Best Cities for Street Photography

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by ray ., May 24, 2009.

  1. In your experience, what's the best or most interesting city to do street photography in? For me, it's far and away New York, but then to this point I've only traveled in North America and Europe. Considering population density, I'm thinking cities in Asia like Hong Kong must be high up on the list. What's your take?
  2. Here's a ranking of cities for pop density, certainly only one factor a street photographer might consider:
  3. hi ray,
    i think this depends rather a lot on the photographer's ability to get the best out of any given situation. new york certainly has been covered the most, alongside maybe paris, but all the large european and north american metropolis cities have been photographed by many. contemporary legislation and extremism factors makes it difficult to shoot at times in cities like london and new york freely. so if you are looking for a little more freedom and perhaps more willing participants, eastern europe would certainly be a good start. here, while there is poverty, however, the occupants would not be looking at a camera and photographer for the first time. in most of the third world cities, while you would not have problem shooting, it is possible that one could stick out as a sore thumb.
  4. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Hanoi, Marrakech, Palermo and New York.
  5. I've never photographed outside of LA and a little bit around San Jose but Tokyo always seemed to hold some kind of allure for me. Someday...
  6. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    contemporary legislation and extremism factors makes it difficult to shoot at times in cities like london and new york freely​
    What's your experience in these two cities? New York is one of the easiest to shoot in, in my fairly extensive experience, and London has been fine for me, nobody has ever bothered me. Paris is the only city where I encountered regular resistance to photographing. So tell us what has happened to you so we can understand this better.
  7. I love shooting in Baltimore!
    Michael J Hoffman
  8. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    So does John Waters. You're in good company.
  9. Philadelphia and New York City work for me as street-shooting locales, and that's with either the 24-70 or 70-200 on the body--not exactly discreet gear. But at other times I'm carrying the three essential zooms, two bodies and two flashes, so it's all relative, isn't it? Working discreetly is a state of mind.
  10. Hi Ray, NYC is the best but my other favourites are New Orleans,Dublin,Niagra Falls Canada,San Francisco,Toronto,Paris. All this talk about the difficulty of shooting in Paris has me puzzled on a recent visit I decided to abandon my normal discreet shooting style and test the waters just for fun. Mounted my largest lens(80 to 200 2.8) and adopt an in your face style.What a disapointment!.No reaction.I was quite looking forward to being sworn at by a pissed off Parisian. Same in NYC except for one poor fellow who I almost whacked with the lens after getting too close.Bill is right,working discreetly is a state of mind.
  11. Paris; I've shot and shoot there extensively and not once have had a problem there in more than twenty years. In London I've only been a few times, will go there again come november, so far not a single problem. Berlin, great. Amsterdam, fairly small in comparison but great for photographing, especially with events going on. Rome, now there's a city worth going to just as Barcelona.
    Funny thing though, although I've never been so far, I always hear a lot of you going on about SF as being something of a street shooters paradise but so far it's only Philip that has mentioned it.
  12. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I was chased down the street in Paris by a maid. I was warned off by someone who I think ran a group of beggars. I had a couple in a park flip out. And I speak enough French to discuss it, but nobody wanted to discuss it except the maid, who told me I was not allowed to photograph her.
  13. I had one guy in NY get his feathers ruffled. The closest I shot him was from about 20 feet, which is almost an urban landscape shot. I tried to explain to him that he was in white and there was a silver car behind him that I thought might be interesting. May just as well have been talking to a Martian. In general though in NY, people are so much in a hurry and in their own little world on cell phone or whatever- the place is a piece of cake.
  14. Didn't have any trouble at all, except some old guy almost popped me with his cane, but I think I deserved it ;>}.
    Jeff, though I haven't been there, I've met some photographers that had traveled through Hanoi, and it indeed looks like a beautiful, interesting and colorful city. They had some really stunning work. i would love to go to Hanoi.
  15. NYC - didn't have any trouble at all, except some old guy almost popped me with his cane, but I think I deserved it ;>}.
    Jeff, though I haven't been there, I've met some photographers that had traveled through Hanoi, and it indeed looks like a beautiful, interesting and colorful city. They had some really stunning work. i would love to go to Hanoi.
  16. Hong Kong has always been my favorite....with Seattle in 2nd place. I'm looking forward to spending some time in Tokyo and Shanghai.
  17. david_henderson


