Street Photography with John Tilsley

Street Photography Tips and Tricks

John Tilsley is a photographer with a passion for street and landscape photography. Below he talks through some of his street images, and how he manages to capture everyday human life.

Dorchester Camera Club has just started a street photography special interest group. As a lifetime lover of this genre I of course joined. Helen and Stephen, the organisers, ran a couple of Zoom sessions where we shared images. They then suggested that we meet in Weymouth for a real life shoot. 

The idea was not to have a pack of 10 photographers prowling around the town, preying on unsuspecting residents and visitors! A start time was arranged and we were encouraged to spend two hours recording the streets of Weymouth then to meet up in a café to see what we had got. There was the added excitement that we might meet up accidently and do some “chimping”!


The Secrets

One of the secrets of successful street photography is making optimum use of the light and weather conditions. When the day of the shoot arrived, it was cold, clear and bright with interesting clouds in the sky. As the first such day after a prolonged period of grey light, this ensured that the town was full of visitors, especially as dogs are only allowed on the beach in the winter months. However, good weather is not always needed for street photography. Helen and Stephen specialise in “Dismal Weymouth,” and I love photography in the rain. All those umbrellas and wet reflected pavements can produce some unique images. 

So, what did the sunny conditions produce? First and foremost, long, dramatic shadows. It might have been sunny but it wasn’t warm so there was a briskness to peoples’ movement which created interesting subject matter. However, young children seemed impervious to the cold and continued to play on the beach. The overall impression was dogs they were everywhere, in all shapes and sizes. 


The Location

Weymouth is famous for its sandy beach but there is much more. There is a thriving recreational harbour, and the main shopping streets are based on a medieval pattern, with some really distinctive buildings. Most importantly, there are large areas that have been pedestrianised and in others, cars are discouraged. This is a street photographer’s dream as you don’t have to worry about distracting parked cars! I know the town well, having worked there for 40 years, so I have my favourite spots to visit for shooting.

The Subject

It’s important to think about how you will capture subject matter for street photography. One option is to choose a suitable viewpoint where the light and background is appealing and just wait for a subject to walk in. This is not an exact science and you need to be prepared for disappointment. “The Closet'' is an example of this. The building and lighting are just right but even the best image I took on the day just doesn’t work. However, having identified the venue there is always another day.



Advertisements and street signs

Advertisements and street signs can be really useful when creating images for street photography. The sign saying "Pure Hair and Beauty" contrasts wonderfully with the very dishevelled dog in “Walkies”! The ‘’Turn Right’’ on the road surface leads you into the change of light on the street corner. Changing your point of view can also be very successful, looking down or out from a doorway often works. On this day, I knew that the old dock for unloading tomatoes from the Channel Islands was 3-4 feet above the road surface. This enabled me to position myself at the foot level of the pedestrians on the dock. An artist had set up her easel with a painting of the harbour. All I had to do was wait for people to fill the stage.



As I said at the beginning of the blog, Street Photography is one of my favourite genres. When I returned to the café after the allotted two hours I was as excited as everybody else with the experience. 


View more of John Tilsley’s work here

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