Window Street Photography ~ Try Something New And Grow!

Window Street Photography ~ Try Something New And Grow!

Street photography is so exciting – the searching and waiting for just the right moment when a story unfolds in a single frame. I love the surprise and randomness of candid shots, but once in a while I will ask complete strangers if I can make a street portrait of them if I see something of possible interest.  I’m not an ‘in your face’ street photographer.  I have nothing against it.  It’s a style that can yield some amazing shots, but It’s just not my style. I firmly believe that your photography style reflects your personality. Get inspired by the work of others but don’t try to copy them, define your own style instead.

One aspect of street photography that had always intimidated me was shooting people through the window of a cafe, store or even a bus.  Yet, I’ve always admired those images captured by street photographer friends. They really capture a “window” into someone’s life. I don’t mean this as a voyeuristic thing – I respect people too much for that – but it can be a beautiful moment, with room left for the imagination to create a story.

Including signage in the frame provides a nice sense of place. Reflections are interesting, too, and are almost inevitable. Shoot at an angle to avoid being in the picture, unless your goal is to create an original self portrait. Window photography is also a good time to practice shooting from the hip. It take a while to get your framing right, so don’t set your expectations too high at first.  There is no right or wrong way to do it – just be respectful of your subjects.  And turn off your pop up flash!

Photographing people in embarrassing situations is inappropriate.  I try to think how I would feel if captured that way.  I prefer to photograph beautiful emotions, such as people enjoying each other’s company at a cafe or day dreaming. Again, what you photograph is a reflection of your personality. Trust your instinct.  If you don’t feel good about capturing what might be a private moment, then don’t. If it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t!

The best way to grow one’s skill is to get out of your comfort zone. This is especially important if you find yourself in a creative rut or are losing the passion for your craft. If that sounds like you, then try something new, something that is a bit uncomfortable and you will grow in the process.

‘Window street photography’ worked for me that way. Now that I started doing it more often, I am more comfortable and see opportunities everywhere I go. My photo walks are more exciting and interesting. You know the feeling you get when you’ve captured something truly special?  You never want to lose that thrill!

Note: Many of you will ask if you need special permission to photograph people on the streets. Every country is different, but in most  places it’s perfectly acceptable to photograph people in a public place or in a place visible from the street such as through a cafe window. No model release form is necessary as long as you use the images for editorial purposes such as to illustrate an article or for fine art use only.  Any commercial usage requires special model releases signed by everyone included in the frame.  Be advised to check with your local authorities about their rules before photographing on the street.

Day Dreamer ~ Amsterdam

Pause Café ~ Paris


There are more than just people behind those windows!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Valerie Jardin I live and breathe in pixels! Photography is more than a passion, it's an obsession, almost an addiction. When I'm not shooting or writing, I spend my time teaching this beautiful craft during photo workshops all over the world! I am also thrilled to be an official X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website Follow me on Facebook , Twitter , Instagram. And listen to my Podcast!

Some Older Comments

  • Zain Abdullah October 15, 2012 03:58 am

    Hi Valerie,

    You obviously have overcome the fear of shooting people on the street. They are awesome.

    I have a few shots of window street shots to share here. Do not hesitate to give your comment.

  • Paul March 25, 2012 06:23 am

    Great photos, does a polarising filter help or hinder?

  • B March 24, 2012 03:25 am

    I always wondered why (nearly) all street photography was black and white.

    If you only look at photography from 30+ years ago and the people who emulate them, yes you will see a lot of B&W. There are many, many contemporary (and several past) street photographers working in color, and there's a very excellent flickr group dedicated to color street work that's well curated.

    a) Outdoors has the range of exposure that DSLR sensor cannot fit in
    b) B&W can take more exposure range

    These two (mostly identical) points don't mean anything when so many people are shooing digital and converting to B&W.

    c) B&W solve many color distractive issue

    That sounds like more of a problem with the photographer than with color in the scene. Wish there was a similar Unsuck Filter to clean up messy compositions.

  • Frank March 23, 2012 11:24 pm

    Alexxx. creative photos!

