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Shooting 10 Powerful Street Photos in One Ugly Location


When I started out in photography, I always thought: if I could shoot in New York City, Tokyo, Paris or Amsterdam, my street photos would be much better… But it turns out that it’s all about your imagination, creativity, and patience.

To be honest, I’ve captured my favorite street photos in the ugliest of all places. Sure, it’s a bit more challenging to find the extraordinary in the ordinary… but isn’t that what street photography is all about?

Try this…

Whether you live in a tiny village, small town, or giant metropolis, it doesn’t matter. Pick one location where at least every 10 minutes someone walks past. The uglier the place, the more rewarding and impressive the outcome may be.

If you pass a scenery after 1 minute, you’ll just discover what everybody else sees. Staying there for a while makes you explore all aspects and opportunities. The key to success is sticking to that location. Say you are in a little shopping mall or next to the post office in your tiny village. Give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes and explore everything around it.

Lie on the ground, walk around, turn your head left, right, up and down — try as many different perspectives as possible. Experiences this location in different light settings, types of weather and atmospheres. You’ll notice so many major and subtle differences that will offer you new opportunities.

Observe what people are doing. Try to predict what’s going to happen. Anticipate what’s happening next so you can develop a composition that embraces the subject. Even if every 20 minutes a person shows up, it’s not a problem. Take that time to think through your compositions.

Here’s an example of when I did this…

Look at this ugly subway entrance. Even the guy on the right wonders who the hell shoots this depressingly grey location…

To me, it looked pretty uninspiring and bland. However, the more time I spent at the location, the more moments I discovered. Make sure to reduce your street photos to what’s absolutely essential.

1. Shooting the stairway from the top

For this street photo, I used the backlight from the subway hallway to highlight the subject. Besides, the handrails serve as a leading line. I darkened the left part a bit in post-processing to make it transition from dark to bright.

2. Shooting the stairway from the bottom

To capture this moment, I shot the stairway from the bottom. I waited for the sun to set and made sure, that only one person came downstairs. That way, it looks more reduced and elegant as far as I see it.

3. Shooting the escalator from the stairway

In order to make the subject pop out, I photographed this lovely gentleman in front of the lights from the hallway. I placed him all the way on the left so that the viewer can anticipate his movement up the escalator. In post-processing, I darkened everything around the bright light.

4. Shooting the escalator straight from the side

I wanted to shoot another photo that focused on the gorgeous lines. As you can see, you have the handrails on the side, the ones on the escalator, the ones on the wall and the lights on the top left. I couldn’t believe my eyes, when the mechanic climbed on the handrails one night.

5. Shooting the reflections in the escalator

For this street photo, I captured the reflections on the sides of the escalator. I waited a while till only one person came up. It would look even better, if the guy were in the middle. In post-processing, I used split-toning to make it a bit more blue.

6. Shooting two people going down

I also wanted to shoot people going down. When I found this gorgeous couple, I followed them down. The reflections on the side really add to the atmosphere.

Why did I cut their heads off? In this case, it shifted the focus even more to the reflections and colors. In post-processing, I increased the saturation for red and made the highlights warmer through split-toning.

7. Shooting the bottom of the escalator

When I saw this insanely awesome guy taking the escalator, my heart almost exploded. I love the contrasts between modern technology and a medieval subject!

Why is it so foggy? I wanted it to look surreal given his unique look. I cranked up the highlights for the hallway lights and made it look soft with the clarity brush.

8. Shooting up close on the escalator

When I saw an interesting subject going up the escalator, I went down with it. For this shot, overcoming my fear wasn’t an issue. I just captured him while he looked to the site…Which looks pretty cool as far as I see it.

In post-processing, I added a rather dark vignette around him to make him pop out more.

9. Shooting the escalator from the side to crop it in a surreal way

One day, when I was running out of ideas, I turned my head left and right and up and down. All of a sudden, I noticed how I could give it a surreal spin.

Turn your head left. That’s how I captured it. Then I rotated it even more and cropped it. In post-processing, I increased the clarity a bit and made it look slightly greenish through split-toning.

10. Shooting the escalator from the street above

To make it more creative, I went on the street above the subway entrance. In order to give the street photo harmony, I wanted to shoot someone in the middle of the escalators.

To polish it a bit, I used a rather strong vignette around it, highlighted the silver parts and increased the saturation on the umbrella a bit.

Here’s a video about this challenge:

I hope this little list inspired you to re-discover certain locations you crossed off already.

About the author: Vijce is an award-winning fine-art photographer, entrepreneur, and coach based in Amsterdam. His brand new label Eye, Heart & Soul empowers rising and established photographers worldwide. Connect with EHS on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to level up your photography game! This post was also published here.