    You should consider Havana.
  18. I have yet to shoot in a major city that has not provided good opportunity.
  19. boston is a pretty good place for street pics--boston common, chinatown, red light district all close to each other
  20. Niagara, Copenhagen and Los Angeles
  21. I second Baltimore. I do most of my street shooting in Baltimore after being cronfnted bt police in my home town.
  22. I take this as a "where should I go?" question, here is where I have been the past few years. I have great shots that are hanging on walls in homes from each of these places so here are my thoughts...
    Washington DC (Home, we miss it) Just can not beat the beauty.
    Niagara/Toronto in January, wonderful.
    Keywest FL we live in South Florida now, but the water in Key west is unbelievable.
    Boston, amazing history great trip.
    Atlanta, too much traffic not a lot happening. <~ I'm sure someone will not like that.
    Chicago/St louis, fabulous time fireworks over lake Michigan.
  23. Most places in Southeast Asia are good for street photography. Because it's warm or hot most of the time, and there's not much air conditioning, a lot of life takes place in public areas. Some of my favorites there for photography are Hanoi (Vietnam), Phnom Penh and Battambang (Cambodia), Vientiane and (in spite the tourists) Luang Prabang (Laos), and Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai (Thailand).
    In East Asia, Seoul and Busan (Korea) are both good. Tokyo is a great place for street photography--it would takes months to explore even half the possibities. Fukuoka is also a fun city (prettiest women in Japan). I've only spent one day in Hong Kong, but it didn't really grab me. I'm sure there are more-interesting parts than the area I was in, though.
  24. Pretty obviously New York. Never had a problem with bystanders, although after looking at shooting I'll find that somebody is looking into the camera. There are so many tourists here with cameras, performing arts people with exhibitionist tendencies, film shoots, urban scenery, as well as the self-absorbed in their own worlds, that it highly unlikely that you will get hassled while shooting. It also helps that street noise tends to obscure the sound of a shutter firing, as well as the visual noise of the sheer volume of people passing, both of which make it difficult to pick someone shooting out of the overall white noise.
    That said, I still use my Contax G1 for the purposes of minimizing size, and the Hasselblad simply because people don't recognize it. Most people shoot with big DSLRs and often big zooms, which seems overly obtrusive to me, but whatever works.
  25. Osaka-Kobe-Akashi; Kyoto, Tokyo.
  26. Tuning the question the other way around, I can't think of any cities that are not good for street photography. The subjects are different in Helsinki or Hanoi or Havana but they are all interesting places.
    The key factor has to be the diversity of the population amongst the charismatic architecture and cultural idiosyncracies of the city, therefore I'm sure there's plenty of dull mid-size towns across the world that are not so good.
  27. Any big city in SE Asia would be good. They all have vibrant street lifes. I live in Jakarta and really enjoy taking an afternoon off, pick a street, and then work it until dark. Singapore is also fine for street photography, but I find it a bit sterile after Jakarta. I bet Manila and Bangkok would be good too once you got to know them.
  28. "I was chased down the street in Paris by a maid"
    that must have been a sight. I think Ray knows very well that in every city there is potential trouble, there are pickpockets and thick officials although as a btw it's obvious and revealing that those who are regularly out there hardly ever encounter trouble worth mentioning.
    As I've said before I've been all over Europe and Paris is still one of my favourite cities to shoot some street. I saw Copenhagen was mentioned, indeed a great place but not for doing street. Simply not enough going on there. The same applies a bit to Prague. Great city to shoot but street, not really. So what are we left with over here in no particular order:
    Paris, Rome, Istanbul, London, Dublin, Berlin and Amsterdam. Point is though to do some research. After all, you don't want to shoot other tourists there but the real stuff. Preparing helps.
  29. How about: Ciudade del Este, Paraguay; New Delhi (even better is Old Delhi); Belem, Amazon, Brazil; Rome; Marakesh, Morocco; I would say that these cities have offered some of the most diverse and interesting human types that I have ever seen. Ciudade del Este is like a beehive, a veritable gigantic marketplace. New Delhi and Old Delhi have a fantastic mix of old and new where there are many differnt people on the streets performing almost every different type of task known to man. Belem has one of the most interesting markets in the world and their port has almost every size and type of boat along with Indians, whores, sailors, fishermen and witch doctors. Rome is brimming with strreet life. Marakesh is the meeting point of the mountain people with the desert tribes. Their marketplace is a real feast for the eyes. Age-old traditions in dress and manners make it very exotic (Fez might be even better). I have never been to China, but I bet that must be the Street Shooter's pardise.
