Why Every Photographer Should Be Doing Street Photography

Practicing street photography is one of the quickest ways to become a better photographer. Here's why each and every one of you should be hitting the streets with your camera.

Street photography can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding genres to work in. While the thought of shooting on the streets will fill many of you with dread, there really is no better place to learn the ropes of photography. I have always dabbled in street photography as a way to keep my "photographer reflexes" sharp. I also really enjoy doing it, which is a bonus. I do, however, think I would still partake in the genre even if I didn't like it. The reason for this is that I generally feel sharper and more alert when I go back into the often slower and more controlled environment of commercial photography. It's like comparing the photographing of a wild bear to capturing a picture of a stuffed teddy.

Photographer Faizal Westcott raises many of these same points in his latest video, where he champions the benefits of street photography. The video starts with Westcott talking about how he owes a lot of his personal growth as a photographer to the genre, as it taught him to pay closer attention to things around him. He also talks about how hitting the streets is a great way to accelerate the learning of photography itself. This one point stuck with me, as there really isn't a better way to learn how to be a photographer than putting the hours in and taking lots of pictures in many situations. Of course, you can learn how to shoot from the comfort of your bedroom, but shooting those same four walls will get old pretty quick. Westcott also talks about the importance of failure and how this is something that street photographers get used to living with. I really liked this point, as failing and learning from it is an important lesson to help us become better photographers.

The great thing about street photography is that you don't need to rely on others to do it. The street is there 365 days a year, and it costs virtually nothing to be there. No booking slots at expensive photo studios or scheduling models to work with you. Just you and your camera are all that's needed. Westcott's video is an important reminder of all this and a great love letter to the genre of street photography. I hope some of you that work in other areas of the industry give it try. You may just be surprised by what you get out of it.

Do you do any street photography already? Has the genre benefited any other areas of your work? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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8 Comments
Deleted Account's picture

It's a hobby, some people get paid for that hobby; people should shoot whatever the hell they want.

Tom Reichner's picture

I don't really like manmade things. Buildings, streets, trains, cars, etc. ... to my eye they are all quite ugly and uninspiring. I don't think that Homo sapiens are very good looking subjects, either. I'll take a deer or a bear or a lizard or a bird or a turtle over a human any day of the week.

Hence, I'll forego street photography and continue to spend the vast majority of my time in the great outdoors photographing wild subjects in environments that have not been created / dominated by mankind. That is far more inspiring to me, and there is no shortage of opportunities to practice my craft so that I can continue to improve my skills and my aesthetic vision.

David Pavlich's picture

When I lived in New Orleans, street photography was a hoot! Nobody notices someone walking around with a camera since every third person is taking pictures. I would guess that most big tourist cities are like that. Here in Winnipeg, 180° difference. I can go downtown to do some architecture shooting and not see another person taking any sort of picture, phone or camera. So, I don't do any street photography as I stick out being the lone photographer in most cases.

Anyway, in the right situation, it is a great study in human behavior. And, you can get some very neat shots with a little patience.

Scott McDonald's picture

I see street photography as a "fun" exercise to either pass the time, practice certain technical aspects, or wow the world with a photo that stands out from the crowd. You just never know what you might happen upon if you wander the streets of any city...but more so a pedestrian city.

I live in Vietnam, and the cities here are teeming with people doing various "interesting" things throughout the day. It's a street photographer's playground. I've captured a few "cool" photos of people doing things you wouldn't see back home (for me). There are no rules for this genre as already stated (no focus on the eyes, no sharp focus needed at all really, no color needed, no half-naked ladies, etc.), and therefore, do whatever makes you happy...and you can get away with of course!

Even with Tom's area being wildlife photography...it could be compared as something similar if you look at it from another angle, but replacing the streets with forests and mountains, etc. You're still taking candid photos of animals doing what they do best but farther away than one would in street photography and still be quite engaging.

Anyhow, you should have fun doing whatever form of photography that you choose to keep yourself inspired to continue it (especially if you're being paid). You never know...you might end up capturing a photo that may be enjoyed for generations to come.

Leopold Bloom's picture

No, I don't have to. It isn't even allowed where I live.

David Pavlich's picture

Typical topic headlines here tend to be click bait. In this case, however, it states that you SHOULD try street photography, not that you MUST try street photography. And the second part of your reply is sad, indeed.

Alejandro Ilukewitsch's picture

Where do you live thats not allowed?

Wayne Coles's picture

Montreal/Quebec has some laws that people take to mean Street Photography is not allowed. However, it is legal there, the laws are more against the publishing of personal photos (of other people, without permission). AFAIK that is the only city where it gets a little 'grey', but it is allowed..