05/27/2014 10:25 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Don't Overlook the Nuances in Street Photography


One of the most important things about street photography is to have a keen eye for your surroundings. Sometimes, it's the subtle relationships that make for a great image.

Take a quick look at this photo by Flickr user Sabrina M., and you'll notice it has nice framing, strong lines and a pleasing composition. But it's the subtext of the photo -- the emotional distance of the two women -- that makes it great.

The women are standing just a few feet apart, each smoking a cigarette and each seemingly oblivious to the other. It's almost as if they're taking great pains to avoid making eye contact. Are the women using their cell phones because they need to send important texts or is it because it gives them a reason for not making small talk?

These are things that Sabrina says went through her mind when she came upon this scene in her hometown of Antwerp, Belgium. This photo was taken near Antwerp's city hall in an area where many of the homes have survived from the 16th Century.

Smoking in cafes and restaurants is banned in Antwerp, so now you can see people taking smoke breaks on sidewalks all over the city, Sabrina says.

"Even the bad weather does not keep them from getting outside to smoke a cigarette," she says. "When I saw these two standing outside in the rain, smoking and texting, I wondered why they were not talking to each other and then I spotted the mobile phones. So, instead of having a great chance to meet someone new, they were texting their 'old friends.'"

Sabrina used her Fuji X-E1 with an 18mm pancake lens to capture the moment. She bought the X-E1, Fuji's retro-styled mirrorless camera, specifically for street photography because it's so much smaller and "less offensive" than her Nikon D800.

"It's quick to focus and even in manual mode it's a great camera," Sabrina says. "I totally love it."

Image by Flickr user Sabrina M. It is used here under a Creative Commons license. A version of this post appeared on Cosmic Smudge.