Crafting narratives with street photography.

Bring the rhythm of everyday life into focus and offer a raw, unfiltered look at the world around you.

Street Photography tutorial

Photography & tutorial by @itchban

What is street photography?

Street photography in Australia opens a window to the soul of its vibrant urban landscapes and multicultural heartbeat. From Sydney's iconic Bondi Beach, buzzing with life and color, to the graffiti-adorned laneways of Melbourne, street photography offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of people moving through these spaces. It’s where art meets real life, portraying scenes and moments that are unposed, unplanned, and completely candid. 


“A lot of street photography is responding to life. It’s when you see an interaction or a person in a certain space and you want to record that,” shares Adam Long, both a seasoned photographer and an educator. What makes this genre special, much like photojournalism, is that it doesn’t confine itself to the controlled environment of a studio; rather, it thrives amidst the unpredictability of the world outside.


While navigating the ever-changing light, capturing fleeting moments, and finding beauty in the every day may sound daunting, it's precisely what makes street photography so rewarding. "It's all about learning to define and refine what you see in an interesting way," shares photographer Anthony Pidgeon, highlighting the unique challenge and charm of this genre of photography. Street photography invites you to document life in its raw, unscripted form, offering a playground for technical mastery and creative exploration. For those dipping their toes into the world of photography, it’s an excellent opportunity to sharpen your skills and carve out your own artistic viewpoint amidst the chaos and serendipity of the streets.

Couple embracing each other while waiting at bus stop

Photography by Steve Simon

Mastering the decisive moment.

The famous street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the term “decisive moment.” It's about capturing those unrepeatable instances where the essence of a story crystallises in a single frame. Unlike other forms of photography, here, you don’t get to rearrange your surroundings. Your role is more about anticipation and reaction, waiting for life to unfold and capturing it at just the right second. It's at these moments, Cartier-Bresson believed, that a photograph transcends the ordinary to become something truly compelling.


The leap from a basic snapshot to a captivating image hinge on composition and framing. “Sometimes you want to tell a story that’s actually happening in front of you. And then other times you see subjects and you want to create a story with that picture. Both are equally valid and both are street photography,” says photographer Derek Boyd. Creating standout images hinges on your willingness to experiment with framing, angles, and lighting. Each element you choose weaves into the narrative you're crafting through your lens. It's your vision, your artistic touch, that decides the story each photo tells.

Child running through the sand as birds flock together in the background

Photography by Dimpy Bhalotia

Street photography tips to get you started.


Understand your camera settings.

Navigating the spontaneous world of street photography means every shot is a unique opportunity. “A big part of it is mastering the technical side of things. It’s about seeing something cool and then quickly being able to translate that into an image,” explains Pidgeon. Light changes quickly when you’re outside, so it’s important to understand how shutter speed, aperture, ISO and focal length can be adjusted to get the right exposure.


One strategy is to lean into aperture priority mode. This setting lets you pick the f-stop while the camera adjusts the shutter speed and ISO automatically, giving you creative control over depth of field. But, a word of caution: avoid cranking up your f-stop too much. A high f-stop can lead to slower shutter speeds, risking unwanted blur. Of course, some motion blur can be intentional, adding life to your photo, but it's all about making those decisions with purpose.


Pack light, stay agile.

When it comes to street photography, the old adage "less is more" couldn't be truer. Lugging around a hefty bag full of lenses and tripods not only makes you stand out but could also hinder the spontaneity of your shots. After all, blending into the scene is key to capturing life as it naturally unfolds. A minimalist approach not only ensures your presence remains unobtrusive but also keeps your focus sharp on the candid moments that truly matter.


Similarly, just as with landscape photography, trekking through urban jungles or quaint alleys can quickly become a chore if you're weighed down by unnecessary equipment. It's wise to streamline your kit to the essentials—a spare storage card might be all you need to keep shooting longer without the burden of excess gear. Keeping it light and simple is the secret to staying agile and ready to capture the world as it whirls around you.

A mother and her child walking past an LED sign at night
Person holding flowers with buildings in the background

Photography by Steve Simon

Discover what inspires you.

