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Street Photography

After many years of shooting all types of images, I finally decided to concentrate on street photography as my 'niche' subject. It is most enjoyable but finding the 'art in the image' still remains a challenge. People and places provide fascinating subjects, especially whilst travelling abroad.

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - "Street photography is an art photography that features the human condition within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. The subject of the photograph might be absent of people and can be object or environment where the image projects a decidedly human character in facsimile or aesthetic. Framing and timing are key aspects of the craft, with the aim of creating images at a decisive or poignant moment. Much of what is now widely regarded, stylistically and subjectively, as definitive street photography was made in the era spanning the end of the 19th Century through to the late 1970s; a period which saw the emergence of portable cameras."

Street photography is one of those excellent hobbies that takes you out and about in the fresh air and to capture images of human emotion and interaction. You can use virtually any type of camera and lens; the size does not seem to matter, I have even seen photographers' on the street with large and heavy 35mm 'full frame' cameras. Then there are photographers' who swear by a lens with a 35mm field of view, others who prefer 24mm, 28mm, 50mm and even longer at 450mm but the field of view is dictated by the type of street photography that you want to shoot. It could be close up and personal in the crowd with a wide scene or perhaps slightly further out or even pulling out portrait shots from within a crowd at an even greater distance.

My Street Photography
You can get all strung out by shooting street photography, especially if you attempt to read too much into the 'analysis of street images' by the purists. So I just get out there, shoot lots of pictures and keep the ones I like. I can look at any one of my street images and I can remember the location, the street interaction at the time and the moment I pressed the shutter button which is just as important to me as the message (if any) in the image.

I was in Edfu, Egypt with my girlfriend Carol when I shot these images from a moving horse drawn carriage and I converted one from colour to black and white, sepia and antique gold.






Edfu - Egypt

I shot this image in the Colosseum in Rome -



I was walking in the Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland, and this scene unfolded when the child walked into it. I used a Canon telephoto lens to defocus the child in the background -


Fujifilm X100s Compact Camera - For my Street Photography

For my street photography, since 2013, I have been mainly using a digital Fujifilm X100S compact camera with its 23mm fixed lens. It is an incredible camera even although it has been superseded by other Fujifilm models with the latest being the (2024) Fujifilm X100VI. It has an electronic viewfinder and also an optical one which displays similar characteristics to a Leica M3 viewfinder. It offers a reasonably wide field of view at 35mm but I can crop in, using computer software on my computer, and simulate a zoom of around 75mm which is ideal and yet retains decent image quality. I tend to shoot RAW images, the equivalent of 35mm film negatives and post process/develop them in Adobe Lightroom. The latest X100 model is
the Fujifilm X100VI and there is a video on this camera further down the page.

Released in May 2023 is the new Leica Q3 which is a 35mm 'full frame' digital camera with a 28mm f1.7 Summmilux ASPH Lens.
The Leica Q3 Camera comes in at a cool £5,300.00, it is not cheap but it offers excellent technology for the money. Of course it would provide a terrific replacement for my Fujifilm X100S camera - one day?

A video review of the Q3 -


The Streets of Edinburgh - Project

I have a long-term project called the 'Streets of Edinburgh' which will eventually contain views of the streets and also the people on them. The images will be shot in colour but also converted to monochrome.

A few samples -













Sony Alpha A57 SLT Camera
I often use my Sony Alpha A57 SLT camera for my photography - The following jpegs were taken straight out of the camera and created into webs using Adobe Lightroom and without any alteration. Please click on the images below to open up the webs -



Ralph Gibson
Although not specifically on the subject of street photography, Ralph Gibson discusses 'The Point of Departure' and 'The Project' -


Leica M10-P Camera
The following video discusses the Leica M10-P - perhaps the ultimate 21st Century 'Purist' Camera for Street Photography but at 1.50 secs into the video, Mathieu pretty much sums up photography in a few words -

Leica M11 Camera
On the 14th January 2022, Leica announced the Leica M11 rangefinder camera which is a worthwhile comparison to the above Leica M10-P -

Working in Monochrome
These days I tend to shoot digital colour images and convert to monochrome but Ted Forbes puts forward a great argument for using a digital camera designed to shoot (only) monochrome images -



Some of my monochrome images -


The Fujifilm X100VI Compact Camera - The Leica Experience
You don't have to splash out a horrendous amount of money to enjoy the 'Leica Experience', the Fujifilm X100VI camera features an (Leica Style) optical viewfinder and at the flick of a switch the viewfinder can change to an electronic viewfinder. It is equipped with a fixed 23mm f2 lens with a 35mm field of view.

