The importance of light when shooting street photography


Street photography has grown in popularity of late, in large part due to the availability of smaller and more available cameras (i.e. cell phone cameras, mirrorless cameras, etc).   I love that so many people are now finding joy in a genre of photography that means so much to me.

Shooting street photography well, however, has many challenges.   Developing the skills to shoot people candidly without drawing attention to yourself, and/or the skills to talk to and shoot complete strangers takes time and can be challenging for some people.

We all start somewhere of course, and I have definitely made my share of images that will never see the light of day (more than my share, actually).  I think the important thing to remember is that all of the “rules” that apply to other genres of photography also apply to shooting on the street:  The right subject matters.  The right moment matters.  The right background matters.  The right light matters.  The right composition matters.   We don’t always get all of these in our street images due to the unpredictability of the street and the need for split second timing, but we should still endeavour to compose our street images as well as we can.

The word photography actually means “to write with light”, and lately I have been focusing on light a lot while shooting street photography.  Contrasty light.  Golden light.  Back light.  Lines and shadows caused by light.  Here are some images from my recent outings, all taken with either the Fuji X-Pro2 or the Fuji X100t.  All black and white images were taken in the Fuji Acros film simulation, and all colour ones in the Fuji Classic Chrome film simulation.

Each photo was inspired by the light the subject was walking through.  I hope you enjoy viewing them:













I encourage all of you who aspire to shoot street photography well (and I put myself in this category as I still have so much more to learn)  to endeavour to consider your street compositions with the same level of detail that you probably consider your other photography.  Watch for interesting subjects and great moments.  Compose with the right background in mind when you can.  Above all, always consider the light and how it impacts your photographs.  Your street images will be that much better for your efforts.



16 thoughts on “The importance of light when shooting street photography

  1. Richard Burn says:

    These wonderful images show what a difference the use of good light can make to an image – they’re great! Without the light, they’d be OK images but lacking that special something. I’m off to Venice tomorrow for a few days and, suitably inspired, will try to look for and make better use of light when out with my camera(s)! (Currently thinking X100T and X70 + WCL)

    • Ian says:

      That is such a great quote, and exactly how I shot that series. I do love Vera’s, but I have to admit to digging 5 Guys a lot these days. 🙂

  2. Richie says:

    Lovely images Ian (as usual). I don’t have an x-pro 2…yet so can’t use acros b&w but do use classic chrome for all colour shots. What settings do you use for highlights, shadows, color etc. As I love the effect you have achieved? Are they SOOC or edited?

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