Embarking on a street photography journey invites you to deeply connect with your surroundings, be it an iconic landmark in a bustling city or the tranquil rhythm of small-town coffee shop. It's about more than just the location; it's the stories and the atmosphere that each place uniquely offers. “If there’s something I want to capture, I scout the location beforehand. How does this look on a cloudy day? How does it look on a sunny day? What about at night versus in the morning?” says Pidgeon. This exploration not only fuels your creativity but also guides you to capture more compelling snapshots of daily life.


Diving deeper into the heart of street photography might mean stepping out of your comfort zone and tackling some street portraits too. Instead of just doing a “smash and grab photo, I like to talk to people and see what they’re up to that day. Then I might make a portrait of them,” says Long. This approach transforms a fleeting moment into a meaningful interaction, enriching both your experience and your portfolio. Whether it's a candid capture or an impromptu portrait, each photo becomes a narrative of your adventures and discoveries, be it while traveling or close to home.


As you venture into the world of street photography in Australia, remember to embrace the unique themes that define our nation. From the colourful tapestry of multicultural festivals to the laid-back charm of beach culture and the captivating presence of urban wildlife, there's a wealth of inspiration waiting to be discovered. So grab your camera, hit the streets, and let your creativity roam free as you capture the essence of Australia through the lens of street photography. 


Don’t forget about editing.

While street photography often embraces the timeless look of black and white, pioneers like Joel Meyerowitz have shown us the vivid impact of colour. Worried about your shot being ruined by bright signs or distracting lights? Don’t let this deter you; with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, you can shoot in colour and convert your images into black and white later if needed. This approach not only enhances the versatility of your captures but also allows you to play with the mood and focus of your images during post-processing. It’s a powerful way to ensure your photographs tell the story you want, whether in the stark contrasts of monochrome or the rich details of colour.


Recognise the rules of the street.

“There’s a reasonable expectation that when you’re out in public, you’ll get photographed. Whether it’s by the camera on top of the street sign or at the ATM,” says Long. Taking photos of people and things in public places is completely legal, but “I think it’s really important to be respectful of people’s space. Because even though — technically — you can do it, not everybody wants their photo taken,” says Pidgeon. At its core, street photography is a celebration of life's unscripted moments, but it's crucial to approach it with kindness and respect. While the bustling streets serve as an open stage, private spaces hold different rules. Before venturing onto private grounds, whether it's a hidden alley or someone's garden, seeking permission is essential.


Find inspiration in stunning street photography.

If you're dipping your toes into the bustling world of street photography, you might find it's not as unfamiliar as you think. Take "Humans of New York"—a project that marries portraiture with storytelling, offering glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets. It's a prime example of what makes street photography so compelling. And then there's Walker Evans, whose candid shots from the Great Depression era have left an indelible mark on both history and the art of photography. Seeking further inspiration? The realm of street photography is rich with visionaries whose work can spark your creative fire and push you to capture the untold stories unfolding around you every day.

Black-and-white photo of a person putting on pants at the beach
Black-and-white photo of a person practicing martial arts with a stick

Photography by Dimpy Bhalotia

Embrace urban street photography with Adobe Photoshop.

Embarking on the journey of street photography offers more than just an opportunity to capture the fleeting moments of everyday life; it's a deep dive into the art of visual storytelling. Each snapshot you take is a narrative woven from the world around you, showcasing the raw and unfiltered essence of humanity and the urban landscape. These captured moments, filled with spontaneity and truth, invite both the photographer and the viewer to engage in a dialogue with reality, challenging perceptions and uncovering hidden stories.


Adobe Photoshop becomes an invaluable companion on this adventure, offering endless possibilities to refine and redefine what you capture. It invites you to not only perfect the technical aspects of your shots but to also infuse them with your unique perspective, transforming ordinary scenes into compelling visual tales.


Share your vision.

Harness your camera and Photoshop as storytelling tools, venturing beyond conventional street photography to create images that resonate and move. Connect with the vibrant community of Australian street photographers on Adobe’s forums, sharing your explorations and inspirations. Together, let’s celebrate the artistry of capturing life’s unfolding narratives, fostering unity and creative collaboration. Continue to explore, experiment, and seize those decisive moments that narrate the world through your lens.


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