street photography


One of my personal favorite photographic tricks to employ is the use of alignment or juxtaposition of two or more elements in frame. I can attribute this to my inherent obsessive compulsive desire to always want to bring some order into a scene. It is one part of my personality that readily comes through in my photography. Whenever my wife and I are sitting at a restaurant I’ll catch myself folding a straw wrapper into a perfect square or aligning used sugar packets until there is equal space between them. Little nuances like this tend to manifest themselves behind my lens as well.

Another reason I enjoy this technique is that there is the potential for something interesting that can be coaxed out of almost every line and shape in the environment. Seemingly mundane settings with the right angle and alignment can produce very harmonic results. Another plus is that it is a great way to exercise the eye and a completely non-confrontational form of photography in the street, (although you will get funny looks while you compose the image… notice the absence of people in my personal examples below)

Next time you are out, my suggestion is to comb your environment for geometric shapes - lines, circles, squares, and angles. Once you spot a line, find another and connect the two (keep in the mind, lines are frequently not in the same geometric plane but they can still be juxtaposed by moving the camera forward or backward) the more opposing geometry you can manage to connect the greater depth your photograph will have.

The Well Worn Path Kills Creativity

One of the traps I seem to fall into quite often with street photography is walking the well worn path and expecting to find inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, beauty can manifest itself around every corner & cross walk, but as a place becomes more and more familiar to us, our brains tend to dull the repetitive stimulus. Case in point: your first apartment. It probably smelled like a Denny’s dumpster in the summer but you never really noticed. I’m half joking but I do think it’s a good way to make my point; as your brain receives the same daily stimulus, it becomes your baseline as your senses adjust; the same goes for your visual environment.

Yellow Car, William J Simpson, 2017

Yellow Car, William J Simpson, 2017

For me, my route is always up Market Street, hang a right on Stockton and down into China Town. Same storefronts. Same signs and landmarks, and often times I find myself in China Town having not pressed the shutter once! That’s called auto pilot folks and when it kicks in you are no longer observing. Your mind is assuming what’s next, both subject & setting. Break this habit on your next walk! Head down the “boring” street - every initial reaction, do the opposite - leave the bustle of high traffic areas and see what presents itself on unfamiliar avenues. In my opinion, having a clear head free of expectations or end results is the best mind state to be in when creatively photographing on the street.

On the contrary, photographing the same stretch of real estate over the course of years can be an awesome long-term project idea. What’s old will become new again as fashion, technology and trends are constantly changing - see what you can produce by setting some long-term photographic goals on the same corner or part of town.