Summoning Your Personal Vision in Street Photography

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There’s no escaping the hardest questions when it comes to making street photography. It’s so entwined with your personal experience and viewpoint of the world that, in order to have a real handle on your pursuit, you have to look as deeply into yourself as you do through the lens at your subject.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn how to approach street photography from a position of strength and comfort by examining and understanding your motivations, finding meaningful feedback and context, and focusing while you photograph.

Understand Your Motivations

You can start by asking yourself the simple question: What is it about reality that inspires me? It’s a deceptively complex query, because the answer is tied to how well you know yourself, and that’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s okay not to know precisely why certain people or settings inspire you more than others—in fact some measure of mystery is ideal—but you want to have a keen sense of why you are photographing on the street and not in a studio or some other setting.

One of my teachers, documentary photographer Ellen Binder Dubner, used to ask us “What is it about your project that is about you?” as a way of getting at our intentions for photographing. Your answer to this question doesn’t necessarily have to be expressed out loud to others, but it’s key for you to know, because it gets at the heart of your connection to your images. Your answer is what makes your photography unique, and the more distinct an image is to you, the more likely your photographs will keep you inspired and have the ability to impact others.

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