Skip to main content
July 19, 2011

Nokia N8: Street Photography with Ari Partinen

Street photography has really struck the imaging nation over the past couple of years – and I’m glad it has. Global imaging could really benefit from a few days of street photography.  To prove my point I start my blog with this image from the beautiful Cannes in southern France. Absolutely amazing place, gorgeous weather – and one of the most boring pictures on the planet (naturally I’m exaggerating slightly but still, it´s a pretty boring picture).

The reason why I consider the image boring is that there are no people in the picture. Not even any animals in the frame, for that matter. To me it really is all the things living that make the picture. Another point is my picture isn’t unique. I actually checked this and you can go to Google image search, type in “Cannes” and you will get roughly 15 million images from Cannes and they all look better than mine. There´s really nothing in my image that sets it apart from all the other photos captured in that city – and why is that? My picture is missing people, it´s missing the life in Cannes, and because of that – it´s missing the story.

Good street photograph tells a story and it´s always one of a kind. One of my favorite shots I have taken during my travels is the picture with this young Chinese kid jumping in an alley in city of Guangzhou, China (below). It´s not technically perfect by any means, it´s not a particularly beautiful picture but it does tell a story, it tells something about life of the people in Guangzhou, and it tends to get me in a good mood when I look at the picture – and it´s definitely one of a kind as well. I checked this and you can try typing “smiling kid jumping on alley in Guangzhou” to Google. You still get 50900 hits, but none of them are anything like my picture.

So how can one get started with street photography then? After all, we are talking about photographing strangers in the street, and in Finland especially, it´s already difficult to say “hi” to strangers, let alone take a picture and smile to them.

In street photography I think the hardest part is to learn how to confront strangers on the streets. But as all things in life, street photography gets easier over time and you can practice it. Try this one super easy exercise. Next time you are taking a subway or train make eye contact with the person in front of you. When he/she looks back to you, fight your normal instincts and don´t look away, but instead give him/her a smile. I bet there´s a huge change and they will return the smile :).

Smiling is a great asset when you are out there with your camera (or in my case with your Nokia N8) taking pictures of strangers. If you are polite, considerate and remember to smile I guarantee, most of the people don´t mind you taking their picture. Who knows, you might even capture few smiles.

So, my top tips for street photography:

  • Aim to tell a story with each of your shots
  • Remember to be polite and smile
  • Respect people’s privacy
  • Street photography tends to be easier with mobile phones than big SLR’s as nobody takes a fellow taking pictures with a mobile phone too seriously