Poker Hands in Street Photography

Ranking Street photographs according to their complexity and discussing Street Photography Techniques

A blog by Mark

I thought we’d have a bit of fun when were out shooting the street and started naming our street compositions according to winning hands when playing cards. So from a truly exceptional hand to the simplest card, read on to discover how to score the winning hands! Mind you, to be a Royal Flush the photograph has to be pretty special!

Royal Flush

The photograph was taken in Kolkata at the famous flower market. I’d been going there most days during my week long stay in the city and one early morning, as I walked under the motorway bridge, this image presented itself to me: beautiful light, almost biblical, and against all common compositional rules in street photography, with the main figure in the centre being camera aware. I took just a couple of frames before the grouping split apart.

It’s definitely one of those places that you know one day is going to reward you and after 5 years and over 20 visits it certainly paid dividends!

The second Image was taken again in Kolkata at the Kalighat Kali Temple. Again I knew this background well and visited it many times and have kept doing so since, but this one occasion the three different compositions all come together and then, to complete the photograph, an Indian lady with a red sari walked thru the image filling the space to the left. This composition splits the frame in three or four smaller ones, each with its own story: it’s one of the street photography techniques that can yield great images.

Street Photography Techniques

Straight Flush

Image taken in Dawei, Myanmar. This was one of those great photography adventures, originally flying into Yangon and then taking a prop plane all the way down to Myeik to then work our way back every few days via Ye, Dawei and Mawlamyine, taking in the beautiful cultures found well off the beaten track. I’m looking forward to going back some day when the borders re-open to rekindle our memories. The Myanmar portfolio can be seen here.

We’d made our way into one of the many monasteries in Dawei where I found this great background with four kids just chilling and a dog lying on the stairs, I stayed there for about 15 mins as the scene developed with dogs wandering through the picture and waited till the whole composition came together.

Four of a Kind

The first image was taken on a photography course in Dallas called Foundation Workshop, probably the best course I’ve ever attended, with two of my mentors being Pulitzer prize winners: Deanne Fitzmaurice and Greg Gibson. It was probably one of the first layered images I set out to take. The other images taken on the workshop are showcased here.

The second image was taken in the fish market in Yangon, while the third was taken in Jodhpur.

Full House

An image with a group of three and a group of two taken in Kolkata’s vegetable market. The key to the picture is background selection and then waiting for the elements to come together, such as heads in spaces and a natural decisive moment between the group of 3. This is one of the fundamental street photography techniques to get a successful shot: work the scene, compose ad wait for it to develop.

This image is also taken in Kolkata.

Street Scene Kolkata


The Flush: five people come together. The image was taken in Dawei on the beach where we were practicing putting heads in the sky and shooting thru creating natural frames. I shot a lot of frames for this image on my Sony A9 and 35mm lens to make sure the ball was captured in its own space.


Five Similar people in a group . Both images taken in Kolkata around the Sudder Street market area. The first image was a gift with three guys leaning chatting on a poster wall, whereas in the second image the group in the foreground were stationary with a great background and it was a case of waiting for someone to fill the gap. I got the added bonus of a random hand.

Three of a Kind

  • Image 1 A bar in Myanmar.
  • Image 2 Three workers in Hanoi central park.
  • Image 3 Kolkata Flower Market. Its often fun to challenge yourself and look for different items with one of these street photography techniques of shooting thru along with keeping all their heads in spaces. I noticed a lot of the bikes had these huge saddles so tried on several occasions to use the large spring to shoot thru, and patience rewarded me.
  • Image 4 I noticed the guy reading the paper and that it was acting as a reflector pushing the light back into his face. I acknowledged him and he let me continue shooting as I waited for the other two people in the temple to make a better composition.
  • Image 5 Two men and his son repairing a bike in Yangon. As i approached the scene the kid jumped over his dad and used the wheel to almost hide behind making a great composition. All I had to do then was ensure that the child’s eye wasn’t obscured by the spokes of the wheel.
  • Image 6 Sometimes you get lucky. I saw the scene from across the street so crossed over to take the photo and at that moment the cat got up and stretched out making a nice little addition to the three men .
  • Image 7 Taken in Nagaland, not strictly street photography but we had arranged this adventure to visit and photograph some of the last headhunters alive. We were real lucky to witness them smoking opium.

Two Pairs

The first image was taken in the Kolkata Flower Market using the foreground subjects as a frame and waiting for the right shape to happen allowing me to capture the secondary subjects behind

The Black and White image was taken in Camden Market relatively early in the day: I saw this great prop hanging from a glasses store so then waited for the right grouping to come into the frame.


A group of two people or a pair of hands. These character hands were spotted in Myanmar along with the twins in matching dresses.

High Card

Just a single great image or street portrait in context of where the person is or what they are doing .

First image was taken in Kolkata, second image in Soho, London where I pre focused on something at a similar distance, then just moved in and took the picture before he hastily moved on! Pre-focusing is another one of the street photography techniques that allow you to be unobtrusive and fast.

The third image is part of a project I covered shooting speakers corner. More of the images can be seen here.

Shoot The Street Adventures

If you’d like to find out more about the forthcoming trips and adventures we’ve planned take a look here or drop us a line!

Mark Seymour discusses Street Photography Techniques with The Street Photography Magazine: Take a listen!