When it comes to street photography, there are no hard and fast rules. This is the main part of its attraction. You can create your own art from a very personal angle. Yet I am not saying, as a street photographer, there is nothing you can do to give yourself the best chance of creating something you are proud of.
I can see the same difficulties arise in peoples’ work. Street photographers try and show too much, too soon. Yet with a few adjustments, a photographers vision can become much more defined.
The Key to Great Street Photography Lies in the Art of Storytelling.
Something that we all miss at the beginning of our journey is a clear subject in our work. Shooting in the urban environment provides ample opportunity to tell a story, but this can be a double-edged sword. Elements from the landscape invade the frame. They obscure and confuse, detracting from the value of the subject. The photographer’s vision and the subject become lost in translation.
The most important thing we can do, as storytellers, is to capture a moment that would have otherwise been lost. It is the reason we walk block after block, rain or snow, in health and sickness. We want to be the one who sees what others do not. Provide a glimpse beneath the veil. Help those who cannot or will not see what lies under the surface of our world. The ability to do so is special. And as street photographers, we have this gift.
Often, in street photography, the story we are conveying is best left in a suggestive state. A cliffhanger. We can highlight the value and tension in the scene but leave it purposefully incomplete. Who is this person? Where are they going? What is the motivation for their actions? To actively engage the viewer in your work brings them closer to it.
The story we convey doesn’t have to have a grand narrative -the expression on a face, a conversation between two friends, the way a shadow falls on a subject -these are all elements of storytelling and should be welcomed.
To help keep our vision concise and our narrative clear, we should ask ourselves the following questions before every shot.
What is the story I am trying to tell?
What/who is the subject and elements of interest and adds value for the viewer?
Is anything in the frame detracting from this vision?
In asking ourselves these questions before every shot, we can filter out the average and focus on the special. The more concentrated and defined the story, the more special the shot. Cut out anything that distracts the eye from the subject. Getting closer often helps improve framing. A little editing in post-processing goes a long way. Look for added elements of intrigue (you could call them the supporting cast). Converging and leading lines. Patterns and colours. Shapes, texture and form.
Take these questions and apply them to your previous work. Look at the shots that cover these elements and assess what makes them special. Focus in on these elements and recreate. You will soon find it all begins to flow. And you won’t be able to stop creating visual delights.
A photograph without a narrative is easy to take. Creating value through storytelling is harder.
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