If you have a photography plan, it will drive your creativity. This is true of any style of photography, but in this article you’ll see different photography project ideas to jump start your street photography.
The best known street photography project of recent times is Humans of New York. The reasons for its success are many. It has a simple relatable concept, well executed photos, and it focused on the work.
A project sets parameters, a clear working space to explore, and then the best work follows.
No idea what street photography project ideas to try? We’ve got you covered with ten photography project ideas that you can try yourself!
A theme can really create a powerful set of photos. One idea is to look for photographs of people wearing a particular style of clothes.
1. Choose a Theme
A theme will give your photos cohesion, which of course will make them work better as a set. The right theme will make each individual photograph stronger.
What kind of themes could you choose? Below are some photography project ideas you can easily be applied to the area where you live.
- Transport – Transport is something we all use, so why not make this the theme of your street photography? Subways, buses, even bikes give you options you can explore photographically. Should you choose something like the subway, seek permission first from the relevant authorities.
- Markets – Many people congregate in markets, which makes them a great place to practice street photography. Will you concentrate on one specific market, or look to visit all the markets that happen in your area? Perhaps you will look at only one type of market, for example fish, and photograph fish markets in numerous locations.
- Location – The previously mentioned humans of New York project had its roots in a location. Why not look at a photography project similar to this, only from where you live? A study of your local area will be a rewarding way of really finding out about where you live, through the people who live there.
Locations like a fish market can be great for photography project ideas, and they’re full of personalities.
2. Use Experimental Compositions
The use of a unique composition in every photo will make your work strong and recognisable. Projects are often about keeping one thing constant, and varying the rest of your content.
The use of a strong composition is one such project you can pursue, and once again here are some photography project ideas for this.
- Half face – Street photography is all about people. Why not go with an unusual composition of a half face? This type of photo has a detail element to it, and works well with a varied mixture of different faces.
- Minimal – Most street photography shows photos that have a lot of elements in them, in other words they are often busy. How about going in the other direction with street photography that has a minimalist tone? The use of photos against the sky, or against a wall are ways of getting this result.
- Body parts – Another photography project idea you could use is photographing a specific body part. The obvious thing for most people to photograph is the face, but how about a project where you only photograph hands?
Panning is a great way of creating a photo with a minimal feel, with the blurred out background.
3. Use Light and Shadows
Using light and shadows is the hallmark of all good photography. When it comes to street photography both people and buildings can cast strong shadows, that can be used effectively for your work.
The photos you create will have strong light contrast, which will really make them pop.
How can you best achieve this? Read on and find out.
- A shard of light – This can be used as a type of spotlight on the face of your subject. Look for places that have a gap in the roofing, or an archway that the sun shines into. The background should not be lit up by the sun for this approach to work. Now set your exposure value to around -2 or even -3, and when someone walks into the sunlight take their photo. The result should create a low-key photo, with a black background, and a correctly exposed face.
- Cast a shadow – You don’t need to be a lord of light to cast a shadow! You just need to visit locations at the correct time of the day. The shadow will be longer just after sunrise, and before sunset, so factor this into your decision on when to photograph. Websites like suncalc can also help you plan when to visit a location, so you are getting the sun in the right direction. You can aim to photograph shadows of people, or perhaps use strong shadows on a wall to frame a person who is walking past that wall.
Sunlight reflecting off cobblestones can work very well for against the light photos with silhouettes.
4. Striking Silhouettes
Once again using the light, silhouettes can look great in your photos. Photos like this are sometimes described as contre-jour, which is French for against the daylight.
This is exactly what these photographs are. To produce them you need to be photographing against a strong light, usually the sky. To get good results with this form of photography you will want to get strong silhouettes, with defined shapes.
When photographing against the sky this will almost certainly require you to photograph from a low angle, and up towards the sky.
The exception is a shiny surface, such as cobblestones when they reflect the light. In this case it’s an advantage to photograph from a higher angle.
Silhouettes will work very well for street photography, and you will get great subject isolation by doing this.
This photo shows a clear contrast in styles. There is also a story to this image, modern society is hypnotized by screens!
5. Contrasting Styles
High contrast makes for great photos, but contrast is not simply restricted to the light. Look for other forms of contrast in the world around you, and you’ll have some great street photography.
How can you explore the concept of contrast with your photos? Take a look at the following and decide if you can make that happen where you live.
- Colours – The use of colour combinations like red/blue or yellow/purple can lead to some stand out photography. Not every area will allow for this type of photography, but places like the blue city of Johdpurr are great for exploring this type of photography.
