Welcome to step 3 of my 7 steps towards improving street photography.
Step 3: The Magic Three
There are three magic ingredients we’re looking for take a great photograph:
If we can get all three of these things into a photograph, we’ve got a winning shot on our hands.
You don’t need me to tell you about the importance of good light and composition, but in my experience it’s surprising how often that final element of interest – the sense of storytelling through an image – is somewhat elusive. So if we’ve got one or two of those magic three, what’s still missing from the shot, and how can we get it? Do we have the shot lined up, but just need to wait for the right subjects? Is the subject interesting but poor light preventing a good image? Do we need to move to a better position to make a bigger impact with how the shot is composed? All things to think about. Often in the blink of an eye. No-one said what we’re doing is easy.
Personally, I’ve realised I look first for good light, then an interesting composition. When the light is flat, I look mainly for composition. Then I look for an interesting person or subject matter, that could create intrigue or tell a story in the image. Can I get them in the shot? I then re-compose as necessary. But this is very broadly speaking, of course. Anything could happen in street photography, and it usually does. What about you? Your own approach may be very different, and of course, it’s entirely up to the individual.
Luck is always part of it, of course, at least to a certain extent. But, as with many things, the more we do it – the better our instinctive judgment will become.
A really good exercise could be to think about ‘the magic three’, the next time you’re checking out shortlisted/winning images that have been featured by an award or competition page . What made these images stand out above the others for the judges? It can be interesting to see how light, composition and intrigue have been combined in these shots, quite often in very inventive ways – and is probably why they got to where you’re seeing them in the first place!