There are many ways you can improve your street photography. But one of the easiest and most fun is to look at the images of master street photographers. Simply by studying their work you will learn about new techniques and get ideas that you can use in your own photography.
Looking at other peoples work can also provide you with the inspiration you need to get your own personal project off the ground. So if you are interested in starting your own project, or if you just want to learn some new techniques from the masters, then I highly recommend taking a look at some street photography books.
It is ok to use other photographers as inspiration for your own work. It’s not stealing or copying. You look at what they are doing and then you take and change to fit your own style and interests. You do it your way. In the past I have set the same photography project for groups of students and no one ever shows similar photographs. All the images are different and unique, in the same way that how we each view the world is unique.
We all draw on our own experience of life when we photograph and we all have different strengths and interests. What you gain from looking at other photographers work will enhance your own style and might even take your photography in a direction you had never imagined before.
This list is not meant to be the definitive guide to street photography books - there are so many amazing ones out there - but rather a short list of just a few that could help to inspire you to get started on your own street photography project/book. The images are all the sort of thing you could go out and take in any town or city around the world. Their subject matter is everyday life but the stories that the images tell when put together in a book are very powerful.
So, in no particular order...
Martin Parr is a very prolific British photographer. He is still shooting today, but I think that this book of his, first published in 1986, containing photographs of the holiday resort of New Brighton (not to be confused with Brighton) is still one of his best. Using color film and a flash some of the images make you feel a little uncomfortable but the story they tell of Britain in the ’80’s is undeniable.
With photographs taken in 1955 and 1956 throughout the US, Robert Frank’s images tell the story of 1950’s America. A Swiss born photographer his work captured a side of America that had rarely been seen before. Individually and collectively the photographs tell a story that is as strong and poignant today and it was then.
This is a collection of Keith Arnatt’s photographs taken between 1974 and 2002. The British photographer’s work is possibly more documentary than street photography. With photographs from dog walkers to rubbish, there are plenty of ideas in there that may either inspire or cause controversy. Either way, it is a book rarely cited and one that I think is worth a look at.
Fascinated by Istanbul, the gateway between The East and The West, Alex Webb has returned time and time again. This book is a selection of the images he took when there. Strong street photographs in themselves they also tell a larger story about culture and history in a changing world.
This book is full of amazing street photography taken in New York. Bruce Gilden’s images capture a variety of people, giving a snapshot of the residents of the city.
I love this collection of photographs. I like how Elliott Erwitt can take everyday subjects and elevate them into amazing images. I think his photographs are witty and inspiring and this book shows how a series of perhaps seemingly unconnected images can come together as a whole.
And just because I can't leave it off the list...
Images of small communities taken whilst traveling throughout America, showing how anyone, living anywhere has great photos on their doorstep.
And for a little more inspiration you could also check out the work of the following photographers:
If your favorite book isn't on the list then let me and others know what it is and why you like it, by posting in the comments section below. It’s always good to have more recommendations!
PS If you can't get hold of the books then just check out the photographers online (many of them have their own websites or pages on collective websites), where you will be able to see at least a small selection of their work.