A Moment in Time by Alan Graham LRPS

Street Photography

I have fallen into the world of street photography by default, 21 years as a police officer in London is mainly to blame. A keen interest in what is happening around me, observing people and an ability to sense that something is about to happen are skills I have transferred to my photography. It hasn’t helped with the quality of my images, that is another story.

For me street photography is the interaction of people within their environment. Ideally this would be in a public space and sometimes include animals. A photograph of a street void of living things is a cityscape and is not covered in this presentation.

Through my own work I will explain the different styles of street photography as I see it and give a brief background on how each image came about. The aim is to inspire others to go out and capture a moment in time

1. The Waiting Game


Setting up my camera and waiting for something to happen is not the most challenging street photography I have encountered.

If you are lucky something might happen.

More often than not it doesn’t.

It does allow you to play around with your settings, you just have to be awake to what unfolds before you.

London is a source of many of my street photographs especially along the South Bank and around Southwark.

Getting to know an area is helpful but new things always crop up mainly because the people are transient.

This image was planned before I even arrived. I had seen dozens of shots of the bridge but none from the floor. A mini tripod and wifi between camera and phone gave me the best time to snap. The bridge still wobbles…


Another image I had in mind when I visited London. This escalator is part of the London Bridge Station upgrades and had not been long open. I was open minded as to what I was expecting but after a few minutes I decided I wanted two people level. The bonus was the man looking just at the optimum moment. The woman was too transfixed on her phone to notice.

"Crossing the Thames"

This image was not pre-planned but I spotted the opportunity for an interesting interaction between the people and water rill.

I have added it to this section because once spotted I only had to wait for the right moment. Time allowed for that moment to arrive.

The timing of someone stepping across was the key to the shot, the red shoes were a happy accident.

2. Spotting a Shot

On the Hoof

This method is similar to pre-planned but more spontaneous.

It involves spotting a possible shot and only needing a short adjustment to your position to get what you are after.

Awareness of your camera’s settings is more important as you tend not to have too long to wait.

Unlike sharp shooting (Ch.3) you have more time to think about your shot.

Don’t spend too long thinking about it or the chance will be lost.

"Finding Grandad"

The above image was taken at the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery in Belgium I spotted the potential for this image whilst still outside the cemetery.

The vastness of the graves and the lone woman looking at inscriptions needed recording. The low boundary wall gave me support for the shot.

"Back Against the Wall"

Sometimes you spot an opportunity and hope it remains in place long enough for you to change position.

This city gent was in a different world, the lunchtime sun and whatever he was listening to allowed me time to move from the top of the stairs to the bottom.

This placed him into a more dominate position which is emphasised by the strong lines of the steps and wall.

"The Snow Queen" (Click on image to enlarge)

Street photography is often just a fleeting window into someone else’s life, a story in a frame.

It is about capturing emotions, expressions or an interaction with their environment or others.

Sometimes you need to keep watching to capture the story.

Here the Snow Queen outside the Tate Modern appears to be enjoying the appreciation of the passing crowd.

Things quickly changed...

Shortly after the first photo she was beckoned off her podium and given a stern speaking to by another woman. It was a one sided conversation.

Returning to her position the smile was gone.

I feel street photography should include any public place, even indoors.

Until shortly before this image was taken photography was banned in the National Gallery.

I rarely look at the paintings now, the people are the art to me.

Lighting was poor so I used a bench as a tripod.

Since a child I have admired the paintings and illustrations by the American artist Norman Rockwell. He aways found a way to inject some humour or quirks of life into his work.

This could so easily be one of his Saturday Morning Post covers.


It is rare for me to include animals in my shots but they shouldn’t be excluded from street photography.

I spotted this cat whilst I sat having a coffee in Union Street. Someone was teasing it with a laser light.

I saw the dog walker approaching and I sensed a possible reaction between the dog and cat. I grabbed my camera.

As you can see the cat kept an eye on the dog which appears to sense its presence. It didn’t see it.

Once the danger had cleared the cat pouched out of the shop as if to chase the dog.

Selection of other examples:

"Wall Street Crash", "Street Snapper", "Hurry Up and Wait"', "First Date" and "Fag Brake",

Click on images to enlarge
"Who's Watching Who?"

I had not seen this period poster before. A more recent visit to Borough Market shows it is normally hidden behind stalls.

I noticed this woman walking straight for it. She must have been day dreaming because she suddenly stopped, looked up at it and turned.

Now aware of where she was she matched off in a totally different direction. There and gone within seconds.

What I find makes this image is that on close inspection the workers are not looking directly at the camera but appear to be looking at her.