- Old vs New – Can you find people wearing old traditional clothes right next to people wearing modern ones? This can be an exciting photography project that you can use to explore the culture of your home area.
6. Photography Project Ideas With Numbers, the 365 or 52!
One of the greatest photography project ideas of recent times were the 365 and 52 projects. Those not familiar with them, these are projects where you take daily or weekly photos for one year.
Now of course this can be applied to any form of photography, so why not have some fun and use this for your street photography!
- 365 days – This is intense, and not for everyone. Taking one photo per day sounds straightforward, yet it can be gruelling. The key is planning ahead, and saving the easy photos for when you’re busy or not feeling well.
- 52 weeks – The less demanding cousin of the 365 project, this is a fun one to play around with. You can make this slightly more interesting by choosing a weekly theme, or perhaps changing the theme once per month.
Life is a daily grind, so choose your year long project with care.
7. Lighten the Mood
Why so serious? Street photography is about all life, and there are fun moments to be had wherever you photograph.
Juxtaposing a background against your main subject can be one way of adding humour to your photo. The scene needn’t even be funny, capturing a scene that shows the warmth of a genuine smile isn’t easy but will be a great street photo.
A word of caution here though. Capturing a photo which is funny because it puts someone else in a bad light could lead to confrontation later on if that person sees the photo and is unhappy with the result.
The smile brings a lot of warmth to this photo.
8. Experiment With Slower Shutter Speeds
Your camera is a creative tool, and the ability to control the shutter speed allows for some more dynamic photography project ideas. This entails the application of panning and motion blur to street photography, techniques that will bring your photos to life through movement.
Typically you’ll not want to use too long a shutter speed here, experiment with exposures between 1/10th and 1/2 a second in length.
- Panning – In this case you’re going to follow the movement of a person, or perhaps a cyclist. The idea is to blur out the background, while keeping the object you’re following sharp. Depending on how fast the person or object is moving you will set the shutter speed accordingly. Typically panning photos are around 1/20th second.
- Motion blur – The alternative way of adding motion to your scene is to keep the background steady, and capture the movement of people with a slower shutter speed. You’ll likely need a tripod for this, so you’ll have a hard time not standing out. However the results can be very interesting. Don’t use an overly long exposure, or the people in your photo won’t show up.
Adding some motion blur to your work can create a much more dynamic image.
9. Look for the Decisive Moment
Well this is the essence of good street photography isn’t it? Yes it’s possible to get good street photos without this magical x-factor, but the really great photos are about that decisive moment. This is not an easy skill to master, as a lot of it is instinctive.
That said putting yourself in the right position to get that photo will allow you to, and with it the instinct will develop.
- Fishing – One way to get the decisive moment is to wait for it to come to you. This is a lot like fishing, as you need to be patient. In fishing you could be waiting hours for one fish to bite, and well this could equally be the case for your decisive moment photo if you choose the location and wait for the action.
- Quick on the draw – Alternatively you can model yourself on those western movie shoot outs, where you need to be quick on the draw. Visiting places like markets where decisive moments are frequent is a good place to practice what needs to be a lightning quick reaction.
10. Make It a Portrait
A great project to try when doing street photography is a portrait based one. There are many personalities out there on the street.
You’re not really looking at decisive moment so much with this type of photo, but capturing the emotion on the person’s face will give you much better results. Should this be a project you want to try, the following are a few tips for making it more successful.
- The approach – This project is going to require you to ask permission to take a photo of your subject. Working out who to approach, and how to approach that person will improve your chances. The chances of success are higher with people who are alone. Be polite and professional. Having a business card and explaining your project is a great idea.
- Build rapport – Having gained permission your next objective is to get to know the person. Ask about their day, and what they’re doing there. The more you know the better your chances of composing a photo that really shows that person’s personality.
- Look for the light – Having an agreement to take a person’s photo means you can control the light, and make a much better portrait. Using the ambient light that’s in your scene, and attempting to get some light in the person’s eye are both desirable aims.
Taking portrait photos means you will have to ask permission, though you can choose some great faces!
Which of These Photography Project Ideas Will You Use?
No doubt you’ve delved into some photography project ideas in the past. Have you ever tried one with a street photography angle? Now is the time to get out and put together a body of work on just one subject.
Here at ExpertPhotography we are keen to see your work, so please share the project you decide to pursue with us in the comments section.
You should also check out our recent list of great street photography Lightroom presets.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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