The Decisive Moment in Street Photography: Be ready with your camera for it BEFORE it happens!

Adapted from the book: Shooting from the Hip: Three Years of iPhone Street Photography

In Germany in the 1920’s a guy called Oskar Barnack hand built one of the world’s most revolutionary cameras, the Leica.

iPhone Photography

The beauty of his camera was that it was small enough to be easily hand held, could easily be pointed in any direction, had great image quality and was very quiet and VERY FAST.  A generation earlier, cameras were large and heavy, generally needed a tripod and were excruciatingly slow to use (see my large format blog to see my modern adaption of  this sort of camera).

The Leica gave rise to a generation of sneaks, people who wandered around taking photos of other people, often without them knowing.

The photographic genre of the Decisive Moment within the school of Street Photography was born. Its core proposition: if anything is happening, one moment is better than all others in which to take a photograph. They called this the Decisive Moment.

If you are good, you will be ready with your camera before the Decisive Moment happens.

iPhone Street Photography

Its all about being ready before the shot


One of these Leica cameras crossed the border into France and landed in the hands of one Henri Cartier-Bresson. This guy was amazing. I read he had the ability to wander around the streets with a Leica glued to his face without being noticed. He took a most amazing photograph of a man jumping a puddle in 1932. Here I am paying homage to his brilliance with an iPhone and the tricky Hipstamatic app.

As in music, there are classic songs that never outdate, in photography, there are classic photographs that are still greats, even when you do a cover 80 years after the original, even if photographed on an iPhone.