Don’t Think About Composition When Shooting Street Photography


Dear friend,

I want to give you a practical piece of advice when it comes to shooting street photography — don’t think about composition.

Rather, use composition as a tool after you’ve taken a bunch of photos, in order to know which photo to keep (and which to ditch).

Some things you can think about when shooting street photography


There are some basic things you can think about composition when it comes to shooting street photography.

You can look for certain geometric shapes (triangles, diagonals, circles, leading lines), and wait for the right people to enter the scene.

You can also tilt your camera, if you want to make more dynamic diagonal-compositions in your street photography.

You can also seek to subtract clutter from the frame as a compositional technique, or trying to simplify the background.

You can increase contrast and “figure to ground” in your photography by using a flash.

There are all things you can do compositionally when you’re shooting street photography quickly, on the fly.

Don’t limit your creativity


However, having said all of that— if you find yourself wanting to be more fluid, flexible, and creative when shooting street photography, don’t think about composition when you’re shooting.

Sometimes when you’re focusing too much on composition in street photography, you close your mind to other serendipitous moments. You want to have an open mind in street photography when you’re in the streets. Too much focusing on composition makes you miss out on other opportunities.

Follow your gut


Rather, when you’re shooting on the streets, follow your gut, instinct, and intuition.

I’ve personally found that my compositions in street photography have improved when I study a lot of composition before I shoot in the streets, and when I analyze my street photos after I’ve shot them.

Remember, capturing the “decisive moment” in street photography, and capturing an emotion, or mood is the most important. Of course you want a good composition as well — but I would rather choose an emotional photo with soul (with a poor composition), rather than a soul-less photo (with a great composition).


Learn more: Street photography composition >