Free Open-Source Online Street Photography Course: “All the World’s a Stage: Introduction to Street Photography”

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In the spirit of the “Open Source Photography” approach, I present to you the free online street photography course: “All the World’s a Stage: Introduction to Street Photography.” The majority of this course material was made in 2012, and many of my thoughts and beliefs on street photography have changed since then. However if you are starting off in street photography and want a primer to start, this might be a helpful resource for you.

Also because this is an “Open Source” course, feel free to edit, remix, and distribute this course however you would like!

You can download the syllabus for the course here (.docx file). 

Update: I have also setup an informal Facebook group for this course. Unfortunately I cannot moderate it at the moment, but you can collaborate with other students here: All the World a Stage: Introduction to Street Photography Facebook Group

Below is a copy of the syllabus for the course:

Course Description

Have you ever seen somebody on the streets and had the irresistible urge to take a photo of them? Whether it was their face, the shadow they cast, or the background they were standing in front. Learn how to capture the beauty in the mundane of everyday life through this Introduction to Street Photography course. You will learn how to capture “Decisive Moments” as well as how to take candid photos of strangers up-close and personal.

In this course we will develop our eye for street photography by studying the masters such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Garry Winogrand, and many others. We will also study street photography in a sociological context, and learn how one can use the camera to explore society.

In the spirit of my thoughts on Open Source Photography, feel free to use any of these materials and edit/remix them as you would like.

Course Objectives

In this hybrid course, you will explore how to shoot street photography and how to interact with your subjects through readings, photos, videos, journals, and social experiments. Sociological theory will be used as a backbone for the concepts taught in the course, and your full participation (online and offline) is essential for gaining a personally enriching experience from the course.

How do you overcome the fear of shooting street photography and how do you create images that tell compelling stories? By the end of the course, you will build your confidence shooting on the streets, learn about the work of classic and contemporary street photographers, and understand the sociological impact of your images.


Video Lectures: About every week there is a video lecture explaining the core principles of each week’s topic. You can see a playlist of all of the video lectures on YouTube here.

Readings: The assigned readings contain the backbone of this class:  sociological theory, photographic insight, and application.  Therefore all readings must be completed each week. All readings (besides the main text) will be available online.

Photo Assignments/Experiments: Each week, you will be given a certain street photography assignment, which will be a combination of photo assignments and sociological experiments.  Each experiment will correspond with the readings or issues discussed for the week. These are important because they will give you a fulfilling, hands-on approach to learning and experiencing street photography.

Journal Entries:  For the course you are required to write weekly journal entries on your blog ( is preferable). After you have completed your assignment assignment for the week, they are expected to type up a full two paragraph (8 sentence) response blog post. You are required to address your personal experiences with the assignment and it must also relate back to the reading. Furthermore, these journals must be posted to your blog every Friday at midnight.

Final Project: By the end of the course, you are expected to complete a photo-essay of your choice, which will be determined by you by Week 5 of the course. The photo-essay will require a 2 page (double-spaced) essay as well as a series of 10-12 images. The paper will be due online on their blog during Week 10. You must include references to the assigned readings and assignments. Other personal experiences may be included in the paper.

Course Materials

For this course you will need a camera for the weekly assignments. It is preferable that you use a digital camera, as it will make it easier for you to quickly upload your weekly assignments. However if you prefer to shoot with film, simply make sure you can process your film and scan it each week.

The only text that will be necessary to purchase is listed below. All the other texts, articles, and videos will be available online.

Primary Readings

Course Outline

Week 1: “An Introduction to Street Photography”

Street photography is a unique type of photography that has been around for nearly a century. What exactly is street photography and how does it differ from reportage or documentary photography? What makes it so special and unique, and how does it help us learn what it means to be human?

Required Readings:

  • Photography and Sociology: Introduction by Howard Becker [.Doc file]: Link
  • Eric Kim: What is Street Photography? : Link
  • Nick Turpin: Photochart (street photography vs documentary): Link
  • Nick Turpin: Undefining street photography: Link


  • No experiment for the first week

Week 2: “The History of Street Photography”

Street photography is a discipline that has its roots since the invention of the 35mm rangefinder camera by Leica, which has helped many photographers capture the action and stories on the streets. How did the first street photographers capture moments in the streets, and what makes their photos so memorable?


  • The History of Street Photography [PDF]: Link

Required Readings:

  • Looking at Photographs: Andre Kertesz (p 92)
  • Looking at Photographs: Brassai (p 110)
  • Looking at Photographs: Henri Cartier-Bresson (p 112)
  • Looking at Photographs: Helen Levitt (p 138)
  • Looking at Photographs: Robert Capa (p 146)
  • Looking at Photographs: W Eugene Smith (p 150)


  • Have a conversation with a stranger and ask them for permission to take their photo.

Week 3: “Aesthetics and Styles in Street Photography”

Street photography has a plethora of different styles and aesthetics when it comes to documenting the human condition. Which styles are prevalent when it comes to street photography, and what kind of stories does it tell to the viewer?

