How to Take Photographs Like Joel Meyerowitz

Street photography has been a staple genre of our craft since the camera's inception, and some of the most iconic images — and photographers — in history, were made on the street. Here's how you can emulate one of the greats.

I've discussed street photography on a number of occasions. I've always had an obsession with cities and with history, and as street photography through the decades captured both, I found it endearing from early on. Few disciplines within our industry — which is built on foundations of light — master light more comprehensively than the street photographers. One of the street photographers who encapsulated this perfectly in my eyes, is Fan Ho of Hong Kong; truly an artisan of capturing light. What he had alongside that talent, was his own style.

Creating a style which is both pleasing and singular enough for you to be identifiable by it, is no small feat. However, so many of the greats of our medium have managed just that, and Joel Meyerowitz is no exception. One of the early adopters of color film, Meyerowtiz's work had a distinct look. In this video by photographer, Frederik Trovatten, you'll learn some of the parts necessary to emulate that style in your own work. Torvattene even shoots his street portraits on a Rolleiflex!

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20 Comments

Tim Ericsson's picture

I’ve shot a number of times on the street with a Rolleiflex. The waist level finder is far less obtrusive: your face is never hidden behind a camera body, so people don’t think they’re being attacked by you. They loosen up and don’t even realize when the photo is taken so they’re much more natural. The lower angle is great as well for a different perspective as well.

Still my favorite camera.

Robert Teague's picture

I don't want to take pictures like Joel Meyerowitz. I've always hated his work and found it just plan banal.

Fristen Lasten's picture

@Robert Teague Take a look at his photographs in his 1978 book Cape Light.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Well thank you, but no thank you. I'd rather shoot like myself.

Tim Ericsson's picture

You can do your own thing and still learn from the masters. In fact, knowing how previous artists shot is a good way of finding out your own style and making sure you’re not treading on previous territory.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Well that goes without saying. After more than 60 years of shooting, I don't care to try and shoot like someone else. Which, by the way, was the title of this article. NOT learn from others. I don't want to nor ever would tread upon the style of other Masters. It's best to have one's own style. But thanks for the comment. By the way, your comment only validates mine. I definitely do have my own style.

Tim Ericsson's picture

Sorry didn’t realize you only read the title and didn’t take the time to read the description or watch the video before commenting.

I hope you realize that there are many types of photographers on this site: including those who still need to/want to learn. If you don’t have that urge, you can just keep walking without making a snide comment.

We’re all very impressed with your style. Thank you for sharing that you have a style.

Robert Teague's picture

Because someone doesn't like Meyerowtiz's work, doesn't mean they don't want to learn. Could be they just plain don't like his work. I personally find David duChemin much better.

Tim Ericsson's picture

You could just say that: perfectly valid. I haven’t heard of duChemin. Thanks for a new name to look up!

Timothy Gasper's picture

Yes, I understand what you're saying. Perhaps it would have been better if I had qualified my comment more precisely. Which touches upon the 'snide' comment you refer to. I was responding to the title as it is written in comparison to the 'actual' theme of the article. If the author wants to speak of how to take photos like so-and-so, then why use that title as a pretense to speak of something a bit different. There are many Masters whom I have emulated after and their works are still within some of the photos I have shot. I just don't want my 'work' to reflect a copied image of theirs, which is what , to me, the title suggests. I don't shoot for any companies or agencies anymore. So I shoot just for myself....trying to use the inspirations from those Masters to help improve what I am trying to express. It's not with a snide tone that I wrote my comment. Just a matter of fact. And I don't let anyone's words upset me. After being a POW in Vietnam......my new motto is.....if it's not life-threatening, it's not important.

Tim Ericsson's picture

Honestly, Timothy, I appreciate your response and engagement. And now I totally understand your position and argument (and not that it matters, but I agree with it!). Internet communication is tone deaf and led me to assume your intention wrongly. Apologies, and thanks for the clarification!

Timothy Gasper's picture

It's fine. Your assumption was warranted as I wasn't very clear on why I commented in that way. Communication and understanding works both ways. Have a nice day and be safe out there. It's a different world now.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

I always think of him when hitting the streets. Great video.

Jeremy Thomas's picture

You guys should be out shooting.

Tim Ericsson's picture

Why? It’s the middle of the night where I am. And I don’t enjoy astrophotography. Can’t we shoot and discuss photography? I also enjoy walking and chewing gum at the same time. You should try it!

Robert Teague's picture

In what way is that supposed to invalidate what's being said? Meyerowitz has always been a polarizing figure in photography.

David Illig's picture

With due respect to Joel Meyerowitz, I don’t want to take pictures like he does. I want to take pictures like I do.