What To Look For When Shooting Street Photos?

Are you interested in street photography but struggle with finding things to shoot? If so, this is the story for you.

Keith Chen

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Photo by author. Shot in New York.

This is one of the questions I often get from readers regarding street photography — Keith, I am interested in shooting street photos like yours, but I have no idea what to look for when I am out in the street. Believe it or not, I sometimes face the same challenge if I had stopped doing street projects for a while. To ensure that I have high productivity even after taking a break from street photography, I keep a list of things to look for so I can ramp up quickly every time I am out on the streets. In this story, I will share this list with you and use some of my photos to elaborate on how to use it.

Three things I look for when taking street photos:

#1 — Look for charismatic people and engaging interaction.

Photo by author. Shot in Pittsburgh.

People are the heart of my street photos, so naturally, they are the first thing I look for. When I say look for charismatic people, it doesn't necessarily mean that simply look for people who look like models. Instead, look for people who are doing things that make them charismatic. For example, people who are engaged with their works are often charismatic. Also, people who are paying undivided attention to certain things are also charismatic (like the gentleman in the title photo who was looking at something down the street). And lastly, for some reason, smoking people are somehow very charismatic to me as well, so I often look for them when I shoot street photos (but please don’t smoke, it is bad for you).

Photo by author. Shot in Tokyo.

Besides looking at just individuals, also look for people who are interacting with each other. When people are engaged in a conversation or doing certain activities together, that candid moment is a great opportunity to capture a story-telling photo.

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Keith Chen

Photographer, Product Manager @ Google, Professor, Runner, Hiker, and World Traveler. Took photos from 50+ cities (and counting). Language : 中文 / EN