  30. Fukuoka...(prettiest women in Japan)
    I see Mike has hit upon a key point. Googling Fukuoka as we speak.
  31. Chinese cities are in fact good places for street photography. For one, many activities that would be restricted to the safety of your own four walls in the West take place in full public view in China - picking your nose, practicing the tango, playing chess, whatever. In addition many Chinese like to take candid shots of Westerners and don't really mind much if the Westerners do likewise. In smaller cities the one problem that might arise is that a street shooter would be surrounded by curious townsfolk taking pictures of the photographer with their cell phones :)
  32. when asked the same question winogrand replied "the city where i am" - but what did he know?
  33. Right, that's after he got off the plane in NY or LA, or Fort Worth if he was going to photograph the rodeo..
  34. being an avid cyclist, I took three shots of an interesting bicycle lane in Berlin. Two of the cyclists tried to persuade me to delete the pictures.
  35. If you are looking south, don't forget Havana and Quito, among others--in both cases the old parts of both cities, as well as along the Malecon in Havana. It could get dicey in old Quito, though, especially if you are trying to hang onto both your wallet and your camera at the same time. I've only spent a total of thirty-two days in Cuba (on two different visits) and one summer in Quito, but the sights are incredible. I never had any hassles from the cops in Cuba, although one has to be careful what to shoot.
    For American citizens, getting clearance to visit Cuba could be difficult--although that could change fairly soon. Getting to Quito is no problem--only a bit over two hours from Miami. On a clear day one can see 19,000-foot Cotopaxi from el Parque Carolina on the north (and wealthier and safer) side of town, also a fine place to stroll and shoot. You never know what you will see in Quito. The indigenous villages of Otovalo and Saquisili are also fascinating as trading centers. The indigenous people at Saquisili will be in your face for payment to take their picture as soon as you get off the bus, but ignore them--then roam back around later and get the candid shots you want. By that time they will be hassling someone else.
    I remember being in Quito on election day in 1998: businessmen and other professionals one moment, and indigenous people cooking pigs on spits the next--right downtown.
    As for Cuba, Camaguey and Guantanamo (city) are also interesting, as are smaller towns like Baracoa and Sancti Spiritus. If you are into shooting prostitutes promoting their services, just walk up la Avendia Quinta in Miramar on the west side of Havana--embassy row. You will get, in perfect English, lots of "Do you have the time?'' As a response, I recommend something like, 'Si, son las dos y cuarto" or whatever time is appropriate. While there you can also shoot the Russian embassy, one of the ugliest buildings in Cuba. There is joke in la Habana: "What is the best shot to shoot from in Havana?" Response: "The top of the Russian embassy, because you cannot see the Russian embassy from there."
    Everyone who goes to the "southern cone" also recommends Buenos Aires, but that is a lot further away, and I have never gone there.
  36. Places where I have been and photographed include, Taipei's snake alley if it still exists, Paris of course, Bangkok canal life, Thai dancing, Hong Kong not so much except the backside of the island, Munich maybe during Oktober Fest, disappointed in Vienna, some mildly interesting pics in St. Petersberg where I was chased for photograpning inside a market during a winter food shortage--they were very serious and I was scared. Sergiev Posad, Russia(seat of Russ. Orth. Rel. some pics in my PN gallery), Ankara for it's grittiness, Athens for history, I had a project in Amsterdam so I spent some time there. I just like the city and the Dutch a lot and never tired of taking pics. The Hague for it's art and Vermeer who knew more about light than I ever will. etc. etc. Korat City, Thailand. Stationed there for a year. I got some really good black and whites that I cannot now find. I worked in Weisbaden, Germany for three years. Nice historic city with, when i was there, very short mini-skirts in the summer. Lived in Tainan, Taiwan, some very beautiful places within a drive in the mountains. Not much in Tainan. Oslo, for Vigelands (sic) sculpture and troll hunting iin the hills around Holmenkollen. Bergen, for the fjords. enough. You can find something almost anywhere, I think. I just wish I would have taken more and better pictures.
  37. I like Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Denver, Colorado; Vancouver, B.C., Canada; Auckland, New Zealand; Sydney Australia; Hong Kong oh hell, I like them all. I always find something interesting to shoot in any city.
  38. I'm sorry but this is a ridiculous question and discussion. You guys should all attend an NPPA conference (National Press Photographers Association) and see the amazing presentations from image makers who live in towns with a population of 1,000. Their street photography is location independent. The city has nothing to do with it.
    Check these images out. Small town.
  39. >>> Their street photography is location independent. The city has nothing to do with it.

