Observational Photography

imageAt this point, you should have a solid understanding of the photographic medium and have practiced this artform quite a bit. You have kept your eyes open on trips and around the host cities to find stories to tell from observation.

Now is a great time to think more deeply about what stories you observe and care about, how you interact with them as a photographer, and what type of photography you are inclined to do.

Observational Photography

I endeavor to claim that all of us practice observational photography on our travels, meaning we create images of real life witnessed. A couple different approaches to or types of observational photography are street photography/portraiture, documentary photography, and photojournalism. What do you think the differences are across these three approaches?

I asked the Level 2 grade 10s in New Zealand to define the difference, so that we could better identify and perfect our own personal styles.


Do you agree with their breakdown of each? Comment on this photo album any affirmations or changes you would like to contribute to this definition at TGS.


It doesn't do much good to only sit and talk about which style you think you like. It's time to take to the streets and experiment with your camera (or iPhone) to better understand what and how you are inclined to capture. Decide upon your goal for the outing. Will you try to take street portraits a la HONY? Will you try to find one story and create a sequence of images? Or will you endeavor to find something of a more journalistic nature to cover honestly and objectively? Use the definitions above and below to recall the difference.

I've provided some good resources or pointers to consider for each of these three categories:

Street photography/portraiture

If you plan on approaching street photography/portraiture, please read this blog post and leave a comment about Brandon's process. It's important that you think through how he operates, so as to not find yourself awkward on the streets. Mentally prepare for engaging with people you find.

Documentary photography

Take a look at this tag dashboard of resources and images for documentary photography to get a better sense of this storytelling approach.


Listen to Spock to better understand the difference between fine art photography and photojournalism.


Once you experiment and create some images, post a few below and be sure to tag them either "street photography," "documentary photography," or "photojournalism" (with spaces but no punctuation).

On the Street
Mr. Sunglasses
Umbrella Man
  • Lindsay Clark (Banned)
    Lindsay Clark 2031 days ago

    Joseph Hartley introduced me to this Slideshare course on Adventure Photography, and I found Jeff Johnson's explanation of "in-between moments" to be interesting and one that would likely spark inspiration in some of you:


    In-between moments can go unnoticed. They're subtle. They're simple. And yet, they're my secret sauce for capturing a good photo on any adventure, experience, or outing. They reveal the conversations and emotions behind the action. As viewers, we easily connect with them. Your assignment is to seek out and capture your own in-between moment, conveying not just the experience but the humanity behind it.


    1 photo capturing an in-between moment

    Consider adding your Adventure Photography and In-Between Moments to this album should you choose to explore this photographic approach!