A video review worth checking out -



Working with a Smartphone

I recently purchased (2022) a Sony Xperia 5 III Smartphone and it produces reasonable images. I have it set-up to shoot camera jpegs in HDR mode and it makes a good job of blending dark foregrounds with bright skies. The wider 16mm and 24mm lens images usually have slanted edge verticals so I tweak them in Lightroom to straighten them for a more pleasing image.









Working in 35mm Film

I enjoy using my Nikon FM3a 35mm Film SLR with Nikon 28/50/135mm AI prime lenses, especially using the 28mm lens in hyperfocal mode. Colour film development at a local lab is a bit expensive, if I also want the negatives scanned, but luckily I managed to get my old Windows XP computer to work so I can use my old Canon Canonscan 4000 FS scanner and it can automatically scan 6 negatives at a time. I am also contemplating getting back into Black and White film development at home and then scanning the negatives - perhaps this winter period? I recently (19th September 2020) put an article together on my thoughts relative to camera and lenses that could be used for street photography - The Purist Street Photographer.

The following film image was captured with my Nikon FM3a 35mm Film Camera and a Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AI prime lens. It was shot on the outside wall of the old underground bomb shelter in Corstorphine Woods, Edinburgh - 


35mm Full Frame Film Images
Film images captured with Zenit-E and Nikon FM3a SLR cameras - 




35mm Full Frame Film Images
Film images captured with Nikon FM3a SLR Camera and Nikkor 28mm f2.8 AI Lens - 






There is no doubt that locations are all important but new material to a visiting photographer, say in Rome, may turn out be old hat for a photographer or a person who resides there. However, I firmly believe that a defined project abroad with set goals is the optimum way to shoot street photography rather than just walking around your town or a city, although that does bring it's own pleasures if the project is defined beforehand and you are shooting a local event like a Mardi Gras or perhaps a rain storm and people with their umbrellas being blown about. Images of an event, something that is stamped in the knowledge of time and captured by your camera is a worthwhile project; not only can it be more interesting but it can become even more interesting in later life, not only to yourself but to a number of people.

I was walking with Carol, my girlfriend, at Lapad beach near Dubrovnik in Croatia when the sunset created a very nice backdrop to the scene of the youngsters enjoying themselves -


Some colour images captured using various cameras and lenses -.



Then you see images that are simply out of this world, check out this video containing some of the work from Steve MCurry who has spent more than three decades on the road as a documentary photographer and is the recipient of the Leica Hall of Fame Award for 2011.

Street Photographers
Some street photographers are absolutely brilliant at their 'craft' and have honed it into an art form. Their senses have evolved into
the ability to 'see a shot as art'. The finished image is visible in their thoughts, they see the location, the subject material, the statement and they know that this image will be perceived to have an art content already there; whereby post processing or alteration might be minimalist in it's required application?

Rui Palha is a street photographer who has some very interesting work on his site. Enlarge his gallery images and then use the right click arrow to move through them. The full size on the screen effect is most excellent, especially his rainy days section which is simplistic yet the art in the photography leaps out............his site is proof that to produce photographic art you do not have to alter the original image. Rui is surely the 21st Century version of Henri Cartier-Bresson and to me, he has improved on the style of Henri and is one of the foremost 'street photographers' of his generation. I have long followed his work and he is an inspiration to all 'street photographers'. This is a very nice video of some of his 'street' images and is well worth watching.

Vivian Maier
- Vivian Maier (February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009) was an American amateur street photographer who was born in New York but grew up in France, and after returning to the US, worked for about forty years as a nanny in Chicago. During those years she took about 100,000 photographs, primarily of people and cityscapes most often in Chicago, although she traveled and photographed worldwide. Check out the following video containing some of Vivian Maier's Street Photography and more information on the official website -  Vivian Maier

A couple of my images from Venice, Italy and Musselburgh, Scotland -


Henri Cartier-Bresson
He is reckoned to be the forefather of street and reportage photography and many of today's street photographers have copied his style. There is a great deal more to
Henri Cartier-Bresson's style and body of work than just walking down the street taking pictures with a Leica camera. In his early days he studied music and he did train as an 'artist'. From the very start of his photography he did have an eye for the 'artistic' image and this did influence and accelerate his photographic skills. Martin Munkasci's Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika greatly influenced him as did the 'Surrealists' who helped to channel his photographic direction. I am not totally in 'tune' with the 'Surrealists' who maintained that ordinary photographs contain a wealth of unintended, unpredictable meanings. I think that the image 'Three Boys at Lake Tanganyika' does make an 'artistic' impression and embodies 'human life' within the image which is surely the statement. It was much more than an image that could be defined by the 'Surrealists' and I firmly believe that Cartier-Bresson transcended their perceived photographic ideals............this combination of 'art' with the 'visual statement' within the image is why his images were so successful!

