Asking for a photo and posing is NOT street photography

TikTok Street photography
(Image credit: iamjeanblack)

There is a trend going across the popular video social media platform TikTok that shows photographers, calling themselves "street photographers" wandering the streets and asking people on the streets for a picture, resulting in taking their portraits on the street.

This is NOT street photography, I'm sure Henri Cartier-Bresson is turning in his grave when he hears these trendy photographers calling themselves street photographers when indeed they are portrait photographers taking images on the street.

It might sound the same, but I can assure you it really isn't and someone needs to tell them the basis of the trend is flawed!


♬ original sound - Jean Black

While TikTok user iamjeanblack seems like a friendly fellow and was very polite and did take some nice images of the man he stopped, this is not pure street photography capturing candid moments on the street of unexpecting people. 

This is all intent and purpose, it's a photo shoot or a portrait session in a park... NOT street photography. But it doesn't stop there, hundred of TikTok users are now calling themselves Street Photographers and using the basis of this trend to take photos out in public.

While I love the idea of more people picking up a camera and getting into photography, I'd like them to understand street photography first and then decide that while it's not street photography, they are taking great portraits and are therefore portrait photographers.

How to get started in street photography with a simple setup, explains Sebastian Oakley

This is street photography (Image credit: Future)

♬ lovely - lovely

Again, amazing photos from ryukstyles, and having the portable printer with him is a nice touch.... But it's not street photography, where are the dramatic scenes, candid moments within a slit-second of life - this just isn't street photography.

(Image credit: Sebastian Oakley / Digital Camera World)

While I sound like a boring old fart going on about how this isn't that and why are they calling it this, in anything, there is a process, a process of learning, striving to be the best in your field and this trend just feels like a gimmick, a gimmick and a punch in the gut to the great street photographer that have been and gone, and to the great that have worked their craft for years.

I am sure this trend will continue, because who wouldn't follow the crowd to get views, but I just think it is very weird and really does not sit well with me that people and photographers think this is street photography - for the fiftieth time - It's NOT street photography.

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Sebastian Oakley
Ecommerce Editor

For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specialising in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound and many more for various advertising campaigns, books and pre/post-event highlights.

He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected in to BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 

He is familiar with and shows great interest in medium and large format photography with products by Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa and Sinar and has used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI and everything in between. His work covers the genres of Equestrian, Landscape, Abstract or Nature and combines nearly two decades of experience to offer exclusive limited-edition prints to the international stage from his film & digital photography.