The moment is fleeting.

“Photography is not like painting. There is a creative fraction of a second when you are taking a picture. Your eye must see a composition or an expression that life itself offers you, and you must know with intuition when to click the camera.

That is the moment the photographer is creative. Oop! The Moment! Once you miss it, it is gone forever.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson

What exactly is street photography?

Also sometimes referred to as “candid photography”, it often records chance encounters and random incidents in public places in a human environment.

The term “street photography” is actually very broad, and for this reason it doesn’t have to include a street or be situated in an urban environment, and can even be quite absent of people as long as it features some aspect of the human character and/or surroundings.


Humans have a forward facing horizontal arc of visual field approximately 210° wide, of that however only the center is what is known as the “cone of visual attention” which is only about 55° wide, which approximates to the field of view (FOV) provided by a 43mm lens, which is the reason that 35mm and 50mm lenses are considered to be perfect for street photography.


Due to the legal situation in Germany (Persönlichkeitsrechtsverletzung) street photography, even as an art-form, is quite difficult to practice, because to follow the letter of the law a signed model-release form is required BEFORE the photo is even taken.

And so street-photography here requires an extra level of skill and creativity in order to keep any subjects unrecognisable without resorting to just photographing the backs of people as they walk off down the street.

There are exceptions to this rule, e.g. people taking part in demonstrations and those who become part of a historical event, but generally using someone’s image without their permission could cause problems.

Just exercise discretion , so if someone poses for you, smiles, or gives the impression of being ok with being photographed, you are probably ok, but if someone requests that any images are deleted, it would be polite to grant their request, although they do have to be recognisable, just because someone’s shoes are in the photo (as has happened to me), that doesn’t give them this right.

But this only applies to people themselves, because there is the freedom of panorama which gives everyone the freedom to photograph anything they can see from a public area, all public roads and pathways, and this includes any works of art, architecture, shops and trademarks used in shop signs.

Some examples illustrating the technique

Tips for when on location

  • The best lenses are generally regarded to be either a 35mm or 50mm (full-frame) prime lens, although they have no zoom, they do tend to be faster with much wider apertures, enabling the subject to then be isolated against the background due to the shallower depth of field possible.
  • Image quality isn’t everything.
  • Get nearer to the subject.
  • Not everything has to be in the shot, if it’s not intrinsic to the shot, leave it out.

© Andrew James Kirkwood – 2017