The point of this article isn’t to tell you what makes for interesting street photography. That would be impossible.
Street photography is such a broad genre with so many great photographers who shoot wildly different subjects in completely different manners. This can feel both inspiring and overwhelming.
The goal instead is to give you some tips to help you find your own voice and to figure out and develop what is interesting to you. It’s a path that takes a lot of work and a lot of photography, but it’s an incredibly fun path.
Visit the Same Places Over and Over Again
Just because you walked an area once or twice, does not mean that it will look the same the next time you go. The lighting will change, the people will be different, the overall mood may be different.
But most importantly, you will change. As you become more in tune with an area, you will start to notice more about it. Maybe on the 10th trip, something you completely missed every other time will pop out at you. Or maybe on the 100th trip. You will understand the area better, understand how to capture daily life better, and you will be able to build on that experience over time.
Pick an Area That Is Interesting and Wait
The enjoyment of walking and exploring is one of the keys to street photography, but so is the enjoyment of lingering and waiting. Pick a spot where you see the potential for a moment to happen and wait. The same amount of great moments will happen whether you walk or not, so you might as well spend some time in an inspiring area.
By waiting, you will be able to spend more of your attention looking around and noticing things. You will also be in a better position to get closer and more intimate photographs of people as they will be entering your personal space instead of you entering their space. This changes the dynamic significantly. And when you get bored, just walk to another area to wait some more!
Look at the Eyes
There are those incredible street photography moments that just pop out at you. You can never tell what they will be and when they will happen. But then there are those subtle moments that we need to look intently for.
One of the pillars of interesting street photography is the ability to portray feeling and emotion in your photographs. And one of the ways to do this is to show the feeling and emotions of others. To do this we have to try to locate people who are showing these emotions, and that is usually through the look in their eyes, a facial expression, or a gesture in their bodies.
It’s important to pay close attention because these looks can happen and disappear in an instant.
Show Your Inner Voice
Whether you think so or not, you have a story to tell. As photographers develop, you can usually begin to see more of themselves peeking through in their work.
Search for subjects and scenes that you relate to emotionally. Are you happy, romantic, anxiety-ridden, angry, or sad? Embrace these emotions and aim to portray them in your photographs. You will be much better at noticing them than people who are not feeling what you are.
Go Someplace Interesting, then Go Someplace “Boring”
Good photographs are everywhere. It’s very important to go to locations where things are happening. The more that is happening, the more chances there are to capture unique and wonderful moments.
But it’s just as important to go in the opposite direction. Go to quiet areas, ‘boring’ areas, any place that you might disregard as a good photography location, and then think about why you are disregarding it. There will be terrible photography days in these locations, of course, but the more you try, the more you will find, and you might find that some of your most unique photographs are taken in these areas.
Explore the Works of other Street Photographers
Like any art, exploring the works of other photographers is one of the best ways to develop your own voice. By connecting to specific photographs, moments, and styles, you will begin to build your mental Rolodex of photography possibilities as you go out into the world, and you will begin to notice more. Over time you will incorporate elements from your favorite photographers into your own style.
Use the internet to explore old masters and newer contemporary photographers, but I also suggest getting some street photography books. Photography books, in my opinion, give photographers the most opportunity to share their consistent vision – one that is tough to fully see and understand by just looking at a ‘best hits’ portfolio on the internet.
Group your Work While Editing
Editing is just as important as going out and shooting. Spend time to sequence like-minded photographs together. See how photos play off each other and how they can lead a viewer into a story or general feeling.
Editing is the point where you can really assess how you are doing, what you are doing best, and what you are missing. But you need to spend time working with your photographs in sequences and groups to fully get the most out of your editing sessions.
And in conclusion, shoot, a lot. None of these tips will come into play if you don’t enjoy the exploration enough to go out and consistently do it. Those incredible moments come when they come and you need to really pay your dues to see enough of them to build a strong, consistent body of work.