Urban and Street Photography

How is urban photography different to street photography?

Honestly? There are times that things can fall in to both categories.

And, the two styles are quite often used interchangeably.

So, let’s take a quick look at how I see the two compare.

Both Urban and street photography…

  • usually take place in an urban environment.
  • can contain architectural elements.
  • can contain human elements.
  • sometimes contain animals.
  • sometimes contain inanimate objects
  • show things as they really are.
  • find the subjects by wandering the streets.
  • tell a story that the viewer can connect with.

It seems that in most of the cases that matter, the two are the same. And depending on who you ask, some photographers use the term street, and some urban for essentiallly the same image.

I suppose it’s similar to nature and wildlife photography.

If for example, you take an image of an insect, is that a nature, or wildlife image? And does it really matter?

But I know that’s not really the answer you were looking for. So, I looked a bit deeper into hundreds of images, to see if I could find some notable differences.

After some time, I came up with two definitions, that I’ll use for this blog. That’s not to say that they’re right, only that they work for me 🙂


Street photography, is photography that’s conducted for art, or enquiry, etc.

It features un-mediated chance encounters, random incidents and natural photographic opportunities within public places.

An integral part of street photography is that the main subject is a person, or people, during everyday life. Or, it at least has remnants of that human interaction.


Street Photography
Photo by engin_akyurt

Urban photography is similar in many ways to street photography, but showcases aspects of an urban environment.

It combines things like street art, landscape, and architecture photography. People can be included, although the subject of the image is the environment.


Urban Photography
Photo by engin_akyurt


Okay. So now, you should have a better idea of which style of photography is better for you. In fact, you could easily do both. At least until you’ve decided which one interests you more.

That’s the stage I’m at right now. If I’m asked what I’m doing, I say I’m recording everyday life on the streets.

I spent years teaching at colleges, and I’ve given dozens of live trainings and seminars. But, outside of that controlled environment I’m a shy person. Getting ‘caught’ taking images of strangers still makes me anxious ?.

Luckily, at the moment I enjoy both aspects.

Which one interests you more? Do you feel more like a ‘street’ photographer, or a ‘urban’ photographer?

Do you have your own idea about what fits into each category?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

And, if you need a bit more info, here’s two additional posts that might help…

Street Photography – A beginner’s guide

Urban Photography – A beginner’s guide 

The most important thing is to go out and shoot. So do that 🙂



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