Ian McDonald: The Four Elements of Street Photography

Street photography is what I like best. There’s something about capturing a slice of life as it goes about, and bringing a moment of delightful recognition to the viewer. It could be a photo of a well-known landmark — or of a place that most viewers have perhaps never seen before. But, there always a person or persons in the picture to bring that scene alive, to make the viewer say, “Yes, I’ve seen something like this happen and, though I may not recognize the place, it is a delightful moment that has been captured.”.

My kind of street photography is to document a moment, not taking flashy and dramatic shots thru a prop, with water poured on the ground for reflection, etc. I tire quickly of these Instagram and TikTok shots. They are not unique, are easily copied, and obviously staged. They are not a special, once-in-a-lifetime, perhaps-never-repeated, moment. It’s not easy to take good street photographs, and often luck plays a big part in bringing you and the moment together.

But when I go out and shoot street photography, I do it haphazardly, taking photos of scenes and events that attract my eyes. I cannot tell you what my technique is (there’s none), and I admit it can be sometimes frustrating when I see a scene that I just think would make a great photo, and it does not quite turn out to be so. I am not always sure what’s missing, until I watched this tutorial video which talks about the “Four Elements of Street Photography.”

Basically, the four elements are:
– Subject
– Light
– Background
– Moment

It’s a great tutorial video and, though Ian MacDonald is an an Official Fuji X Photographer and uses a Fujifilm X100 series mirrorless camera, I believe these street photography techniques can be applied using any camera and brand. To learn how to incorporate all, or most, of these four elements into your street photography, watch Ian MacDonald’s video below. It helped me understand a bit more what exactly went right — or wrong — in my street photos. Well worth watching!

> View more X Stories