How to improve your street photography by going off the beaten track

There’s something in the song title by Lou Reeds ‘Walk on the wild side’ that resonates perfectly with capturing better, more insightful photographs than the usual run of the mill tourist trap type street photography that is commonly on show by some amateur photographers that present their work on Instagram and YouTube.

In my opinion going to the obvious places will sometimes lead to missing out on those darker, more atmospheric photographs invisible to the eyes of the tourist.

It may mean that in order to sniff out those kinds of photographs one needs to mooch into the back streets and alleyways of any town or city that one chooses to shoot street photography in and walk on the wild side.

It is sometimes necessary to take a few risks to improve your street photography images and get off the beaten track by becoming something of an adventurer.

Street Photography teaches you to be a student of Observation

I often walk to my local towns based in Medway, Kent to shoot street photography. I never drive there because that is firstly lazy and secondly you miss out on so many photographic opportunities simply because you were maybe on public transport or driving a car.

There are great health benefits from walking besides the photographic benefits that one can find on your journey.

I always try to vary this short journey by taking different routes because you never know what you might come across to photograph. The urban landscape is always changing and what might have been on a street corner one week may not be there the next.

I have learned so much about my local environment through being a street photographer because it teaches you to be a student of observation and become aware of all the changes going on around you from week to week.

I regularly walk past this old hospital that has been closed down for a couple of years and I have noticed how over time the neglect of the building is starting to show from the way nature is beginning to reclaim what was once it’s own territory.

Check out this first photograph I made through the front gate. The pair of shoes abandoned by the boarded up metal door adds a strong visual interest to the photograph and is typical of what I look for in my work as a visual artist. It is pure cinematography similar to how they design a set for a movie only this is made in an organic fashion and only needs seeking out. It is a means of using subtle communication and is the basis in storytelling to a willing audience. I am always on the look out for naturally found and left behind props that to the ordinary laymen would be totally insignificant. It may be viewed as just more litter on the streets but for a seasoned photographer it is a natural still life.
It also has religious connotations with the sandal like leather shoes and the Christ like figures on the left.

I aim to tell stories in a single frame and to capture the imagination of the viewer by concentrating on subject matter and composition both of which are key components in my work.

Street photography, philosophy, London,
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“A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera.”

Dorothea Lange

1895 – 1965

Walking helps you to tune in to your local surroundings

I move on and further along the road I find this telephone box that I have never seen anybody use. I mean why would anybody use an old phone box when everyone has a smartphone.

I am drawn again by the condition of the phone box and how it is in a state of decay. In my street photography I don’t always include people but I like the photographs to hint at the presence of people and how they connect to their surroundings. The idea is to be aware of what is around you as you walk from point A to point B and develop your prowess as a photographer which will only make your photographs that much better in the long run.

Walking definitely helps you to tune in to your local surroundings and even if you are not taking photos you are learning to see without a camera.

Phone box, street photography, Kent
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Street Photography offers you the spirit of adventure

I turn left into a back road on my way to Chatham town center where I chance upon a set of fire extinguishers that have been left on wasteland on a slab of concrete behind a metal fence. This kind of scene is music to my ears and already inside 30 minutes I have found 3 decent photographic opportunities that would have passed me by had I not bothered to walk into town. What i love more than anything about street photography is the spirit of adventure that one can tap into as you find your way as a photographer. It is a voyage of discovery and no matter where you are in the world is a process that just works in this genre of photography.

If only more people could embrace this random way of capturing photographs then their portfolio would be so much better I am sure. The joy I find when coming across a scene that has a lot of potential is what makes it all so worth while.

Street photography, Kent, UK
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On close examination then the overwhelming realization is that after years of investing time in this great genre I have come to the conclusion that to really produce the quirky, unusual and unbelievable street photographs one needs to become an explorer, an adventurer and develop the courage of a lion and to go where others would fear to tread.

In true Lou Reed style:

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

Doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo

A thousand-mile journey begins with just one step.

Follow me on Instagram @alfrankmonk