Video Lecture:

  • Week 3: “Street Photography Styles” [YouTube]: Link
  • PPT Download: Link

Required Readings:

  • In defense of the one-liner (Blake Andrews): Link


  • Look for signs (billboards, advertisements, arrows, etc) and try to juxtapose a person either standing next to it or walking past it.

*Start brainstorming for street photography essay

Week 4: “How to Shoot in the Streets”

One of the largest barriers that aspiring street photographers has is the difficulty in overcoming the fear of taking photos of strangers in public without their permission. How can we capture candid moments of those in our society and interact with them if they approach us? How can we use psychological and sociological concepts to help us overcome this obstacle?

Video Lecture:

  • Week 4: “How to Shoot in the Streets” [YouTube]: Link
  • PPT Download: Link

Required Readings:

  • Ways of Working (Article)- Link
  • Bruce Gilden (Video) – Link
  • Eric Kim (Video) – Link
  • Joe Wigfall (Video) – Link


  • See somebody you want to take a photo of, approach them and take their photograph without permission. After taking their photograph, wave at them, smile, and say thank you.

Week 5:  “Classic Street Photography”

In order to have an appreciation for contemporary street photography, it is essential to study the work of the masters before us. What styles did the classic street photographers create and how has their work influenced street photography as we know it today?

Video Lecture:

  • Week 5: “Classic Street Photographers” [YouTube]: Link
  • PPT Download: Link

Required Readings

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson Documentary – Link
  • Garry Winogrand Documentary: Part 1Part 2


  • Stand still at a busy intersection for 20 minutes. Take photos of people who come to you and don’t move.

*Street photography essay idea due on blog. Final project due by week 10.

Week 6: “Contemporary Street Photography” 

The past few decades, street photography has changed and evolved with an emergence of new talent and styles. How do contemporary street photographers differ in approach, and how does their work stack up against the work of the masters?

Video assignment:

  • Watch the In-Public “In-sight” Documentary – Link

Required Readings:

  • Street photography collective portfolios: (Look at the photos of photographers in each collective)


  • Take a photo of a stranger without their permission, and explain why you took a photograph to them. Show them the photo you took of them on your LCD screen, and offer to email them a copy of the photograph.

Week 7: “The Power of the Image”

Street photographers have the ability to make their viewers laugh, cry, be afraid, or think about the context in which we live in. How do images influence the lives of the viewers, and how can a photographer create a compelling and story?

Video Lecture:

  • Week 7: “How to Shoot in the Streets” [YouTube]: Link
  • PPT Download: Link

Required Readings:

  • Looking at Photographs: Robert Doisneau (p 172)
  • Looking at Photographs: Robert Frank (p 176)
  • Looking at Photographs: William Klein (p 180)
  • Looking at Photographs: Garry Winogrand (p 188)
  • Looking at Photographs: Josef Koudelka (p 202)
  • Reading: Evan Walker articles (will be provided)


  • Walk around an area for a neighborhood and after taking your first photo, wait five minutes until you take your next image. Repeat this until the hour is over.

Week 8: “How to Edit Your Work”

The term “editing” is often confused with “post-processing.” Editing is the act in which a photographer selects his or her best images, and lays out their images in a sequence that he or she feels best tells a story. However how can a photographer decide which images are their strongest and get rid of the weaker images?

Video Lecture:

  • Week 8: “How to Edit Your Work” [YouTube]: Link
  • PPT Download: Link

Required Readings:

  • Eric Kim: “The Importance of Letting Your Photos Marinate”: Link
  • Eric Kim: 15 Tips How Street Photographers Can Better Edit Their Work: Link
  • Nick Turpin: “Edit, edit, edit”: Link
  • Editing your portfolio by Zack Arias: Link


  • Go out for an entire day and go shooting. When you go back home, select your best 3 shots. Then go back to your portfolio and select the best 3 shots you have ever taken.

Week 9: “Ethics in Street Photography”

There is often much controversy over the ethics when it comes to street photography. Are there boundaries when it comes to street photography? If so, when is a street photographer too obtrusive? Where can one draw the line? Are there ethics in street photography?

Video Lecture:

  • Week 9: “Ethics in Street Photography” [YouTube]: Link
  • PPT Download: Link

Required Readings:

  • Mike Avina: “Expression Always Has Costs: The Issue of Street Photos and Ethics”: Link
  • Nick Turpin: “Why is he pointing his camera at me?”: Link
  • Brouhaha in Sweden following Award to Paul Hansen for his Image of Fabienne Cherisma: Link
  • Photojournalism isn’t always as it seems (Video) – Link

*Final street photography essay and images due on your blog.


  • Go out in public and ask 3 people to pose for you a certain way. Write about their reactions in your weekly journal.

Week 10: “Exhibition”

Share your final photo-essay of 10-12 images to your blog, as well as a 2-page double-spaced essay.

Update: I have also setup an informal Facebook group for this course. Unfortunately I cannot moderate it at the moment, but you can collaborate with other students here: All the World a Stage: Introduction to Street Photography Facebook Group

If you have any suggestions for changing, editing, or improving this free online course, please share your thoughts in the comments below! 

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