Teresa Pilcher Photography

Isolate your Subject Photographically

When out shooting street photography, often the most challenging element is to Isolate your Subject Photographically. Our minds can focus on one subject and eliminate distractions, but the camera will capture the entire scene. People, cars and rubbish bins all can create clutter and draw our eye away from your subject. However, there are a few strategies that can help us to Isolate your Subject when we are out at Street. As you might know I have just returned from a trip to Tokyo and Kyoto. So I had plenty of opportunities to practice this.  These techniques are effective, as they allow the viewer to know exactly where to look in your frame.  I have never compiled a checklist before but I believe that the more aware you are of these ideas, the more you will see them when you are out at street  and allow you to make your images more compelling.

  • Choose an interesting backdrop and wait for your subject to appear.
  • Centre your subject to add emphasis, but do so with intent.
  • Choose a small Depth of Field, by using a wide aperture (f2) and place the focal point on your subject.
  • Use a Spotlight effect by placing your subject in a shaft of light.
  • Drop your shadows so there are no competing elements in the image.
  • Use the highlights to make your subject stand out.
  • Use natural contrast. In B&W images, black gives emphasis, white will recede.
  • Use colour to draw the eye. Warm colours will create impact, Cool colours will recede.
  • Use a combination of these effects to create a more complex image.
  • Use a slight vignette in post processing to darken the edges and add focus.

This image makes good use of the spotlight effect. My main subject paused under this light which isolates him from the crowd which effectively becomes a group of silhouettes. He is also centred in this frame.

In this image I have dropped the shadows in the background to add emphasis to my subjects. Most of the subjects have white clothing, using the natural contrast of the white clothes against the shadows behind.


This image is an example of finding a backdrop and waiting for a subject to appear. This location was quite crowded on a Sunday in the middle of the day, but waiting a few minutes on this street corner paid off.

I haven’t covered every element in these examples, but you get the idea.. T

I’d love to hear if you have any more thoughts on this subject.

Teresa Pilcher

Teresa Pilcher Photography A Blog on Street Photography

Add comment

Leave a Comment