    Exactly. If you're curious, with imagination, and ambition, subject matter can be found anywhere...
  40. No one said it's impossible to take great images in smaller towns. However, most of the images in your link are not street photos. Ray didn't ask where's the best place to go to do a photo story; he asked about the places we've been where we had the best experience doing street photography.
    Sure, there are great photos to be had anywhere you go. On the other hand, some places offer much better opportunities than others for a visitor to do street photography.
  41. sure, but is that where I want to be? I myself rather like the dynamics of a large city most likely because I come from such a town.
  42. Personally, I can say this: I don't know which city is the best for street photography, but one of the very worst is Athens (Greece)! People there are far too high on their own self-importance to "allow" you to photograph them and most of the time they are extremely suspicious of anyone with a camera...AND I ACTUALLY LIVE THERE! Go figure...!
    But otherwise, I too liked Marrakech alot, but also Saigon is amazing, Bangkok, Prague, NY (of course), Sevilla and Granada (in Spain) are also a marvel to photograph, as is Hong Kong....
  43. A friend of mine has just come back from cycling the length of Vietnam. He took lots of street shots in Saigon and Hanoi and handed lollies to the kids. He also said it was easily the friendliest country he has visited in SE Asia.
  44. Fort Worth and Austin, Texas, are my favorites. But I live in Fort Worth so I'm biased.
  45. Paris.
    But then, IMO, Paris is best for anything with the exception of scuba diving and downhill skiing. ;-)
  46. I'm sorry but this is a ridiculous question and discussion. --Tom Becker​
    Perhaps it does not have to be, Tom, although I agree with your basic premise that one can get great shots anywhere. (I have precious few shots posted here of big cities, and none of Havana or Quito, which I recommended above.)
    I would like to hear precisely what people like about shooting here and there, or what to watch out for or avoid, or which things might be worth seeing that are not hackneyed or cliched subjects.
  47. It's been a long time since I've seen truly innovative street photography, but the best street photographers I've seen can be dropped off in Podunk and still come back with very interesting shots. At the very least, street photography done in places that don't necessarily come to mind as being the "best" cities for the subject have the saving grace of showing a place that doesn't get seen very often - that alone can add quite a bit of interest, if the photographer is at least half-decent.
    Vancouver is easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world, if I may say so myself having grown up there. Here are some street pictures from 1950s Vancouver (and some other cities) by Fred Herzog .
  48. Wow, that's some cool work, hadn't seen it before. Of course part of what's interesting is the documentary nature of it.
  49. Havana. New Orleans. Frisco. Actually, the best places to do street photography have everything to do w/ where you're shooting, and when. Why is it a ridiculous question? I cannot imagine for one second that Bresson's photos could have been made in Pascagoula, Mississippi and I've lived there. Nor could credible shots of Gay Pride Day have been made in Juneau, Alaska. Civil rights movement? It wasn't happening in Berlin.
  50. Denver Colorado - downtown area is really great to take pictures .. very nicely developed and maintained city. It's a mile high city - has a unique natural cleanliness, briskness to its atmosphere too - very very picturesque
  51. Street photography in small towns is dangerous. If only a few people don't like it the bad feelings spread due to a heard mentality.
  52. Fred Herzog has a book out, though it is hard to get. Not too bad, some sterling shots but quite a few mundane ones. Definitely a good Kodachrome, 1950's-1960's look. He tends to stand backa bit, so his photography is a bit contemplative.
    I'll tell you a difficult place to shoot street photography, but relatively easy for documentary, and that's Detroit. With a plummeting population density, you can be in the middle of downtown and see a single person per city block. Makes shooting a bit challenging. Outside of downtown, there are whole blocks that have maybe one inhabited structure. Interesting photography in its own right, but not quite the ticket if you want people images up front and center. Plus, because the city is poor and has lots of dealings with the bureaucratic machine of cops and social workers, I get a lot more requests not to photograph people in Detroit than anywhere else I've ever shot.
  53. it