  • Valerie Jardin March 23, 2012 08:55 am

    @Daniel, That was a personal statement only. I agree that every aspect of our society has its place in street photography. Photographers are free to choose what they want to capture in the streets. I prefer happy moments and ranges of emotions. That's just me!

  • Daniel March 23, 2012 08:35 am

    I don't agree with the statement that street photography should only capture happy/positive scenes. I have no problems if that's what appeals to you, but it would be a sad situation if we didn't have street photography to reflect every aspect of our society. Note: I don't like street photos that show the photographer's negative judgement of another person, e.g. images of homeless or overweight people that are clearly taken with prejudice. But there is an important place for non judgemental images of 'life as it is'. my street shots if you're interested.

  • Ely Dennis March 23, 2012 08:15 am

    Very informative and interesting article.

  • Valerie Jardin March 23, 2012 06:58 am

    @Pat, I think you misunderstood my statement. Editorial use (you or a newspaper) no release is necessary. But for commercial use a release is ALWAYS necessary, even for a newspaper. Which means, for example, that no one can put your picture on a Pepsi ad without your permission.

  • Pat March 23, 2012 05:49 am

    So a person has to get a release to photo people for commercial use, but a newpaper does not.
    I think you are mistaken. You can photo a person and so can a newspaper. I know they don't
    obtain releases when ever a newspaper takes a phtoo.

  • fotografo matrimonio March 22, 2012 04:10 am

    scapevision, nice work!

  • fotografo matrimonio March 22, 2012 04:10 am

    Windows, and reflections have always been so can place a subject in a world in a really incredible way, hiding, showing, masking...

    I played with it a little bit in london, recently...

    Have fun!!

  • Claudia March 20, 2012 11:07 pm

    Shooting shops in the East Village for a friend's book a few weeks ago, we shot a lot of windows, and would never have survived without our polarizing filters. High noon on a sunny day in Manhattan - all those buildings and taxi cabs love to be reflected in all those windows.

    In one window however, I found a tin man ... and couldn't resist!

  • Rick March 20, 2012 06:02 pm

    I love these photos. Too me, capturing "real life" photos means so much more than traditional posed photos.

  • ccting March 19, 2012 11:24 am

    I think street photography is always B&W is because
    a) Outdoors has the range of exposure that DSLR sensor cannot fit in
    b) B&W can take more exposure range
    c) B&W solve many color distractive issue

    Just IMO.

  • Victoria - Washington Boudoir Photographer March 19, 2012 05:14 am

    That was such a cute kitty!!

  • Howard Owens March 19, 2012 01:22 am

    The post made me think of this shot I took in NYC last July.

  • Scapevision March 18, 2012 04:05 pm

    You can go a bit more conceptual with it as well

    All window shop...I mean shooting :)

  • Scottc March 18, 2012 09:33 am

    Great idea and great photos, nice article.

  • Jeff E Jensen March 18, 2012 08:19 am

    Very nice images, and a great article. It can be pretty intimidating when you first start out but it gets easier the more you practice it.

    Here's a couple I shot in St Louis on a wander one day:

    And, here's a collection of people that I shot on the streets of Chicago one day:

    It's been a while since I've done any street photography. With the weather getting warmer, I need to get back out and get after it.

  • Zaman Khan March 18, 2012 08:00 am

    I think your window photography would benefit from a nice polarizer, Get rid of the reflection in some of those shots, they don't do anything for composition.

  • Chris Porsz March 18, 2012 06:55 am

    Great article by Valerie full of good common sense advice and the importance of being respectful of your subjects. I have walked the streets of London with Valerie and I know her style is a reflection of a compassionate photographer. Her resulting images speak volumes of this approach and I am reminded of the Observer's photographer Jane Bown and her 'gentle eye.'

  • Gary Moseley March 18, 2012 05:24 am

    Like your images very much. Its an area of photography i have been interested in for a while but never really grabbed the moment. I am going to have a go thanks for the inspiration

  • Alexx March 18, 2012 04:42 am

    I always wondered why (nearly) all street photography was black and white.

    Check out mine:

  • Steve March 18, 2012 02:48 am

    Walkers reflected in a window