10 Framing Ideas for Street Photography Beginners

Hi, this is Yusuke (@_nuts.toyo_) from Tokyo, Japan!

I’ve taken photographs using my cellphone since I was a teenager. Taking street photographs is not special thing for me. I was always taking photos when I found interesting people, but I’d never thought about what the difference is between myself and great street photographers like Daido Moriyama, William Klein, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others.

I’ve been doing street photography seriously from winter 2017 when I bought a film camera, a Nikon FM2. Using a film camera is different from a digital camera, because you can only take 36 photos in one roll. And then, I started thinking, “What is a nice street photograph?

tokyo street photographyNew York 2018
I studied street photography with books, YouTube videos, and talking with street photographers in New York. Then I listed some framing ideas as a wish list which I can use when I’m shooting on the street.

In my opinion, street photography beginners don’t need to think about difficult theories like the golden ratio, because enjoying street photography is the most important thing.
But if you want to know some techniques to take better photos on the street, these framing ideas will be useful for you.

Here we go now!

10 Framing Ideas for Street Photography Beginners

1. Capture Facial Expressions by Getting Closer

Tokyo-SPC | Shibuya, Tokyo 2018 Oct

To take emotional photographs, just capture facial expressions of happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger and surprise.

Be careful. A bored expression is not emotional. In my opinion, photograph of a bored expression can be fun with other elements, but a single image of a bored expression is really boring.

When you find an emotional subject, get closer! The closer you get, the more emotional your photograph will be.

2. Put Some Emotions into a Frame

Mermaid parade, Coney Island in New York

When you capture different facial expressions in a frame, like face of happiness and face of surprise, your photograph will have a contrast between some emotions.

Photographs which have emotional contrast between some emotions make us think “What happened?”. Of course, no one except the person who took the photo has any way to know the actual happening, but it’s really fun to imagine what happened.

3. Shoot Layers

street photography in Shibuya, Tokyo

Do you want to take photographs of the chaos of the streets? You should try to shoot layers!

A photograph that has some layers shows us several events in one frame. For example, in this photograph a girl was running in the first layer, a man was sleeping on the street in the second layer, an old woman was watching me in the third layer and people were walking in the fourth layer.
At first, I thought the sleeping man was a nice subject, but I found out the old woman was also nice and I thought it was really interesting that nobody who was walking behind the old woman cared about the sleeping man. And the girl was running into a frame, so I could put stasis and dynamics into a frame!

Like this, shooting layers is a nice way to describe the chaos of the streets.

4. Find Similarities

similarity, street photographyPhoto by @e.m.k.i
You can’t always find an interesting subject on the streets. But even if the subject is not interesting, you can make your photograph more interesting by finding similarity.

In this photograph, you can see a women giving a piggyback ride to her kid, and also you can find a picture that shows a woman giving a piggyback ride to her kid in the back. (This picture is from “Sazae-san”, a famous Japanese anime!)
This is similarity. And you can find many similarities on the streets, like same poses, colors and shapes.

Do you know why shooting similarities is interesting? Because you do not create the situation, all you can do is just shoot similarity in the moment.

One of the greatest street photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson who is famous for his book The decisive moment, captured a jumping boy in Paris. He didn’t stage this situation, but he captured many similarities in his photograph. That’s really amazing.

5. Capture Coincidences

subway in New York

Capturing coincidences is really interesting, because you can create original stories in your photographs.

Photographer Jonathan Higbee has been photographing coincidences on the streets of New York. Maybe I don’t need to explain about capturing coincidences. Just check his work out and try to capture coincidences in your town!

6. Use a Frame Within a Frame

10 framing ideas for Street Photography Beginners

By using a frame within a frame, you can lead viewers’ eyes toward particular subjects or directions. And, you can also add depth to your photograph by using a frame within a frame. This allows you to create layers in your photograph.

It can be “a frame within a frame” such as doors, windows and even someone’s arm!

7. Divide a Frame

subway in New York

This is a kind of “a frame within a frame” technique, but by using a pole or an edge of something, you can divide a frame and create two worlds in a frame.

This allows you to create emotional contrast in your photograph. If you don’t divide a frame when there is more than one subject, only the strong subject will catch viewers’ eyes.

8. Use Reflections

tokyo street photography, Shinjuku

Walking on the streets, you may find some reflective surfaces such as windows, mirrors, polished floors, puddles or wet roads from the rain. And you can get more interesting photographs by using such reflections.

There are many ideas for using reflections. For example, you can take a symmetrical photograph with a polished wall or you can take a photograph of an interesting subject with a car mirror like Elliott Erwitt did.

If you can’t find an interesting subject in the reflection, just wait for interesting people to walk by!

9. Use Shadows and Silhouettes

tokyo street photography

Using shadows and silhouettes for street photography will make your photograph more dramatic, mysterious, powerful or beautiful. It will also give new perspectives to viewers, so you don’t need to afraid of dark and backlit subjects.

If you want to take photographs using shadows and silhouettes, you should know the direction the light comes from, which depends on the time of day in your area.

10. Get Closer!

Street photography in Tokyo

If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

– Robert Capa

If you are not used to street photography, maybe you will feel uncomfortable about getting closer. But don’t hesitate. To take good photographs, we should get closer physically. Just try to shoot by getting closer over and over again.

And also, not every subjects will come into your frame. You need to move to get subjects into your frame. Moving yourself and getting closer make your street photographs better!


YUSUKE (IG: @_nuts.tokyo_)


New Photo Book Kindle Edition is Available Now!

Check the link above or search “Tokyo Night Vibes” in your country’s Amazon web site! Thank you so much!