Dynamic Street Photography

Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017
Umbrella and flash in color. Kyoto, 2017

The one cardinal sin of street photographers: making boring pictures.

1. Dynamic: the opposite of boring

Walking woman. Kyoto street photograph, 2017
Walking woman. Kyoto street photograph, 2017

My suggestion – seek to make DYNAMIC pictures.

Images that are DYNAMIC have energy, sex, and soul. Pictures that get your blood pumping. Pictures that are hard for you to shoot, and photos that are hard for your viewer to look at.

In terms of dynamic images—seek to make dynamic compositions. Dynamic compositions integrate tilt, flash, or hand-gestures. Dynamic images often have eye contact. For me, I find that images that are shot with a wide-angle lens (28mm or 35mm) are more edgy, and integrate the viewer into the scene.

2. Shoot what scares you

When I shoot street photography, I listen to my gut. I take pictures which scare me. I take pictures which cause me to hesitate a bit – and then I push through that hesitation, and just click.

In terms of settings, I prefer to ‘set it and forget it’. I like to use P (Program Mode)—for color I like ISO 800. For black and white ISO 1600-3200. I just use center-autofocus, and the integrated flash of my camera. I don’t like to think of the camera settings before, during, or after I shoot. Rather, I want to fully integrate myself into the image-making process. I want to disappear into the streets. I want to make a mind-body connection between my camera, the scene, and the subject. I want as little creative impedance when I’m making pictures.

3. Hesitation is death

The more I think about street photography, the more I realize—it is really 80% guts, and 20% skill. You need to have the guts to hit the shutter. Even now, I miss countless pictures because I am too nervous to take a risk—to shoot, to perhaps aggravate or upset my subject. I think the ultimate street photographer is a street photographer who NEVER HESITATES, who NEVER IS AFRAID, and NEVER FEELS REGRET missing a picture.

Therefore, we can be like Jeff Bezos and create a ‘regret minimization framework’ in our photography. To shoot street photos to have as little regret as possible at the end of the day.

That means to walk the streets, have fun, see interesting visual things, shapes, and combinations of subjects and people and the environment—and take pictures of what excites you.

To have little regret in street photography is simple:

Take a picture of everything that interests or excites you.

In practical terms, that also means making simple or ‘cliché’ pictures. If the scene interests you, just shoot it. You can decide much later whether to ‘keep’ or ‘ditch’ the picture. But when you’re in THE ZONE when shooting on the streets, don’t self-edit, or self-critique yourself. Rather, run around the streets like a child having fun. The streets are your own personal visual jungle-gym.


DYNAMIC/DYNAMISM – two words to integrate into your visual lexicon and vocabulary. Don’t make pictures, MAKE DYNAMITE!