photography-blog/

Or hear my method to madness:

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2020 Jordan Murray Street Photography, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK

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