Street Photography vs Portraits in the Street

ricardo palma
3 min readJul 11, 2023

Street photography and portraits in the street are two distinct genres of photography that share a common setting but differ in their approach and intended focus. Here’s my take and breakdown of the characteristics and differences between the two:

Street Photography

  1. Candid Moments: Street photography typically captures candid moments and everyday scenes of people in public spaces. It aims to document the essence of life in urban environments, often highlighting the uniqueness and authenticity of the subject or the situation.
  2. Unposed Subjects: In street photography, the subjects are usually unaware of the photographer’s presence, resulting in natural and unposed shots. The emphasis is on capturing genuine emotions, gestures, and interactions.
  3. Storytelling: Street photography often focuses on telling a story or conveying a specific mood or atmosphere through a single image or a series of photographs. It explores the human condition, cultural aspects, or social issues.
  4. Composition and Context: Street photographers pay attention to composition, using elements such as leading lines, framing, and juxtaposition to create visually compelling images. The context of the surroundings and the relationship between the subject and the environment play crucial roles.
  5. Minimalistic Approach: Street photographers typically work with available light and minimal equipment, preferring to blend in with the surroundings and capture moments as they unfold naturally.

Portraits in the Street

  1. Directed Subjects: Portraits in the street involve engaging with the subjects and actively directing them to achieve a desired pose, expression, or interaction. The photographer has more control over the outcome compared to street photography.
  2. Individual Focus: Portraits in the street aim to highlight the individuality and personality of the subject. The photographer may use different techniques, such as selective focus or lighting, to draw attention to the person while considering the environment as a complementary backdrop.
  3. Collaboration: The photographer and the subject work together to create a compelling portrait. Communication and rapport building are essential to bring out the subject’s character and capture their unique essence.
  4. Technical Considerations: Portraits in the street may involve the use of additional lighting equipment, reflectors, or diffusers to enhance the lighting conditions and achieve the desired aesthetic. The photographer may also use different lenses and focal lengths to isolate the subject or capture the environment as part of the composition.
  5. Personal Connection: The focus of portraits in the street is often on the individual rather than the broader context or storytelling. The photographer aims to create a connection between the viewer and the subject, evoking emotions or conveying a particular narrative through the portrait.

While both street photography and portraits in the street share the street as their backdrop, their approaches, intentions, and outcomes differ. Street photography focuses on capturing candid moments and the broader narrative of life in public spaces, while portraits in the street emphasize individual subjects, their personalities, and their collaboration with the photographer.

Let me know your thoughts on this subject! :)

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Peace ✌🏼

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ricardo palma

✍️ Writing stuff about Japanese photography 📸