    What's good for you or me, ain't for someone else.
  54. @Marios
    I totally agree about Athens mate. It really feels like people are very suspicious of everything... The street shooting I have done here is almost entirely candid. Only a few shots of traffic light performers (who of course expected a tip :D ). The best photos I have taken are from local markets though where people are concentrating on their shopping and don t pay attention to the dude with the "small" camera...
    Things are a bit better in Thessaloniki though. Especially on the eastern part of the seaside where people are walking, sitting in the parks and stuff. Still quite suspicious, but with a subtle photo-kit you can get by without problems most of the time.
    I also like Porto very much for its extremely "Latin" character both in the city background and the people's mentality, and Monte Carlo for it s luxurious backgrounds that blend wonderfully with the snobbery of most people which is not bad at all because most of the time even they don t care what you do, or if they do and actually notice you, they try to ignore you and look all flashy or something :D
    Now on more Eastern destinations, although the images can be very nice on the story-telling or remembering feelings part, I can t help noticing that in many cases they tend to be a bit cliche in the sense that the relative "misery" that usually is caught in the lens during street walks is a bit of an easy target and depends a lot on itself to make the photo powerful. So we usually take photos that at first sight might look impressive, but on a second sight they look a bit weak on the artistic side (at least my photos and in my opinion).
  55. I would have to go with Toronto ,so much to see and with the most diverse population on the planet,my next pick would be Vernon British Columbia,Thanx
  56. I would have to go with Toronto ,so much to see and with the most diverse population on the planet...
  57. "...AND I ACTUALLY LIVE THERE! Go figure...!...".....More than one photographer I know has said this. That their home town/city is the hardest for them to take pics in. I doubt it's the city/town though......
    ....just a passing observance on that comment. Don't know if it's true or has some other reason....just thinking out loud.
    But, anyhow, I agree with the locale within a town or city statements. They are there. The nice thing about NYC...where I now that those locales are every other block ;-)
  58. Somebody mentioned Marrakech. It is an exotic location but people can be very hostile there.
    Try Bangkok or some other big city in South East Asia.
    I am going to Paris this summer. Have been there before and enjoyed it - without a camera.
    Can anyone recomend sertain areas in Paris worth checking out with a camera?
  59. New York is the best for me; just so much low-hanging fruit. Mainly it's the beautiful light, but also the rich detail. As my wife once observed, it's as if every block of stone and bit of ironwork knows exactly where it lives, everything just exudes that "Gotham" feel.
    I've been to cities that got me very excited about shooting, particularly Berlin and Prague back when they were under communist rule, but not many of the images turned out to be keepers. Same thing for places like Tokyo and Seoul -- plenty of shooting, not a lot of good photos. NY just does it for me.
    The only other place I've had luck is Paris -- also beautiful light and a coherent personality to everything. Also, my limited experience with Mexico has been good. The worst is San Francisco -- I lived there 13 years and never had luck with it. It has magnificent topography and a lot of other visual charms, but a nasty, glaring light that's hard for me to work with.
  60. Jan, go to Belleville because there is a large Asian community there and not too many tourists. Colourful and great to shoot (and eat). Also the streets around the Place Bastille are fun. Pigalle is great but definetely not at night, go shoot there in the morning there are lots of interesting people there. Places des Vosges. Canal St. Martin is also a nice place to shoot as are the cemetaries, Pere Lachaise of course but also Cemetiere Montmartre. The Metro is always a good place to shoot, Cite for instance. But actually you should know by know there are great places all around.
    also you should visit the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie. It´s in the Marais (Rue de Fourcy, near de Place Bastille). Almost always interesting exhibits there with a small but well equipped bookstore.
  61. I'm glad Lex mentioned Austin. I live nearby and it's a good sized city that doesn't have a big city feel. Folks are moderately freindly unlike my native Boston.
  62. I'd think San Francisco would rank before either Frisco, Colorado or Frisco, Texas, but might suggest calling San Francisco "Frisco" to be a bad thing, at least while there.
    As long as you don't bother people, interfere with the flow of traffic or business, etc., most places will offer opportunities. Certainly if one wants to take pictures of someone staring back at you (or not) on a bus or subway, you'd need to find a place with buses or subways.
  63. I live in small town in Finland called Lahti. Center area is couple of blocks. It pisses me off when sometimes I hear this "it doesn't matter if it's big or small city" when talking about street photography. Yeah right! I study photography here and maybe 10 years ago this "pretty well known" in-your-face-flash New York photographer (Magnum) was doing a workshop here and naturally he did his pictures here also. Apparently this small Finnish city was quite a bit more difficult to work in than New York... Didn't work so well. That is what I've heard. No surprises there...
  64. rowlett