3. Sharp Shooting

Split Second Shooting

This method could be the most difficult and relies on you having your camera ready for anything.

You will be unlikely to be able to change more than one setting on your camera in the fraction of a second you have to take the image.

Even Auto mode can be too slow for this method. I often work in full Manual setting with Speed, Aperture and sometimes Focus fixed in the hope to grab that passing shot.

Often you can not move in Brick Lane for photographers, this day was no exception. Moving along with the flow of bodies I glanced to my left and saw an empty alley, all except this couple. In a single movement I took one step backwards, raised my camera and snapped. As I lowered my camera people emerged from the left and others entered the alley. The moment was gone.

I spotted this gent in the fishing village of Tai O on the island of Lantau in Hong Kong.

As we passed on a bridge he looked at me with a big smile and gave a Churchill salute.

Raising the camera and snapping was spontaneous and maybe one of the first times I had taken a photo in that way.

"Time to Tell"

In a blink of an eye the story is told and gone. A Steam Punk rally is a good place to get portraits as the participants like being photographed.

I spotted what looked like an older sister and brother having a sibling tease from across a crowded road. I had less than a second to grab the shot.

Titles are important in telling the story. Her leaning forward, making him defensive, gives the impression she is trying to get something from him. The time piece hanging from her neck fits into the title and gives a third place for your eyes to look.

"Looking Cool"

The ACE Motorbike Rally at Brighton attracts 100’s of motorbikes and 1000’s of spectators.

Like the Brick Lane image I was being moved along with the crowd. Suddenly there was a break in the people walking the other way and this image presented itself.

I didn’t even have time to stop, just aim and shoot.

"Banter or Barter?"

Southwark and in particular Borough Market has been a favourite place of mine to do street photography.

Sometimes I set out for one type of image and another comes along. On this cold day I wanted to get shots of the steam coming from the hot food.

I was moving from behind the stall when I saw the exchange of words between the stall holder and customers.

I like how the man on the right is more interested in the food than the animated discussion behind him.

4. Street Portraits

"Can I take your picture?"

For some photographers approaching a total stranger in the street and asking to take their photo is their worst nightmare.

Having dealt with people in all different situations as a police officer I don’t mind talking to anyone.

In all of my images so far (except one) the subjects have not interacted with myself or my camera.

In this section they do.

So what’s stopping you asking? I have never been chased down the road yet...

I was taking this image in the market when he spotted me. No problem, I took the shot, smiled and walked away.

A few weeks later I handed him a printed copy, he was over the moon with it.

Madhatter of Camden Town

You may find it easier to start by taking images of street performers but it might involve handing over some cash.

It could be good practice to give some direction if you need them to pose in a particular way.

"Tom the Mudlark"

I find it helpful to engage with people before asking for a photograph. A polite hello goes a long way and show an interest in what they might be doing.

During a walk along the Thames foreshore I came across a couple of ‘mud larks’ (treasure hunters) looking for hidden gems in the exposed river bed.

After discussing each other’s hobbies I moved on and within yards found a broken clay pipe. I returned to show them my spoil. It was then I asked Tom for his photo. A little surprised he agreed.


Gaia and her boyfriend were looking for a hotel in Union Street.

My old habit of giving directions kicked in. My new habit of asking for a photo did likewise.


Paralympian, travel show host and charity worker Ade Adepitan gave me a few moments away from a travel show shoot for this portrait.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

"Bucket & Spade Not Needed"

Boats, a broken pier and distance seagulls where all I expected during this photo visit to Herne Bay.

A hundred yards ahead of me I saw this guy run across the beach and do a summersault, walk back to the sea wall, pick up a camera then start walking away from me.

‘Hey, come back!’ was my introduction to a group of local lads who agreed to demonstrate their tumbling skills.


Many of my images are posted on my daily photo journal on Blipfoto. Taking part in photo challenges often helps me find a useful image for club competitions.

On this damp Monday lunchtime I was looking for images showing a forced perspective. Apart from having my finger push the City Hall over I tried to do the same with this street art. It was missing something.

This woman started to look at the art so I asked if she was willing to take part in my experiment. She was more than happy to do so.

I always offer to send on copies of my images if they are interested.

"Between Calls"

Not all but most of these images have been entered into competition at the Orpington Photographic Society. Some have gone on to represent the OPS at inter club level. In February 2016 I was awarded the distinction of Licentiate of The Royal Photographic Society (LRPS) using some of them.

Hopefully some of them will inspire you to go out and experiment with street photography.

All images © Alan Graham LRPS (2018)


© Alan Graham LRPS

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