Street Photography Tips : Clear frame 6

I will talk to you in this Blog about what I consider one of the most important things in Street Photography from my point of view. I do not expect you to agree with me on this. I had already mentioned in many posts the importance of the content in a photo. Nothing to change about that. I always give much more importance to the content over the form, but the form is also important. It’s a fair balance to achieve. I’m going to talk here about separation. What is it about ? Simply the space you put between the elements of your composition so that your photo is readable. In this case here Street Photography, attention will be paid not to have overlapping characters.



In the street, there are many parameters to take into account. The street is constantly moving. Even if you can anticipate some things, you are going to say that there is too much room left to chance and in the end it’s a bit of a lottery to capture something interesting. I’ll be honest with you : yes luck plays a role. But to reduce the practice to chance does not make sense. There are parameters you control in the streets. Your position to the photographed  subjects and of course the moment you press the trigger. For several months, I have given much importance to this simple rule of being careful not to have overlapping characters in my composition. I photograph everything and anything trying to have a clean composition. You can see it in these few examples below, what I want to talk about. These photos are insignificant. The one and only interest is to work on this separation to have characters that do not overlap.



As you can see, it’s immediately more complicated when there are a lot of people in the frame. But with training we get there. Not every time, but you will be surprised to know that the eye force to work this kind of composition is very responsive and will know when to press the trigger. But there are also techniques that allow you to capture this kind of compositions even if the street is messy. I will detail some pictures that I made these last days in Toulouse where I’m spending a few weeks as part of my training before leaving for Reunion Island.


  • Exemple 1



One of the easiest ways to get a good separation with all your characters in a composition is to use the diagonal avoiding to photograph them from the front, but on the side. Just wait until they come off one another to press the shutter button. For those who follow a little my work, I abuse this technique that is not only effective but also very dynamic because it offers perspective to the photo. In the photo above, there is not much going on, but the content was not what made me click here, but it was that morning light that caught my eye.


  • Exemple 2



Here too it is the diagonal that has been used as a technique, but differently. You also need to use static elements in your composition. Here I had 3 static elements : the guy with his smartphone, the other guy in the van and the group of people on the right. Obviously this composition was way too simple. I left enough room left to integrate the guy with the headphones that went to my left. This scene is composed of static elements and yet there is life in the final composition. The diagonal offers a dynamic perspective that takes us directly to the gesture of the guy in the van. Here again, special attention has been paid to the fact that no character is overlapped to have a good reading of the photo.


  • Exemple 3



Another photo that was composed in the same way as the previous except that there I had only my two bikes that were static. The guy in blue and the lady I integrated left to close the frame, were moving. Here the timing was important to have a good separation between the characters.


  • Exemple 4



I spotted this girl with the painting in her bagpack. I quickly crossed the street to take the picture. I analyzed the scene to find out what I was going to integrate into the composition. There was of course the girl on her bike, the people under the bus shelter and of course the girl with the yellow pants. Once all these elements in memory, I focused on only one thing. I was in motion and waited for all the elements to be separated to press the trigger. Did I see the look that the little boy was giving to his mother or sister ? No. My attention was elsewhere. One thing only mattered to me : separation.


  • Exemple 5



Oh yes on this last example, you need a bit of luck to get something clean with so many people in the frame. But you know what ? I am surprised to succeed more and more this kind of photos. My eyes scan all the elements and I know when to press the trigger to have the best chance to succeed such photos. I think the important thing is to put foregrounds that occupy a good part of the frame and then focus on them. The rest comes almost naturally. I hardly exaggerate when I tell you that I concentrate almost exclusively on this famous separation between my characters in the street. I find this very important because after all, when you look at the photos of the Masters, this is obvious. These clean compositions that make these pictures incredible. Of course it is not enough to make good pictures, but how many potential beautiful pictures ruined because you have not paid attention to a good separation between your characters ? The idea is to train your eyes until it becomes natural. A subconscious thing. What I can say is that it takes times to master that.



All the photographs were made with the ricoh GR in Toulouse.










