Rifqi's photo

My photographic journey


I love photography. I only have about two years of experience, but I can tell you that I love it. More specifically, I love street photography. Let me tell you something about Street Photography. 

Today I’m pleased to introduce to you the first of the promised guest posts I’ve been talking about. This one takes a look at street photography, something I don’t have much experience in myself but non the less an interesting topic. The author is [Gm], a blogger from Indonesia (where I’m currently enjoying a well deserved holiday) who at the moment lives in Japan. I now give [Gm] the word and suggest that you all have a look at his blog (which is updated daily) once you’ve read his article and left a comment.


First of all, what is Street Photography?

It’s hard to define something that is very flexible. To my broad definition: Street Photography is something that you capture in public, candidly, and that tells a story. Street Photography should not be mistaken with Street Portrait, which is only one part of Street Photography. In that sense, Street Photography is not always about facial expression and beautiful strangers. Sure, gorgeous ladies and handsome men would make a great subject. But then, it would be hard to differentiate between a Street Photographer and a pervert (or voyeur). Street Photography is also about geometry, shape, gesture, shadows and light, juxtaposition, etc. It is about how people react with the environment – or sometimes it’s not about people at all!

Street Photography is freedom: freedom to capture, freedom to define, freedom to assess. For me, personally, Street Photography is capturing the mundane to create interesting story. I say “create” because I’m the one telling the story (through my photo), and it is based on my personal interpretation. I could be wrong. No, I am probably wrong.

Street Photography is about capturing the moment; it’s not about creating or making a picture. Ansel Adams’ famous line “You don’t take a photograph, you make it” doesn’t really apply here. Street Photography has to deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors. You can’t control the light, you can’t control the pose, you can’t control the fleeting seconds – you can only capture them as they go. The good news is, you can play with light, you can anticipate a pose, and you can get lucky to get the decisive moment.

Of course, you will need to be prepared (e.g. camera settings, pointing the camera in the right direction, having the guts to actually take the shot, etc) in anticipating the moment. But, in the end, it’s always about luck – lucky to be there at the right moment.

Now, why I like Street Photography?

Well, the biggest reason is because it happens everywhere, all the time.  You don’t have to travel to a special place, you don’t have to wait for a special time (like the golden hour) and you don’t need any special tools (special lens, special camera, special flash, etc). You just need a camera – any camera – then go out and shoot. Of course, better gear will give better results, but it is never mandatory (for photography in general) to have special tools. And you know what the best part is? Even if you go to the same place, at the same time (of different days) over and over, the scene will be different. You will find a different scene, you will find different people, you will find different points of interest. You know that you can’t turn back time, right?

The second reason: it’s easy and fun :-). Well, it is easy to make street photograph, but I have to say that it’s not that easy to make a good one – but still, everything is possible.

What do I think is the biggest challenge in Street Photography?

Technique? No, technique can be learned. Practice makes perfect.

Observant eyes? No, that can also be learned and practiced.

Luck? Not really. You can’t learn that, but you can pray to get lucky :-).

Guts? Yes, this is the one. I think guts is the biggest problem. A lot of people (including me) are not always comfortable in taking photos of strangers. Some feel shy, some feel guilty – like they are doing something wrong.

Well, is it wrong?

I can’t say this for everybody, but in most countries, it is completely legal for you to take photos of anybody as long as they are in public. However, publishing them (on print or online) is another story. In the end, it’s better to check the local Law and Regulations before engaging Street Photography.

Why do I still feel guilty, even when I know I wasn’t doing anything wrong?

After only 1.5 years of doing this, I still feel bad or guilty sometimes. I feel a little awkward to the least. It’s must be the common sense talking. Despite that I have the right (under law) to take photos of anybody in public, they also have the right to not being photographed – especially when they are in bad or embarrassing moments.  In this case, your ethics will be the judge. It is your decision whether you are going to take the photo or not.  It is your decision whether you are going to publish the photo or not. My personal rule is simple; I won’t publish a photo of someone in embarrassing, ugly or bad moments. Funny and laughable photos are fine – degrading are not.

