How to use the background in Street Photography

I have recently been posting a lot of street photography to this blog and social media. It used to be a personal passion but since posting it to my blog I have received some great feedback and lots of brilliant questions.  Many of the questions centre around how to improve when it comes to street photography. Unfortunately the phrase ‘street photography is 99% failure’ is correct. Some days I have spent hours trying to find that perfect shot, other days it had taken minutes. But there are some tips and tricks that can really help focus your eye when it comes to shooting street photography.

On this post I am going to talk about how the background effect your photographs using examples I shot yesterday. The photos aren’t going to make it into a photo book anytime soon but they do demonstrate how important the background is. You don’t want it detracting attention from the main subject you need it to enhance the image.



Advertising is always a good starting point. Here I waited for a women to walk into the frame; creating a symmetry between the two faces with similar expressions.


Here again advertising provided the backdrop for the image. The contrast is created by the two portraits, both women look similar but one is a model and the other a Londoner on her lunch break.


The light really makes this image. I was shooting in bright midday sun before work so getting the dark back ground and bright light on his face makes it look like he’s coming out of the shadows.


An unflattering image of this tourist but it shows how central composition and matching colours really draws your eye in. By capturing this women in a blue top surrounded by blue scaffolding it keeps the image together and succinct.


By using this window it is both the foreground and background. The colours captured in the shop and reflections all come together to create a bright, busy atmosphere which sums up the feeling of Oxford Street.


Oxford Street is a constant movement of people so seeing someone stood still is a rarity. To photograph this man I took a step back so passers-by entered the frame to give some context and sense of location. To emphasise his stillness even more I could’ve used a slower shutter speed.

If you’ve never tried street photography before I would highly recommend giving it a go. It’s a great way to stay motivated and get the creative juices flowing.

You can also find me over on instagram @madisonbeachphotos  where I will be posting lots of images from newly developed 35mm films.



One thought on “How to use the background in Street Photography

  1. Pingback: Where to Shoot Street Photography in London – Madison Beach

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