What separates ‘standard’ street photography—the kind of photo that only holds your attention for a moment before, poof, you’re on to the next image—from the photos that keep you staring for minutes at a time?

There are many answers to this question, some incredibly obvious: composition, light, processing, an interesting subject, proper focus, etc. But there is one answer that might not be so obvious, and one that I posit can make all the difference in your street photography…


Motion. Simple as that. In my experience scrolling through thousands of photos every single day, the street photos that make me stop and stare, the ones that captivate my imagination, imply a before and after to the frame they captured, and they do this through the use of motion.

Take this photo by the talented Petricor_Photography on 500px:

The long unmeasured pulse of time by Petricor_Photography on 500px.com

Why is it a 99.1? It’s not because they gamed the system, liked a billion photos to get likes back, or processed it into oblivion. It’s because this scene quite literally comes alive in your mind.

You can imagine the bus whizzing by, the man’s trench coat flapping in the wind, the blurry person in the foreground rushing past on his or her way to an important appointment.

This photograph—and, I would suggest, many of the best street photographs—invite you into a living moment rather than capturing a static one. The scene comes alive, and for a split second you’re there… a passerby who stopped for a moment to take in the scene.

Here’s another from Petricor:

The Speed of our Lives by Petricor_Photography on 500px.com

Again, so much makes this a wonderful image: the composition is textbook, the reflections are wonderful, and the choice of black-and-white allows you to focus on both of these things… but what really brings it to life is the movement.

The slow saunter of the adults contrasting the rushed, can’t-stand-still pace of the children. Once more, the moment comes to life as the image invites you into this moment of everyday life. A banal moment… until you stop to notice it.

Motion. If you want to take your street photography to the next level, try to incorporate it into your images. Notice it, stand in the same spot for 10 or 15 minutes and tune into the ebb and flow of a spot before you pick your composition, then wait for the perfect moving moment.

Your subject might even be static, like the man in the photo at the top or the couple in the image below, but the world around them is moving ever onward as time’s relentless tick wears down one moment after another, one sand grain at a time.

Happiness by Evgeny Shcherbakov on 500px.com

Life rarely stands still—they say the only constant, after all, is change. If you’re capturing life, consider capturing it in motion.