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  • Writer's pictureRachel Z

Street Photography Explained

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

Street photography is one of the most common but also one of the most misunderstood styles of photography. Simply going out into a public place and taking photos doesn’t necessarily make up proper street photography. So with that in mind today, lets showcase street photography explained with the help of Rachel Z Photography, your San Francisco, California photography guide.

Man wearing beanie standing in front of arched doorway outdoors
Photo by Rachel Z Photography in California

What is street photography?

Wikipedia defines street photography as “photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents.”

Typically, street photography is about candidly capturing life in public areas. And contrary to its name, street photography does not have to be done on the streets. You can do street photography anywhere.


The expressions on someone’s face or the emotions portrayed in their body language are what make a photograph meaningful; it’s what creates the relationship that makes a photo speak to you. To capture feelings in a photograph that cause the same emotional reactions in its viewer is the goal of any photographer.

Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl, a portrait of a young refugee during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, is a quintessential example of expressing emotion in a photograph. The immense amount of fear and loneliness behind the gorgeous eyes of Sharbat Gula makes you empathize with this young girl, living in the aftermath of war and occupation.

Street photography isn’t about just about sadness or negative emotions. There is a silver lining in this genre too. You can capture hope, happiness, and astonishment. However, never exploit someone to get an excellent shot. Always be ready to sacrifice your image instead of hurting, embarrassing, or exposing your subject.

Getting Started

Now that we’ve gotten the definition out of the way, it’s time to learn how to do street photography. Street photography may seem simple, but it is difficult to do well.

The first step is to push through the fear, to improve your hand-eye coordination, and to get the general tips down both technically and in how you carry yourself. The next step is to figure out what makes an interesting photograph and to develop your voice.

But the most important aspect through all of this is to have fun and to practice frequently, even if it is in brief spurts or with a camera phone–this is what will take you to the next level.

About Rachel Z Photography

I’m a 31-year-old San Francisco-based photographer, whale-watching enthusiast, and guardian of 2 lovely rescued birds. My goal with my photography is to empower you by taking the essence of who you are and turning it into works of art. I want to hear what YOUR ideas are and help make them into a reality. I want you to feel powerful. I want you to feel beautiful. I want you to feel confident, because we all deserve that.

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