How to consider developing themes into your street photography.


One often hears of writers block when an author is trying to push on with an idea but the creative aspect of their writing has walked into the proverbial brick wall. The exact principal also applies to many a professional and amateur photographer when they simply cannot find the creative urge to make the kinds of photographs they have become used to or are looking to explore.

What I have found in my twenty years of using a camera is to work with themes to develop ideas rather than having no focus and to shoot at any random picture opportunity.

This blog considers the use of themes to help develop photography block in passionate shooters.

The word focus is often aligned to positive thinking in the world of psychology because it encourages the individual to think in a particular way about an objective they may have and when they focus on this objective at the expense of other things going on in their mind their potential target has a much higher chance of being reached without all the distractions.

For example, if I told myself to look for red cars only when looking at a motorway, guess what, I would soon start to see all the red cars at the expense of all the other colours. My focus would be on the motorway and my theme would be looking for the ‘red cars’.  Now, this focus can then develop into a laser beam focus that is highly concentrated and the success rate will multiply ten-fold.


From my experiences of teaching photography, I would often encounter students who would ask me that they didn’t know what to photograph and they were stuck for ideas. This is not an unusual thinking pattern in the world of any creative profession and could be levelled with writers-block syndrome where ideas struggle to reach the surface.

Many an artist fall into despair and will struggle for months in a desperate search to regain their creative flair and they don’t know where to look or who to turn to.

In reality sometimes we just need a break but often times it’s simply that we don’t know how to channel our thinking, our mind is all over the place and in today’s world of social media it’s easy to see why. This lack of focus into any creative activity will only go to side track the artist from developing any work with the intensity with which they are used to.

I know this feeling only too well and it is not pleasant to have to go through because being creative to a creative person is their life blood and to take this away for any period of time only goes to make them feel impotent.

Ok, let’s look at the nuts and bolts of finding your focus and getting your creativity back on track. What I know is that developing themes in your workflow can drastically help bridge the gap between creating and not creating, to making excuses as to why you are not focused to finding positive thinking to get the focus to where you want it to be and that is creating good photography on a regular basis.

I am a dedicated street photographer and if I ever find myself walking around scratching my head wondering why I am in this place then I will make a focus point for my mission. I may randomly choose something such as ‘hands’ as a theme to which I can hang my focus and attention on.

Once I am focused on a topic my enthusiasm quickly returns and it’s incredible that by simply focusing brings new opportunities into your work. I have included some images with this post where I focused on hands as my theme and the photography really started to flow.

I would highly recommend researching the work of Vivian Maier who was a street photographer throughout the 50’s and 60’s in particular and some of her themes included poverty, resilience, connection and lonliness.

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