Which is better — street photography or candid photography?

The term ‘street photography’ can be a bit misleading. In fact, many street shooters prefer to call it ‘candid photography’ instead, because streets don’t necessarily have anything to do with it. Street photography emphasises, and revolves around, candidness. In that respect, a term like candid photography describes the genre much better.

On closer inspection, candid photography doesn’t sit very well either. It has many ill fitting connotations. It brings to mind a snapshot of a friend who just didn’t happen to notice your shot. Candid simply means ‘not posed’, but doesn’t quite manage to capture the essence of the genre. Street photography, even though quite inaccurate, at least bears some kind of mental image.

How about street-life photography?

A good alternative would be ‘street-life photography.’ Or perhaps just ‘life photography.’ Isn’t it quintessentially just life what we are trying to capture? If you tell your aunt about street photography, she’ll probably think of photo of a street. Something like an urban landscape. Street-life photography would paint a completely different picture. It involves an image of people, not just an empty street.

Taking street photography too literally

Urban, public places are hotspots for street photography, because that’s where human life tends to pulsate. A hotspot can be something else than a street though. Better spots may be, for example parks, market squares, cafés, the beach, zoo or where ever people are more likely to do something else than walking to the office.

Many beginners tend to take the term too literally and not realise, that good street photography may not actually happen on the street, where people basically just walks from point A to point B. I reckon that’s why a typical novice shot is a simple photo of someone walking pass the camera (a so called walker shot).

What a street photographer should be doing instead is to look out for street life. That might be interactions between two different people — more like a distinctive moment (didn’t say decisive) Perhaps a bit more complex scene, that has a narrative and interesting relationships between elements. Something that can’t be replicated and will exist only for a short moment.