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6 thoughts on “Street Photography Tips : Clear frame

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      Ça peut paraître contre productif comme démarche de se focaliser là dessus. Mais ce qui est important c’est de réaliser qu’on travaille sur des choses qui sont amenées à devenir des automatismes. Plus on pratiquera, moins on fera attention à ça car ça deviendra naturel. Personnellement je commence à avoir des automatismes qui me font me faire quelques pas vers la gauche ou la droite, qui me font attendre avant de déclencher au lieu de me précipiter, de caler ma position par rapport à la scène pour avoir ce que je veux. Ce que dit John Harper au dessus est vrai. On voit beaucoup de photos très simples avec juste une personne dans le cadre. Tout simplement car c’est plus difficile de faire de bonnes photos avec beaucoup de monde dans le cadre. Moi ça me gonfle un peu de voir les gens affubler leurs photos ou projets simplistes avec l’intitulé “la solitude dans la ville”. C’est juste que ces personnes ne sont passez bonnes pour faire autre chose que des photos simplistes avec une personne isolée dans une composition. Les plateformes de partage comme Facebook, Instagram, 500px ou autres en regorgent et très souvent ce sont des machines à like. minimaliste, très esthétique, mais tellement barbantes et vides de contenu …

  • John Harper

    Separation of the subjects is essential in most types of photography, but especially so with ‘Street’. Layers are extremely tricky when there’s a lot going on in a frame. I think this is why we see so many ‘Street’ photos of a single person walking in or out of light, or in a geometrical architectural setting. It’s a lot, lot, simpler. Oh yes, light helps too and we need to ensure everything else is in place for some ‘Form’. Then it’s just the real ‘Content’ to find!
    In the opening of this article you say you’re; “in Toulouse where I’m spending a few weeks as part of my training before leaving for Reunion Island.” Is that training for your day job or training for Street Photography?! You’re a lucky guy, that’s all I know.

    Cheers for now.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      Ah ah, nice one. Well we can say that my job training ends à 5pm usually then my street training starts until 7pm 😉 Yeah as you said, I’m a lucky guy … I have my hotel downtown, so anytime is street time. Toulouse is really different from Marseille or Aix. It’s a big city with big streets. I spent almost one week just roaming the same street and I was ok ! There’s an old city made of narrow streets but it really lacks light and each time I went there, my ISO was at 25600 !! I was able to go down to 3200 but I had to work at f2.8 … Too delicate for street … I’ll stay on the big boulevards.
      Separation is my main concern at the time. I’m focussing on that because I had a lot of photographs which were ruined because I didn’t pay attention to that. That’s of course when I have time. If I don’t I still use my instinct to click quickly. Somehow I think that training will help me even in those situations where reactivity is needed. Today and tomorow weeke end time ! Free time and fun time in the city ! It’s cloudy and dim light is expected. Perfect for me to work on sceneries and not to rely on this damn sun 😉
      Have a nice weekend john !
      Best regards

  • Mehdi

    salut Jeff,

    j’aimerai bien savoir comment tu fais pour nous sortir des photos aussi top avec tes GR. J’adore les miens ( GRD2 et GRD4 ) j’ai aussi un X100 premiere génération que j’utilise enormement.. Mais j’aimerai bien experimenter plus avec mes GR, c mais j’ai encore du mal avec le coté cadrage via l’ecran lcd. Peut etre aurais tu quelques tricks à me refiler ? reglages ?

    Bonnes photos !


    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      Hello Medhi,

      Le GR est un appareil redoutable dans la rue, mais c’est aussi une philosophie. Comme tu le sais très bien, il n’y a pas de viseur. Il faut apprendre à cadrer avec l’écran LCD. Pour moi c’est assez naturel. Même quand je faisais des photos avec mon fuji xe2, je shootais aussi avec l’écran… J’ai écris un blog là dessus. Viewfinder it’s overrated. J’explique pourquoi de mon point de vue, c’est mieux de shooter avec l’écran LCD. Ça permet de mieux anticiper les choses et de continuer de regarder autour du cadre. Ça permet aussi d’avoir des angles improbables. Shooter avec l’écran ne veut pas dire que la composition est aléatoire. Il faut savoir composer précisément avec l’écran.
      Pour les réglages, C’est assez basique pour moi. Mode A, vitesse mini de 1/800s sur APS-C ( 1/500s Sur petit capteur) et petite ouverture pour profondeur de champ. AF en mode spot et c’est tout. Snap à 1m50.
      Pour le reste, être attentif.