Street Photographer Justin Cliffe: Shape, Line, Geometry & Composition

Justin how's the street photography going?

It’s going well thanks Nico, though I should be spending more time out actually taking photographs, I’m keen to get out to areas of London with subject-matter potential away from the centre that I’ve yet to visit, such as Notting Hill and Shoreditch.

I am having some success - having won a Royal Photographic Society competition a couple of months ago and I’ll have a small selection of pictures on display in a New York gallery later in the year. 

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What's the one main reason you shoot street work?

There’s excellent subject matter in some great settings that I see pretty well every day in and around my job in London – need I say any more!

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It seems your emphasis is more on aesthetics, composition/geometry, light/shadow contrasts... instead of conveying specific emotions which I personally sometime (not always) find a little over the top, bordering cheesy (couple kissing, hugging...). Am I right?

Yes you are. I’ll often look to avoid a face / eyes as, invariably, that’s what the viewer’s own eye is drawn to. I therefore try and capture images that stand out as result of shape, line, geometry and composition.

I cannot get excited about taking pictures of ordinary people doing ordinary things (there’s already too much of those sort of pictures out there which are classed as ‘street photography’) and I won’t go for the ‘cheesy’ however I do occasionally look to photograph interesting people in interesting situations.

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You seem very happy with your Fuji camera? I have to say that we don't tend to go on and on about street photography gear here on SPL but it's a tempting piece of kit I've got to say.

Yes, I am very happy with the Fuji X100s, it’s a lovely camera to use, very discreet when needed and the controls all well placed so that they can be changed easily without needing to check a screen.

I do occasionally also use my Canon 7D, with the 50mm lens, if I’m doing more human interest style of photography

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What are your thoughts on cropping? Do you feel strongly about it or don't really care?

I will crop in post production but generally only when, using the X100s fixed lens, there is too much extraneous material. I’m looking forward to trying out the tele-extender that Fuji are launching shortly.

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How about post-processing? (I actually find myself doing less and less)

Likewise – usually just conversion to black & white using Lightroom (which I just love) and, when required, Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, with just a little tweaking to accentuate the difference between the light and the shadows.

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How many hours a week would you say you dedicate to photography?

Not enough! It does vary depending on what else is going on, both at work and at home but I need to make more time available both to get out and photograph and to do things with my images once I get them home.

What photography book could you recommend?

I suppose it was ‘Street Photography Now’, by Sophie Howarth & Stephen McLaren – the one with the pigeon walking alongside commuters in black as the cover – that caught my attention and, to an extent, started my interest in street photography, so that would be my recommendation.

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What online photography resources do you find yourself going back to regularly if any?

Other than the SPL Blog(!), publications by Craft & Vision [http://craftandvision.com/, video podcasts by Ted Forbes on the Art of Photography [http://theartofphotography.tv/ and various online photographic magazines

Finally, I think any beginner can benefit from a little tip or advice. What would be yours?

Anyone can benefit from tips or advice, I know I can. That said, my advice would be look at photographs and ascertain what works and what doesn’t. I also joined the Royal Photographic Society as a way of learning composition and technical skills. But the best way is really to just get out there and take pictures, get to know your camera and experiment.


Thanks a lot Justin!


View more of Justin's excellent photography here on SPL or directly on his website.

Also follow him on Twitter and

read his latest blog post: Light and Shadows in Street Photography

All photos © Justin Cliffe