The Ideal Focal Length – It is no coincidence that Henri Cartier-Bresson preferred a 50mm lens on his Leica 35mm ‘Film’ rangefinder camera. Henri was a man that started with art and painted the scene as caught by his eye. Henri’s 50mm lens produced a true 50mm ‘field of view’ and delivered an image very similar to a scene as seen by the human eye and with minimum distortion. It also provided the ‘optimum’ camera to subject to background distance ratio, depth of field and on subjects (especially the entire body of a person at a reasonable distance away from the camera) he had the ability to create a 3D effect where the person is separated from a blurred (out of focus) background with a creamy smooth bokeh effect! Today’s version of his kit is the Leica M digital ‘full frame’ rangefinder and Leica 50mm f1.4 ASPH Summilux M manual focus lens.

An image of West Maitland Street in Edinburgh, Scotland, taken when the tram lines were being laid. It is a black and white jpeg, straight out of the camera, shot with a 35mm lens with a 50mm field of view -

Many photographers have abandoned the 50mm lens on a ‘full frame’ sensor digital camera and prefer the 35mm ‘wider’ lens for their everyday shots. A 35mm focal length lens will provide a wider ‘field of view’ and the scene is further back from the lens but the photographer can still manage to create a 3D and bokeh effect, especially if the lens has excellent image quality when wide open at aperture stop f1.4 or f2. However, the photographer has to take up a position much closer to the subject, especially when capturing the full body of a person and the effect will never quite match the perspective of the 50mm lens.

This image was captured inside St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland. I used a Fujifilm X100s camera with a 23mm lens delivering a 35mm field of view. No flash was used and there was a finite balance to be made to properly expose the glass windows and yet still retain some clarity in the dark areas -

Another image from
St Giles Cathedral, using the Fujifilm X100s compact camera -



Henri Cartier-Bresson was known for his 'inward analysis' that to be creative in photography you must be quick to seize the moment, that point in time where the scene, the art, the statement are interpreted by the eye and the shot is taken, the image captured. Photography to Henri was a vocation, it would cause him great anxiety when he over indulged and the images did not come. He regarded it as a physical pleasure that stimulated his senses and admitted that it did not take any brains to be a photographer. Henri admits to planning some of his locations and waiting on subjects to enter the scene, he recognised the possibility of 'art' in the shot, whilst he waited for the right moment, the right step and the image he desired. He also accepted that there was no rule, no set limits on the number of shots he would take to achieve one suitable image. Like many of today's aspiring photographers, Henri often thought he recognised the quality in the scene, he lined up the camera viewfinder, pressed the shutter button but later when he saw the end result of the image in print, he binned it. In this digital age, images are being deleted in their thousands if not millions, great shots in the mind's eye that later turned out to be rubbish. Strange though it may seem, this is a positive analysis of photography!

Like Henri I have taken many images which I thought were excellent and later found them lacking. This image portrays the interaction of people and dogs on a beach, the sand was blowing around their shoes and the dogs paws. I thought it was a great scene but I only fired the shutter for a single shot. Later when I viewed the image on a computer screen, I saw one person was partially hidden behind another, so I was somewhat disappointed -

I think the following image captures that moment of human emotion and interaction. It was shot in the High Street of Edinburgh during a promotion week-end for the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival in Scotland -

Henri Cartier-Bresson  -  'The Decisive Moment'
This must be one of the best bits of 'SPIN' in the history of photography! From his book, Images à la sauvette, whose English edition was titled The Decisive Moment this phrase, leapt out - "There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment". Those words originated from the 17th century Cardinal de Retz and Cartier-Bresson used them as part of the keynote text in his book. Henri was reputed to have regretted ever mentioning them. Today, many photographers still conjure up 'grandiose ideas' and write rubbish about the decisive moment..............the academics love the debate!

All photographers have their 'decisive moment' the 'fleeting' opportunity to catch the light on a grand landscape, the smile on a wrinkled face in a portrait, an interaction on the street, in sport or in wildlife photography but that's all it is............the shutter button is pressed, the image is good or bad, other people love it or dislike it.

There is a great DVD which you can purchase on-line. It is an 18 minute 'short film' which was made back in 1973 with samples of his images and narrated by Henri Cartier-Bresson himself. He speaks very good English with an interesting accent and discusses his images and technique - Decisive Moment DVD. You can also purchase his book 'The Decisive Moment' from Waterstones in the UK but it may be some time before it is re-printed. Second hand copies sell online at crazy prices.

