Philadelphia street photography [Guide + Inspiration]

Are you looking for Philadelphia street photography? You are in the right place. My name is Don Springer and I was born and raised here, and shot these streets for more than 50 years.

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I live here, work here and will die here. Hopefully I will be re-born here.

Philadelphia has a rich history. You’ve got the liberty bell for example, it’s right there in Philly, the city of brotherly love. Between me and you I’ve traveled and shot many street photography locations around the world, I’ve always managed to find good photos. The thing is, I always judge where I am against Philly. Nothing has ever nurtured me as much as my home city.

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Philadelphia street photography

What does it feel like to shoot in Philly? Good question, it’s a little bit like New York City, but not really. What it has is historical weight, sure you will find the beautiful new buildings but at the same time there’s the iconic Philly buildings that remind everyone that it is the birthplace of the USA and freedom. That’s where the declaration of independence was written.

I’ve shot the images on this page with mostly the Ricoh GR and the Fuji x100s and these presets.

What are the best street photography locations in Philadelphia?

Here’s my favorite spots to do some street shooting after all of these years

  • Penn’s Landing usually has events and a schedule is always available online.
  • Benjamin Franklin Parkway runs from 15th Street to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. There are always photos to discover just like any other place in Philly. Once you get to the Museum, it’s a nice ride to the Philadelphia Zoo. The road is called East River Drive. It runs all the way to Ridge Ave, There are spots to hang out and relax. Vendors are plenty for snacks and water.
  • Lets not forget the Reading Terminal Market. It’s actually between Market Street and Arch Streets. Then between 11th Street and 12th Street. There are many vendors, deli’s, diners, pubs etc. The food is always fresh and tasty. It’s a blend of cultures and works well. You can make photos there with no issues.
  • The major tourist area is Independence Hall Park. The is between 5th Street and 6th Street and Arch and Chestnut Streets. That’s the basic area.The entire region to the River and Penn’s Landing is very interesting.

Tips for street photography in Philadelphia

Street photography is all about the eye, heart and mind. So all of the normal street photography tips apply there, but here are some notes specifically applied to Philadelphia:

It’s an easy going place

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Philly is a cultural melting pot. You’ll find a blend of races, religions and wight about anything you can think of besides little green aliens. That might be in the future, who knows? So the first tip is to simply relax and make photos as you please. Philadelphians are not scared to tell you “No Photos” but this is a very rare occasion. So always wherever you are, be on guard lightly and be yourself, smile as you go.

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You will see homeless people on the streets and some will ask for some cash. I always give them something and never had a problem with them. Many know me by name and we chat sometimes, we all could end up in the streets in a flash, I know this all too well.

I am an army vet and the only thing that kept me sane was my photography, lots of friends came back and lived as homeless.

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Juxtaposition galore

Just like any big city (like Japan, New York City or Hong Kong) The streets have an abundance of billboards, making Philly a particularly great city if you like to juxtapose billboards with people passing by. Here’s a few of my color street photography and juxtaposition shots:

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Give the Museum of art a visit

I’ve got a soft spot for this museum. As I said before, I’m a veteran, and when I got back from Vietnam, I met the curator there, Ding McNulty. I’ve learned a lot from him throughout the years. He’s no longer with us but this museum has one of the best photography collections in the world and if you are interested in images, you should breath in the photographs there.

Follow the tourists

Another great tip is to follow the tourists. I’ve always made some great shots just hanging around touristic spots. There was one time where I saw two monks fiddling around with a camera. I made a shot and provided to help them with their woes.

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You really find everyone in Philly looking at the famous sights, and there lots of opportunity shooting the tourists themselves, while they are trying to shoot the Liberty Bell or Independence hall.

Visit during the Mummers parade

If you had to come during one specific time of the year, make it during New year’s day. It’s an absolutely wild parade with tons of people, costumes and yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s a wonderful time for street photography. I’ve been shooting this parade for decades and I’ve always come back with great shots. If you are into night street photography, the mummers is also a great opportunity for some great photographs because it goes up until night.

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Mummer’s parade street photography in Philadelphia
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Ya know, my entire life has been centered here in Philly. I don’t mind that one single frame. I am always excited to walk the same area over and over and still find photos. If that doesn’t tell you how rich Philadelphia can be, I don’t know what will!

By the way, if you are interested in taking your images further, check out my street photography course, it has everything I’ve discovered throughout the years, including what I’ve learned from my time at the museum.

2 thoughts on “Philadelphia street photography [Guide + Inspiration]”

  1. Extremely helpful! Might be heading there within the next month or two for street photography. Thanks for the advice. Looking forward to checking out the rest of your work.

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