Street Photography: Telling A Story

Why Is A Story Important?

Sharing stories is something that separates us from all other intelligent species. Since the advent of photography, documenting a situation allowed events to be shown to someone who was not present at the time.

As an emotionally driven species, stories help up to relate, understand or simply acknowledge other peoples perspectives.

It is therefore important to ensure the situation is documented in a way that reflects the nature of the event.

Contrasts Between Images With And Without a Story

To illustrate my point, I have provided an example of two images. One image shows a story. The other does not.

Above we have an image named “No Story”. This image shows a front door, Though it fits the theme of my style of photography, it does not convey a story, You could say it shows a level of symmetry – which is the reason I took the shot – but it does not lead the imagination.

The image named “Story” however appears very compelling. First of all, what is everyone doing? What signs are they holding up? Why does the woman in the centre look so sad? Is the Union Jack flag relevant or symbolic of the event? What are they all looking at?

Before you realise, you’ve been looking at the image for well over a minute.

In a world of social media and endless streams of photographs on applications such as Instagram, a minute is a significant amount of time to stop scrolling for.

The iintrigue of the story is what compels me to continue this Art. It is what inspires me to share my knowledge. And it is what motivates me to teach others – so that you might enjoy the process as much as I do.

Documenting A Story

Take a protest for example. I tend to surround myself with the crowd. I become part of the body of people – to the extent they forget that I am there. This allows me free reign to manoeuvre to in different directions to capture different perspectives.

Whilst everyone is looking forwards, heading in the direction of the protest, I will look back and to the side. I can see the faces, expressions and emotions.

Turn Around

Turn Around

Although the main event is happening right in front of you, it will be the people behind you, their expression, their emotion that will truly tell the story.

For context, the people in the photograph above are all looking at a large screen.

Turn around, capture the story.

Helpful Tips

  • If everyone is looking forwards, turn around
  • Ask yourself, what is happening in this moment
  • if you can, surround yourself with the event – it makes for an exciting photographing session
  • If in doubt, capture each moment as it develops.
  • Unsure if you have a good image? Remember editing can make all the difference.

What It Takes: A Beginners Guide

“A Good Eye”

Fortunately, photography remains, and will always be, subjective. The advantage being there is no real requirement to have a trained eye.

Being self taught, as I was, enabled me to find my own way. Now yes, there is of course merit in taking on board other peoples experiences and lesson learnt along the way. But it doesn’t necessarily mean their style is the right one for you.

Your style will develop organically. You may have ideas of becoming the next big Wedding Photographer or indeed the next Street Art Journalist… but theory is always sweeter than reality.

I find it best to hone your skills and find the right environment. Only then will you begin to have an eye for what works best to tell your story.

Story Telling

Social Media became an obsession for me. The likes governed my style as I move from my established environment to one that sought photographic situations which would bare the best fruit – in the form of followers.

The problem becomes that over time, you lose focus of why you started this journey. For me, the business element took away from why i began this journey… to ponder peoples stories in a brief click of a button.

I do what I do to show emotion from subjects that are blissfully unaware I exist.

The image on the left, of the Gentleman on the phone, doesn’t represent what I would describe as storytelling. Although it meets some of the basic fundamentals of photography, it fails to draw the audience in. There appears to be an absence of narrative. It simply looks like a photograph of a stranger.

In contrast, the photograph on the right leaves you asking questions. “What are they all doing there?”, “Do they know each other?”, “Why does she look so sad?”

It is in these questions we ponder our own humanity.

These photographs were taken just moments apart. Before you commit to the image, ask yourself…. What story am I trying to tell?

Shoot And Move

Getting caught up on the composition of an image can be the undoing of a good days catch. In street photography you must remain nimble. Ready to react to a given expression or interaction.

It is in these brief moments people are removed from their inner monolog and peer their heads up to take stock of the world around them. Capturing this brief moment lends its self to some interesting insights to human behaviour.

See the situation developing, frame the image and take the shot… Move on.

There’s Always Tomorrow

Not all ventures into public spaces are eventful. Sometimes its best to know when your days is done.

On more that one occasion I’ve found myself frustrated with the handful of images i gathered – only to be pleasantly surprised with the final results post edit.

Understand your limits and know that There’s Always Tomorrow.

Editing To The Rescue!

Editing can turn a mediocre image into something quite special. With the correct tools – and a little know how – you can turn that frown upside down.

My editing software of choice, is of course, Lightroom.

There will be a full tutorial on editing, along with a follow along style video. But for now, here is a little before and after.

If you are looking to achieve a Black & White image, it must contain black and white. All to often, “Black and White” images are in fact actually different shades of grey. Don’t be afraid to bring the highlights up and the shadows down – it really makes all the difference.


  • Allow time for your style to develop organically.
  • Understand in your own mind what you are trying to achieve by photographing this particular subject
  • Don’t get too hung up on the technicalities of your equipment
  • If today didn’t quite work out, there is always tomorrow
  • If in doubt, run it through your editing software to see if the image has a hidden gem.