I have always liked the 'Film Noir' black and white effect on film in the 1940s and 1950s. It can be achieved to a certain extent using a digital camera like my Sony A57 SLT with a standard and inexpensive Sony DT 35mm f1.8 SAM Lens. I shot some scenes of streets in Edinburgh at night, using the camera 'hand held' without a flash -




Photographer's Block
Just like a writer with writer's block (that inability to come up with new ideas and exciting material) a photographer can suffer photographer's block. You don't have to be a professional photographer who depends on income to suffer the anxiety, even the enthusiast photographer can succumb to that sense of failure! Suddenly, photography is no longer stimulating, the enthusiasm is gone and you wonder - why bother - because all you are doing is capturing the same type of material and images, over and over again. Many enthusiast photographers give up at this point and the camera simply becomes a means to capturing those social images of family and friends. Even street photographers with a wealth of material at their disposal can become disillusioned when they lose that 'rush of excitement' from their images. Some photographers might change the camera perhaps the lens, even convert images from colour to monochrome in an effort to raise that sense of achievement with their photography.

Defining the sense of achievement gained from photography is difficult as many enthusiast photographers improve their technique over the years and just like writers the bar level is raised again and again until finally it is material that becomes illusive rather than the ability to take the shot.

Colour images converted to monochrome - 

Staging Photography!
In this ever changing world of photography more and more photographers are being driven to staging their scenes for material effect. Is it new - not on your life, even Henri Cartier-Bresson admitted to staging photographic art in his images. Is it acceptable to stage your street photography, similar to planned studio work for magazine covers, websites or is it deemed a betrayal of skills, similar to touching up war images with smoke and mirrors to create the effect? Where is the true joy, the buzz, the accomplishment of your skills if you plant a subject in your picture and then marvel at the final result and worse, is it not a betrayal to then accept the praise from an audience that are unaware of the staging.

Suddenly the 'decisive moment' is no longer decisive but then the hunger for acknowledgment in your photography can be the overriding factor. However, staging could be construed as art, taking the ability of the eye to see the picture before it is captured beyond the norm, to planning a scene in the mind's eye. If so, then art in photography can also be expanded beyond the staged scene to post processing and altering the captured digital image to deliver greater depth in the light and shadows to create the desired effect! If art is the statement and it takes many forms, an photographic image that is staged and altered in post processing may have no meaning to some but offer many interpretations to others.
The 'lack of material' effect can be a serious problem for some photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson knew only too well!

Lazise - Lake Garda - Italy

Taken with a Canon 5D MK I DSLR Camera + Canon 24-105L IS Zoom Lens   (Staged Shot)

This staged shot is one of me with my new motorbike, I suppose you could call it is a sort of 'selfie' and it will probably be the only one. I don't smoke but I felt that the scene required a little more atmosphere rather than just me with my leather jacket, the bike and a brick wall so I borrowed a lighter and a cigarette (I don't smoke) from a man working nearby. It would have been even more atmospheric if my bike had been a black and chromed Triumph Thunderbird Commander, perhaps more 'retro' against the 120 year old brick wall.

The image was captured using my Fujifilm X100s compact which is my favourite street camera (11th September 2014) fitted on a sturdy tripod in 10sec timer mode. The 'RAW' file was post processed using Adobe Lightroom 5.3 software.


Hermiston - Edinburgh - Scotland

Taken with a Fujifilm X100s Compact Camera + Tripod - 10 sec Timer - No Flash   (Staged Shot)

Planning Subjects + Locations + Making Your Own Luck!
It is very difficult to develop my own style of street photography. Location is all important and I guess that photographers who travel through various countries have a great deal more access to 'diverse' material.  Special events, such as carnivals, parades, great historical events and even wars, often provide a lucrative source for interesting subjects. I never forget that Henri Cartier-Bresson had access to some incredible 'historical moments' in history and documented them in his images with great success. I have reached a stage in my 'street photography' (2011) where I now plan the subjects and the location, just as I do with landscape photography. Sure, whilst I undertake the 'planned project' the odd 'lucky' street shot may jump out in front of me?

Then again, I enjoy street photography, I am not any good at it but I try my best. I always assume that Edinburgh is not as good a location as the hustle and bustle on the streets of New York or perhaps Hong Kong but it's not really the location that is the problem, it is the material that you have to find. Visiting the street once in a blue moon is not the way to achieve the luck, you have to make your luck and get those few images that are great by spending a lot of time on the street and taking those shots! Perhaps location does play an important role as many of what I regard as my best efforts were captured whilst travelling abroad but then strange surroundings often stimulate the senses and you tend to take more pictures.

