Street Photography – More than just photographing people

Everyone has their own definition of what street photography is. According to wikipedia ….”Street photography, also sometimes called candid photography, is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents[1]within public places. Although there is a difference between street and candid photography, it is usually subtle with most street photography being candid in nature but not all candid photography being classifiable as street photography. Street photography does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. Though people usually feature directly, street photography might be absent of people and can be of an object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic.”

In my bias opinion photographs with people in them are far more interesting than photographs without people. That is not to say a macro shot of a flower or a landscape shot of the sunrise can’t be beautiful and engaging. To me there’s just something with having a subject…in this case a person or people in the frame much more interesting then lets say a mountain or a static shot of a statue or plant. However, I wouldn’t want to limit myself to say street photography must have people. I firmly believe that we all must go beyond shooting people and in the long run appreciate photos with people in them. There is so much going on out in the streets, in the open public that I think you would be doing yourself a disservice by limiting your street photography to only people.


Think about the greats like William Eggleston or Daido Moriyama. There vast majority of their photos will fit the definition of street photography…however, they also photograph things around them…objects, street signs, abandoned cars, old shops and town houses. The interior of their motel rooms, their meals. These two particular photographers will photograph anything and everything that catches their eye which ultimately made them unique and gave them a distinctive style. And as a result their body of work stands out in the genre of street photography.

So the next time you go out to photograph the streets…look for new opportunities and really pay attention to what else is going on in the streets through the influences of the human specie. What can you photograph that has no people in them but yet clues or evidence that they were once there. Perhaps it’s a pair of abandoned shoes in the middle of the streets. Or a torn up poster of a supermodel in the trash bin. Or possibly a public pay phone dangling. These all have human elements but lack any people in the frame of the photograph. My main concern with a lot of modern photographs taken  without any people as their subjects is that it’s a one a done type of photo…or in other words one liner jokes. You see something or juxtaposed and you understand what the photographer captured, it has a comedic moment and done….in my opinion the best photograph with out any people in them are the one’s that are mysterious and keep you asking more questions than none.


As street photography’s popularity continues to grow (and of course accessibility of technology) will the genre…with new photographer’s having different perspectives on how they view the world you can expect the photograph’s in the world of street photography to keep evolving, to keep showing us something new, that’s never been seen before.

I think for beginners it’s natural to think street photography is about photographing a random strange’s face. Even if this was the primary rule of street photography…break them. All honest and good artist have one thing in common..they don’t follow rules, they break them. They follow their intuition and what their heart tells them. Take a look at my previous blog and tell me out of the 5 how many people are in them…or even better how many of those photographs…people are the main subject matter 5 Epic Street Photos of the 21st Century

Basically what I’m saying is that there is so much more to a good or even a decent street photograph than just a random person walking by. Having the color or in black and white will play a big role and how that effects the image…how that leaves a lasting impression on the viewer. Lighting is another one….Again there is no right or wrong way to photograph or approach to street photography…just good photos and bad photos. Your approach of photographing by using LCD screen and not even framing up your image can be introduced as an innovative approach to shooting street.

Remember once you learn something…drop it and relearn it again. It’s the only way you will grow and get better in anything you pursue. Once you learn a way or a particular style, you become robotic. You’re flexibility and your mind becomes narrow which ultimately hinders your growth and learning. Try to learn and gain new perspectives from everyone…this applies to anything. What you may once thought to disagree or have a different opinion, may very well open your eyes and better understand something by viewing it from another point of view.

If you want more tips on street photography please read some topics I’ve written in the past.

10 Street Photography Resolution Tips

5 Ways to Avoid Confrontation in Street Photography

5 Street Photography Cliche’s to Avoid Shooting

10 Skills (not gear) You Need To Make Good Photographs

How To Travel On A Budget…

Why Do My Photos Suck

Clicking vs Seeing in Street Photography


Published by timhuynhphotos

Streetphotographer from Oahu, HI

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