    rowlett Moderator

    Every city except, frustratingly, my own.
  65. Without a doubt, New York would be my choice in the U.S. While picturesque, I did not find San Francisco to be a great spot for street photography. Honorable mention to Toronto.
  66. it


    I live half the year in Toronto and find it completely boring for street shooting. I've never seen any great work out of this town like that coming out of NYC.
    I was just in Calcutta. That would be my first pick.
  67. Ian,would that be the winter half? (the mall season!).That could be the problem. {:~)
  68. I'm sure you can find a photo anywhere.
  69. Daft question - i've seen crappy photos of New York and stunning ones from Dundee. It's about the moment, isnt it?
    Perhaps this thread is for people to show off where they've been.
  70. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    The problem with New York is that there are too many bars. Follow a good street photographer in NYC and you will end up in a bar. All the photos after that are of shoes or the sky or other people in the bar. I've been out with some of the best there, and that's what happens.
  71. I've just recently gotten into photography but one place I have been that I would die to go back and photograph is Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. So many beautiful landscapes, people, and culture. I will go back again someday but this time to see the beauty through the lense and not just my eyes.
  72. It's never the same the second time..
  73. With out a doubt Lagos, Nigeria for the sheer chaos of a crumbling city with 14 million inhabitants!

    Disclaimer - photography in the streets of Lagos can be dangerous to ones health.
  74. Without a doubt the streets of Lagos, Nigeria.

    The crumbling city full of chaos and close to 14 million people.

    Legal Disclaimer - Street photography in Lagos, especially the mainland section, can prove hazardous to ones health.
  75. I'm currently studying photography in London, and street shooting here has changed my mentality about shooting in smaller places. I'm from a much smaller city (250,000 people) and London has allowed me to get much closer to people than I had been doing before. The biggest problem I've found here is the sheer volume of tourists. They are often less than photogenic, but of course, like any place that relies on tourism, that are part of the fabric that makes this city.
    I have been stopped by the police once, somewhat reasonably, as a friend and I were using tripods late at night near Buckingham palace while a large diplomate meeting was happening inside. Otherwise, no one has ever seem bothered by me and I have never been challenged about my intent. This could be down to my technique though, I am mostly rather fast and I do know my equipment inside out.
  76. "...The problem with New York is that there are too many bars. Follow a good street photographer in NYC and you will end up in a bar..."....rotflmao
    I know exactly who you are talking about............heh.....but, I gotta admit, with him and his camera in a bar....bars were never so much fun...we usually were the highlite of the bar patrons night....
  77. michael penn....some nice philly stuff....I too frequent both NYC and Philly.....lived in Philly area most of my life, but now in NYC....thinking seriously of moving back to Philly tho. Maybe we'll bump into each other some day
  78. I can't imagine topping Indian cities; incredibly interesting, aesthetic, and millions of friendly, open people. Places like Jodhpur are an absolute goldmine. I would never ever recommend someone to go to Lagos for street photography.

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