Planning a project and the images to be captured, adds a sense of purpose to your photography. Now with the advent of websites you can include an article on your project which hopefully adds a further dimension to your images. A project can be about anything, and recently, (April 2021) I decided to revisit the place of my childhood and I put together a project called Cockenzie Village. The experience was most enjoyable and below is an image of a fisherman painting the bottom of his fishing boat with anti-foul paint which stops barnacles clinging to it when it is in the sea water -

A black and white version -              

A black and white image captured outside Edinburgh Castle in Scotland -              

Each camera and lens combination can stamp their own quality and offer a different 'lens draw' on the image. This can affect the 'statement' that the photographer is trying to make in the final picture!

Many street photographers like to work in close and capture wider scenes, they invariably use a 35mm lens. Some prefer 50mm as it is nearer the native eyesight, others shoot further away from their subjects at 100mm to draw in the scene and create shallower depths of field for effect and others at 135mm up to 600mm for an even tighter field of view and depth of field control. In virtually all cases, each photographer desires a camera and lens that is unobtrusive, compact, lightweight and fast in its operation.




I often enjoy shooting just the faces on the street and invariably I use my Panasonic G6 Micro Four Thirds camera with a Lumix 100-300mm f4/f5.6 Zoom Lens with its 200mm to 600mm field of view. I can stand well back from the crowd and pull in those faces, such as the image below and more in my Streets of Edinburgh Human Faces Web.


There are photographers who like to move around their chosen 'depth of field' in relation to the aperture they are using on the lens by manual adjustment. Either pulling it back from the subject or by pushing it away. This is achieved by noting the
depth of field distances using the aperture to distance scale indicators on the lens, and then using the focus ring to move the known distances nearer or further back. Many photographers also use the lens aperture/distance scales for hyperfocal photography. Manual focus lenses are a real pleasure to use in this way as they have aperture/distance scales selected manually on the lens barrel and you can do the same thing with autofocus lenses which also have lens barrel scales by using them in (switched) manual mode.

The choice of camera and lens combination is always driven by a budget which rules the aspirations! Ideally the camera follows the lens, within reason. It is the lens focal range and aperture coupled with the preferred type of street photography that dictates the choice. Prime lenses which are used include those with apertures which are wide f.95, f1.1, f1.4, f2, f2.8, and these are the 'desired choices' for better depth of field control and the ability to isolate a subject as well as working in low light conditions. Many street photographers use a zoom lens and these days with the advent of compact system cameras a f2.8 aperture can be very compact and lightweight. Some digital compact cameras with their built in zoom lenses are smaller and some even go to f2 wide apertures.

Ted Forbes covers 10 of his favourite street photographers -


With a budget in mind, many photographers will want to select a lens to go with a 35mm 'full frame' digital sensor camera but if the budget is tight, the alternative camera choices are many - the most popular being digital cameras with APS-C 1.5x crop sensors, Micro 4/3rds 2x crop sensors and down to the smaller compact cameras with even smaller sensors. With all of these cameras the actual lens of choice to match the desired 'FIELD OF VIEW' will be different, for example a 50mm lens on a 'full frame' camera will deliver a 50mm 'field of view' but on a 1.5x crop sensor camera to achieve a 50mm 'field of view' you will require a 33mm lens and on a 2x crop the lens is actually 25mm. The smaller compact cameras vary but usually a modern digital compact with a fixed zoom lens is now supplied with a 'field of view' from 24mm to around 110mm.

Low Light + Night
At wide apertures of f.95, f1.1, f1.4, f2 and with various digital cameras, you can work in dimmer lit conditions and even in the dead of night under street lamps. The shutter speed of the camera can be increased by raising the ISO to around ISO:400 up to ISO:1600 and in some cameras, even higher. At these ISO settings the image noise SHOULD still be manageable and the image quality maintained! A fast shutter speed and wide aperture are essential. This is the main reason street photographers like to work with a 35mm lens at night; 'hand hold' the camera and yet manage with a higher shutter speed against a wide aperture setting to 'freeze' a moving subject. One must be careful in selecting a camera and lens, as very often the wrong camera can be chosen for low light photography whilst the camera noise versus image quality at high ISO cannot deliver. These night images were shot 'hand held' without a flash with the Fujifilm X100S compact camera which sports a 23mm fixed lens (35mm field of view) -





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Richard Lawrence
United Kingdom