Anyway, I hope you can enjoy Street Photography as much as I can. I don’t think our host here (Rifqi) is a fan of Street Photography, but I surely hope he is willing to give it a shot :D… at least he is willing to give me a shot in writing a post about Street Photography on his blog. That’s a good start :-P.

So, what are you waiting for? Go out and have some fun with Street Photography!


18 Responses to “Guest post – The Beauty of Street Photography”

  1. Rifqi

    Let me be the first to comment and thank [Gm] once again for contributing this interesting article while I’m away. Let me also remind you again to go and have a look at his blog.

    • [Gm]

      Thank you for the opportunity, Rifqi.
      Have a great vacation in Indonesia. I’m still waiting for the chilli-sauced crab from you. When is it coming? 😀

      • Rifqi

        We were planning to get some for my birthday but since we were all sick it had to wait, we’ll see if there’s still a chance before we go back :p

      • [Gm]

        I’m telling you, man… you should MAKE the chance.

        *wiping my drooling saliva, thinking about those yummy chilli-sauced crabs.

  2. Caroline

    Hi there!
    I´m Rifqis sister and I just wanted to say thanks for an inspiring guest post. I stopped by your blog and I´m very happy I did. For a swedish girl like me, your work is a little exotic, which of course makes the pictures even more exciting: But I also find them both poetic, sort of serene and often funny! I especially like the ones with soft light and pale colours. I´ll be sure to stop by often to take part of the streetlife in Japan =)

  3. forkboy1965

    Actually, I kind of torn about something you say here:

    Ansel Adams’ famous line “You don’t take a photograph, you make it” doesn’t really apply here. Street Photography has to deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors. You can’t control the light, you can’t control the pose, you can’t control the fleeting seconds – you can only capture them as they go.

    I see what you’re saying in so much that you cannot create the scene being photographed (you can’t adjust lighting or pose the people or rearrange the street), but isn’t the idea of snapping the shutter at just the right moment ‘making’ it?

    You, behind the camera, decide when to make the picture. Snap it now. Or in another second. Or not at all.

    Regardless of my particular interpretation, it was good to have a guest poster and a new web site to check out!

    • [Gm]

      Thanks for the comment, forkboy1965…

      What I was trying to say is that, in street photography, the photographer is being passive and receptive to what is happening in front of him/her, not necessarily being active or involved in the making of the photo (e.g. if we compare it with making portrait shot in a set, etc). In that sense, street photographer is “taking” photograph, not “making” it.

      Maybe I was wrong and taking the “taking/making” word too literally :D… anyhow, I hope you get what I mean.

  4. ambientimages

    That’s a great blog. I was struck by the Adams quote as well. He was a master of processing and printing, as well as exposure. Most of the work on towards a finished print happened in the darkroom where he would pull or push development according to his notes and then dodge and burn to make the print. I think it’s probably this control over the processing that he was referring to, rather than composition and timing, and we still do it by adjusting levels and curves or boosting saturation.
    Cartier-Bresson might have made the same comment but from him it would have meant something different, since his passion was composition and timing, not processing.
    Either way, I would say there is still a significant element of “making” unless you just snap at random and display the result however it comes out of the camera.

    • Rifqi

      Thanks for the comment, I think this guest post is now the most commentet post on my blog, I need to make more of an effort on my own posts it seems :p

  5. nigel

    I like street photography but, I’m very uncomfortable with taking such shots. Something to work on I think!

  6. Thats-the-look

    Oh wow. I love all three photos you’ve added to this post. Would it be rude to ask you to update this post by making the photos larger?

    • Rifqi

      Not rude at all. May I however suggest that you instead visit [GM]’s blog? You can find the link at the start of the post. Glad you like it.


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