Composition When Street Shooting

I see a lot of great street photographers that use composition as the main element of their photographs. I have great admiration for this style of street photography, but this shooting style doesn’t come naturally for me. I am generally looking for gestures, emotion, interesting characters, and everyday life moments. I do acknowledge that my photographs can be better if I use the environment around the subject to create a better composition for my photos. Although I mostly try to capture raw emotion and interesting gestures in my photographs, I have made an effort to make pictures focusing on composition first and subject second. This requires finding a spot, framing your composition first, and then camping out for a while until a subject comes into your scene.

I have been trying this recently because I feel it can make me a better photographer. The featured image in this post was a scene I stumbled across in Booth Bay Harbor, Maine. I stopped in my tracks and I couldn’t believe this photographic opportunity. I started shooting this massive boat that was dry docked with all of the weathered wood around the boatyard and steam rising in the left side of the frame. I then realized that I needed a subject to walk into the frame to show the scale of the boat. The photo above and below were taken in San Francisco where I saw interesting patterns first and then I composed for the subjects around the scene.

I don’t see these scenes naturally. I have noticed that a lot of great street photographers that use this style in their work have a background in graphic design. I have to work hard and force myself to see these elements, and when I do, it can be very rewarding when it comes together.

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