Thoughts about Street Photography

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No, I am not a devoted street photographer but I do enjoy this fascinating and challenging genre of photography. Not only does it help me improve my seeing but it also teaches me patience and the art of observation; it motivates me to break human barriers. I do believe that every photographer should indulge her/himself in this arena from time to time.

Yes, Kasia and I have a great appreciation of high quality street work. There are many photographers that excel in street photography and you can see the hard work and dedication in their photographs. Unfortunately, along with the rising popularity of so-called street photography we have noticed a very troubling trend – taking random photos on the street and calling it street photography. We have a problem with that.

Over the last few weeks I have noticed a torrent of street photos posted on the Internet. Some photographers post a large number of images daily of people walking on the street, sitting in restaurants or just looking into the camera. Many of these images have no interesting scenes, no fascinating characters, no thoughtful compositions, no decisive moments – there is nothing unique there. There were just taken on the street.

Before I sat down to write this piece I talked to some people specializing in street photography and they validated my concerns. They also confirmed that it is incredibly difficult and rare to capture an interesting street photo. It requires days or even weeks of hard work and many, many kilometres of walking. There are just so many things that have to be right.

While shooting around the city in the last few weeks, on many days I came back with a full card of mediocre images and take full responsibility for it. There is no point in sharing them and polluting the Internet and your mind. While photographing the streets of Vancouver I gained great respect for those who specialize in this genre of photography and are able to produce unique and captivating imagery. Now I know how hard they work, how many times they tried, how many kilometres they walked and how many NOs they had to deal with. Yes, street photography is incredibly difficult! Please respect that.

Here are a few chosen images from my recent city escapades that I think are worth sharing.  All images taken with the Fuji X-Pro2 and the XF 35mm F1.4, Classic Chrome (CC) and Acros (A) film simulations.

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2016 © Kasia & Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

22 thoughts on “Thoughts about Street Photography

  1. I couldn’t agree more with what you have written here. Street photography isn’t really my thing either but, like you, I do appreciate the talents of some of the great street photographers out there (not the guy in my city who walks around the streets blasting strangers with powerful flash and posts then shocked expressions of his subjects/victims! I he relies on the aparent drama).

    Decent street photography can be difficult to find though these days- so true, there are a lot of bland, a-robot-with-a-camera-could-have-taken-this, type images online. It’s definately a genre that requires patience and a lot of time spent in the field (or street I suppose!) to build up the particular visual awareness skills required to produce quality work.

    You’re shots aren’t too bad here though😉 Are you sure you haven’t been out there practicing/lurking in the shadows for years?!

  2. Very nice “story telling” in your street photography! A few weeks ago I took my first class in street photographer; class was in San Francisco – a great place for this kind of photography! Instructor is also a Fuji shooter; she was just in your city on a visit.

    • GeorgAnna,

      Indeed, Valerie is a great photographer. You are very wise by taking classes and learning about photography.

      Please share with us some of your work. And thank you for your kind words.

      Olaf

  3. Nice set of pictures. I often think about shooting street but the opportunity is limited to having access to busy city streets… at least it seems that way. I agree it is good practice and experience. You have done a good job here.

  4. The curious loneliness in the big cities, in a few of them I find echoes of Hopper, his works with the few persons at the sun with eyes that doesn’t meet. Thank you for your work.

  5. Great photos Olaf! I really love the third photo in the set of the woman in the cafe reading the paper, great use of light and color. I’ve gone back and stared at it at least 5 times now haha. I just had a quick question, and forgive me for asking a question I’m positive you been asked a million times, but I’m just wondering about when you say the photos were processed with the Classic Chrome and Acros film simulations are you shooting jpegs and letting the camera do all of the processing or are you shooting raw + jpeg or just raw and doing the film simulation within Lightroom or Camera Raw?

  6. Agree with Stacy and Sue; you’ve taken street photography and given it a look of your own. You are so right in your article which, sadly, describes most of my efforts!

    • Phil,

      We all struggle from time to time. Most importantly, we have to keep working, improving … I found out that all my struggles with seeing (and there is plenty) always lead me to a better, more creative place.

      Thank you so much for commenting.

      Olaf

  7. The photos you have shared are hauntingly wonderful and so different from what we see shared so often. I love the way you capture your subjects in such interesting surroundings with what seems like perfect timing! Thank you for these – they really are inspirational.

  8. I have found that regular short trips can help. I make short walk of about one hour , once weekly. need to find streets with lots of oeople. shoot images regularly and then refine to such an extent that you can recgnise good situations. linger a few minutes and shoot a number of images

    • Indeed, being familiar with a place is extremely helpful. It allows a photographer to anticipate and hunt. The key word is “refine”!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      Olaf

  9. Hi Olaf. Superb photos. I especially like the first two pics, the basketball shot, and the flowering trees. Your post states: “All images taken with the Fuji X-Pro2 and the XF 35mm F1.4. F2.8, ….” Did you take all of the shots with the 35mm set at F2.8; or, possibly, did you also use the XF 50-140mm F2.8? I was a primes guy until I was thrilled by the 50-140. Much aloha, Dick (http://dickquinn.com)

    • Dick,

      Thank you for your comment. Sorry, my mistake. It should read: ‘…the XF 35mm F1.4″ It was the only lens I had with me during the walks.

      Regards,

      Olaf

  10. These are wonderful street photographs! The light, the moments you’ve captured, all had me looking again and again and enjoying them more with each new view. I very much enjoy this genre and the broader genre of urban landscape. Both require a great deal of patience and a great deal of walking, but that’s what I love about it. I am getting much better at choosing photos to post that add to the genre, and agree that those, as you say, that are simply of people walking down the street do not. Thanks for sharing your wonderful work!

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