05/22/2014 10:59 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Forget the Street Photography Gimmicks, Concentrate on the Image


A lot of what gets praised as great street photography these days has to do with juxtaposition, forced perspective or some bizarre subject matter.

For sure, those images deserve their due. However, I tend to favor photos that have great light and composition, and where the subject is a little more sublime.

Take this picture by Swiss photographer Alexander Ess, for example. The three girls aren't doing anything particularly exciting but the photo captures a sense of detachment, or perhaps boredom. You're especially drawn to the girl on the left, whose face is wonderfully highlighted by the soft light coming through the window.

I asked Alexander to tell me about the photo. He said it happened spontaneously while he was visiting a cashew factory in Hue, a central Vietnamese city steeped in history. He used a Sony RX1 to snap the photo.

The RX1, with its 24mp, full-frame sensor and fixed 35mm lens, is a little ass-kicker.

Alexander shot this at 6400 ISO but the grain is hardly an issue unless you blow the picture up. At web resolution and processed in black and white, the grain enhances the image.

This is the kind of picture that a lot of beginning street photographers are nervous to take. How did the girls react to him snapping their photo?

"They took it as a compliment," Alexander said.

Photo by Alexander Ess. It is used here with permission and under a Creative Commons license. A version of this article is cross-posted at Cosmic Smudge.