Over the past several years the stock market for “street photography” has sky rocketed. However, with camera’s more accessible as well as affordable, sharing photos on numerous platforms have never been easier. And with that there has been an influx of the same repeated type of photos. Here are 5 street photography cliche’s to avoid shooting.
People on their cell/mobile phones
Making a photo of someone or a group of people on their cell phones is not interesting. It is over done and I’ve only seen a few that have worked really well and have been able to hold my attention. If it’s something you like then please don’t hesitate and take the shot. I envision all these photographs of people looking at their phones, taking selfies, are not appreciated today because it is the norm. It is what we’re used to seeing, we’ve become immune to it. But perhaps two maybe three decades from now it’ll be a pot of gold. Similar to photos taken in the 80s, people on subways reading the paper, it probably wasn’t appreciated then because it was the norm and boring. Now when you look at old photos of people on the subway or in a restaurant reading the paper, it’s almost looking at a piece of significant American history. A past time. So by all means, take the photo and document for future purposes, keep it stored for a few decades and bring them out. For now though, don’t post any of these anywhere online.
People walking in front of a billboard or graffiti wall
Taking a photo of someone walking by a wall art or billboard does not make an interesting photo. Unless however, the juxtaposition is there but even then, the photo has to be pretty damn good! I would say shooting in front of a graffiti wall is a good start for beginners but for more intermediate or seasoned shooters, you should know that there are many photos of this kind produced. Unless you visualize something specific to walk by the billboard or graffiti wall, and you have superior patience, I would advise you to move along.
People that start off shooting street, will most likely photograph homelessness. I will admit I fell victim to it. People that have no idea what street photography is think it’s about shooting homeless people, turning the photo into black and white, and cranking up the contrast along with the sharpness. For one, NO street photography is not about documenting homeless. If you find this subject matter interesting, then I highly suggest you make the subject matter…MATTER. There are current and past street photographers that were able to capture unique moments of homelessness. Their photos were quite intimate…the two photographers that come to mind are Suzanne Stein and Vivian Maier. Most vulnerable homeless photos I see circulating social media are boring…at best. Keep in mind, photography like any other art (music, film, painting, acting) is about story telling through the visual medium. What is it about the homeless person that you want to say? What’s the story in the frame? Every major city in the world has an influx of homeless….so yeah there’s nothing special here.
No you can not reproduce or trump Henri Cartier Bresson’s iconic reflection photo. So just forget it and move along with the reflections, it’s way over done. Looking at the world through a puddle is not interesting anymore. If reflection puddle is your thing, add another element, look at the bigger scene and not only the puddle. VISUALIZE!
Having a photo of a “one way sign” pointing in one direction and a person walking the opposite direction is overly done. It’s not funny, there is no emotion behind it, and it’s just simply boring. I could go on but I won’t.
We are all guilty of shooting these type of photos from time to time or at the very least photographed them when we first started out. I believe it is important to mature and grow out of these subjects, it’s almost a narrow way of looking at street photography. It’s okay to shoot what inspires you but eventually you would want to add something new to the street photography community and not repeat more boring photos. Photograph the world on how you see it, everyone sees differently, and everyone has their own view of this crazy world we all live in. Be original, experiment, but ultimately be authentic and shoot you!