Street Photography Composition 101

Dear streettogs,

I just finished teaching my “Introduction to Street Photography Composition” workshop here in NYC, and I put together a brand new set of slides from scratch: Street Photography Composition 101.

Study composition after-the-fact

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Any geometrical analysis…can be done only after the photograph has been taken, developed, and printed. Then it can be used only for a post-mortem examination.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

One of the important points we touched upon the workshop is this: when you’re out shooting on the streets, follow your gut and intuition. Don’t think too much when you’re shooting on the streets. Don’t force yourself to see red triangles and lines when you’re shooting.

Composition should be used as a tool to examine our photos after we have shot them. Like what Henri Cartier-Bresson said; geometrical analysis can only be used as a post-mortem— to study what we did well in our photos, and how we can improve.

Leading lines: Tokyo, 2011
Leading lines: Tokyo, 2011

For me personally, I have found the more time I spend to analyze my compositions after I have shot them, the more I learn. And when I study the work of the masters of street photography, I can better internalize composition when I’m shooting on the streets.

Always think about composition when you’re out shooting, but don’t let it ever hinder you.

If you want to learn more about the theory of composition from Henri Cartier-Bresson, read this article: The Theory of Composition in Street Photography: 7 Lessons from Henri Cartier-Bresson.


Learn more about composition

Triangles: Hollywood, 2011
Triangles: Hollywood, 2011

If you want to learn more about composition in street photography, download my free e-book: The Street Photography Composition Manual.

If you prefer video, watch  my YouTube lecture: Introduction to Composition in Street Photography.

To learn more in-depth, read the lessons below:

For further reading, learn more about composition from Adam Marelli.