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The Bamboo Scenes Guide to Great Street Photography

There’s something captivating about street photography. A good image captures a city’s soul, its character, and its people, conveying a real sense of place. Of course, there's a method to the madness of street photography, so learning how to take great street photographs is important.

“Headlight” (2016) by Bamboo Scenes Hong Kong Photography Artist Elaine Li
"Headlight" (2016) by Elaine Li - Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, we’re spoiled for opportunities to capture great street photography. This bustling metropolis is full of life, character, and contrasts, and it’s a hive of activity as people get on with their busy daily lives. Turning your camera lens on our city streets is a great way to learn more about Hong Kong and its unique culture. There are old neon signs, soaring modern skyscrapers, traditional handicrafts, packed boulevards, interesting people—and, of course, our iconic Victoria Harbour.

Of course, intriguing street photography isn’t unique to Hong Kong. Most urban centers—whether that’s New York, London, Mumbai, or Bangkok—are incredibly photogenic. Not in their classical beauty, but in their idiosyncrasies and unique scenes. To help you make the most of these cities, we’ve pulled together some insider tips on urban street photography.

Cameras at the Ready

“Primary” (2019) by Bamboo Scenes Hong Kong Photography Artist Gideon de Kock
"Primary" (2019) by Gideon de Kock - Tai Kok Tsui, Hong Kong

Good street photography requires having the right tools. But, that doesn’t mean you have to have the latest DSLR with all the whizz-bang features. You need to pick the right camera for your needs and your style of photography.

  • If you’re a beginner, you don’t even need to get a camera to start exploring the city and capturing great street photographs. Instead, reach into your pocket and grab your smartphone. These nifty devices now sport incredible cameras that are more than capable of taking great shots. They’re also less intrusive and are a great way of building your confidence before advancing to proper cameras.
  • Got a bit of a penchant for old photography like Bamboo Scenes artist Gideon de Kock? Go all-in with film photography and explore the city with an analog camera—just remember to choose a good place to develop your shots. 
  • Already a bit of a pro? Then grab your pack of professional lenses and cameras and go to it—the city streets are your oyster and you have the luxury of exploring so many different types of images!

Things to Consider with Street Photography

“Dreaming About Victoria” (2020) by Bamboo Scenes Hong Kong Photography Artist Jeremy Cheung
"Dreaming About Victoria" (2020) by Jeremy Cheung - Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

Of course, taking great photographs of street scenes requires a little more thought than just pointing your camera and hitting a button. Take the time to play with contrasts, colors, lighting, framing, and patterns to see what kind of creative images you can come up with. Remember, there’s no wrong way of taking a photograph—just do what appeals to you and have fun with it! If you need a little guidance though, here are a few tips: 

  • Keep an eye out for juxtapositions and contrasts that can add interest to your shots—luckily, there’s plenty of this on Hong Kong’s streets. For example, you might see old tenement buildings positioned next to modern commercial skyscrapers, or natural landscapes encroaching on urban settings.
  • City streets can be very fast-paced and can change constantly, so be ready to shoot quickly, as soon as you see something of interest. 
  • Shooting in color is a great way to capture the city as you see it, with full reality. But, play with your filters to change the color dynamics to see if you can get creative and add extra depth and layers to your shots. 
  • Shooting in black and white can also be fun, though, because you can play with patterns, shapes, shadows, and lighting in the dense city streets. 
  • Take note of your environment and use different architectural features to frame your shots. Things like doorways, bridges, and window frames can help you create really fascinating compositions for your photography. 
  • Don’t rush your shots—take the time to observe what’s going on around you and take in the scene. Look for interesting, unique details that offer a different perspective on what you see. And, don’t forget that Hong Kong is a vertical city—remember to look up and see what’s above you!
“Crossing Light” (2017) by Bamboo Scenes Hong Kong Photography Artist Kevin Mak
"Crossing Light" (2017) by Kevin Mak - Wan Chai, Hong Kong

At Bamboo Scenes, we’re keen on stories, whether it’s about our artists, our art, or our work. All of our eight artists tell compelling stories through their incredible street photography, and it’s worth exploring our collection to see how they do it. Remember, street photography isn’t just about taking a pretty picture—think about the intention behind your photography and the story you want to tell with your images.

While exploring the city on foot is a great way to capture great street photographs, don’t be afraid to try different things. Hong Kong has some great modes of transportation that can help you capture the streets and skyline from different perspectives. Jump on a tram or ferry—or perhaps a bus—and see what your camera finds.

“Purple Matter” (2016) by Bamboo Scenes Hong Kong Photography Artist Vivien Liu
"Purple Matter" (2016) by Vivien Liu - Central, Hong Kong

One final note: street photography is not about perfection. The art is built around spontaneity so don’t be afraid of a little imperfection—it can be beautiful in its own right. Just be patient—and perhaps take a few shots—and you’ll soon be taking wonderful candid street photographs.

Interested in seeing more of our art? View the complete Bamboo Scenes collection here!


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