What makes great street photography?

What defines the best street photography? Good street photography is everywhere and so is bad street photography. But what exactly makes a photo stand out from the rest? What makes street photography... excellent?

In the past week we've picked the brains of 14 of our most talented international street photography friends to share their thoughts in the hope it'll shed some light on this subject.

You can find out more about their individual work and read each of their Street Photography London interviews by clicking their individual links below.


Let's get started with Jason Reed member of the excellent international OBSERVE street photography collective. Check out their website, it's well worth the detour.

1) JASON REED

"Is it memorable? Do you want to revisit it time and again and do you get as much pleasure with each visit as you did on the first viewing? 

If the answer to these questions is 'Yes' then the image is successful. The tricky part is defining why it has such an effect. It may be that the image moves you to laughter or tears (or close to either) and touches something perhaps more profound or familiar. I always think that finding the answer to 'why?' is often futile and sometimes, just being guided by your heartfelt reaction is enough."

© Jason Reed

© Jason Reed


Second, Lorenzo Grifantini, an Italian street photographer who we recently interviewed. Lorenzo was featured in Vice among other publications and we love his colourful Italian Summer series.

2) LORENZO GRIFANTINI

"Street photography’s average level has exponentially increased in the last few years but also It’s more and more difficult to find standing out images in this overcrowded photographic world.

What I try to achieve when I do my street photography-hunt is obviously to find an interesting story, but what really makes the difference between a good image and an outstanding one is when you manage to fill the frame with different elements perfectly balancing each other giving compositional harmony among the parts, regardless their relative positions at moment the picture is taken.

The best way to represent this idea is a Calder’s painting or a sculpture in where the natural movement is transmitted into sculpture by assembling elements that balance themselves naturally by weight, surface area and length of wire arm.

To achieve this is extremely difficult and the moments in where all these elements magically match all together to create the unrepeatable are rare; this usually happens when you haven’t got the camera with you!"

© Lorenzo Grifantini

© Lorenzo Grifantini


Next is Iwona Pinkowicz. A rapidly growing street photographer who, believe it or not, has been shooting street for only a little over a year. We have been supporters of her excellent photography for a while now and really happy to see her work go from strength to strength. Her latest project is a 365 of striking street portraits.

3) IWONA PINKOWICZ

"Great street photographs should say something about life. They should fill us with an emotion or give us an insight into life around us. A great street photo is the one that elicits a reaction, be that a specific feeling, story, idea or memory. And then light, shapes and forms can only aid in a success of a photo."

© Iwona Pinkowicz

© Iwona Pinkowicz


Our own founding editor, London based street photographer Nicholas Goodden says:

4) NICHOLAS GOODDEN

"You know that moment. You're out for a whole day shooting and yet nothing really stands out until that fraction of a second in which you see it, you frame, you click. Before even looking at the shot you know deep inside you that this was the shot. It's an instinct, something inside us. Photographers just need to listen more to their gut feeling and not chase photos. The more you look for it the less likely you are to find it."

© Nicholas Goodden

© Nicholas Goodden


L.A. based street photographer Joshua Rose (one of our top interviews last year) has a short straight to the point idea of what makes a great street photo:

5) JOSHUA ROSE

"A good street photo makes one wonder, “how did you get that shot?” A really good street photo makes you feel something. A great street photo captures a piece of humanity never before seen. While doing the previous two things."

© Joshua Rose

© Joshua Rose


Marco Larousse recently collaborated on our article Why Choose Black and White in Street Photography. Marco is currently curating a weekly street photo of the day for Photofocus. Here is what he looks for when picking an image:

6) MARCO LAROUSSE

"Does the image tell a story or does it invite me to make up a story in my mind or do I feel emotions looking at it? Is the image structured in a way that the main subject(s) is/are easily visible and stick out? Does it have interesting symmetry? Do color or the black and white tonality and contrast look pleasing to me? Do I see that this image has the potential to be of interest to people in 30 years time? Could it even be a document of our time today for future generations?"

© Marco Larousse

© Marco Larousse


Andreas Ott is a street photographer from Germany we interviewed back in April last year:

7) ANDREAS OTT

"A great street photo is emotive, either through its story or composition. It often shows a scene most people wouldn't notice in their day to day life. The photographer’s intention, thought and vision stands out, more than technical perfection. It's one you would print as a postcard or hang on the wall"

© Andreas Ott

© Andreas Ott


Valerie Jardin also was recently included in our Black and White street photography article and says:

8) VALERIE JARDIN

"A good street photograph depicts the ordinary in an extraordinary way.  Sometimes the photographer will highlight an interesting expression or body language. Other times he or she will draw attention to the human form in the urban landscape or feature it in an exceptional light. A good street photograph should always tell a story while leaving room for the imagination." 

© Valerie Jardin

© Valerie Jardin


French Street Photographer Cedric Roux has a simple explanation:

9) CEDRIC ROUX

"To me, a great street photo is a simple photo which tells a story. A very simple photo without too much processing, something honest from the heart."

© Cedric Roux

© Cedric Roux


Our friend International street photographer Marius Vieth who we interviewed a few months back says: 

10) MARIUS VIETH

"In order to create a great street photo, you have to love life from the bottom of your heart. You have to be willing to connect your inner universe with your outer universe. While everyone else looks for the beauty instead of the beast, you look for the beauty in the beast. Even though technical excellence and amazing gear helps, at the end of the day there are only 3 things that truly turn a great photo into a golden one: your eye, heart and soul."

© Marius Vieth

© Marius Vieth


Australian street photographer Iain Anderson is on a similar level as Marius when it comes to touching the soul:

11) IAIN ANDERSON

"Far beyond technique or tools a great street photo has emotion. I don't mean showing someone being emotional. It will grip your heart, resonate your soul & bring you close to tears with its transcendent beauty."

© Iain Anderson

© Iain Anderson


Italian photographer Luca Giorietto says:

12) LUCA GIORIETTO

"I think that a great street photo (but actually every photo) is the result of a strong emotion, it doesn't matter if it's positive or negative. As for me, when I take a picture, I feel the adrenaline in front of something worth it. This has nothing to do with the technique, the right subject or the right light: it's instinct, it's primordial. You have to feel excited like a child in front of something new."

© Luca Giorietto

© Luca Giorietto


Idene Roozbayani, a street photographer we interviewed a while back says:

13) IDENE ROOZBAYANI

"A clear focus on the subject matter; captured in a moment of every day life that only the photographer was there to see. This for me is what makes great street photography, seeing what someone else saw presented in perfect composition."

© Idene Roozbayani

© Idene Roozbayani


And last but not least, street photographer Benjamin Nwaneampeh from the X100C Collective.

14) BENJAMIN NWANEAMPEH

"The viewer should be able to look at the photo and see a story unfold. You should be able to see a clear possible beginning, middle and end to the story. I think sometimes it's best not to see the whole story. This leaves an element of mystery, which I quite like in street photography. This is made perfect when the light, shadow and composition help to tell the story as well as add an artistic value to the photo."

© Benjamin Nwaneampeh

© Benjamin Nwaneampeh


So here we are.

We hope you enjoyed these 14 different views on one single subject on which, in reality, there is no perfect answer. Each one of us will see things a little differently.

What do you think makes a great street photo?

Your views matter to us so leave a comment!