“Friends Catching Up in a Cafe” by Caroline Preece

The day I took this image was a lesson in opening my eyes and looking at the familiar in a different way, in not taking places for granted.

The photo was taken in a very small town in the South East of England near the village I grew up in. I had always overlooked this place, thinking that it wouldn’t be much good for street photography, that it was too small and pretty to be interesting, that it was just a castle, cathedral, river, a few obligatory pubs, a post office, and lots of places selling antiques, – not much else. However, when friends suggested going there for a photography trip, I joined them because it would be a fun social outing, even though I was unlikely to come home with any good street images. I was pleasantly surprised to discover cute and quirky cafes and vibrant side streets. There was so much to explore and see in a small area.

The image itself was shot through the glass door of a cafe. I loved the decor, colors, and the light inside, but the windows were covered by plants, so the door was the only place I could photograph from. I was very limited in my viewpoint. I revisited the site several times over the day to capture potentially interesting people (and once for tea and cake). On this occasion, I got lucky with this group of three friends. They shared such a great relationship, and their expressions and body language were so open. I always think that in street photography, you photograph potential and hope the gods are smiling favorably on you – and on this day, they were. It is so much about fleeting moments, here and gone in an instant. Compelling expressions and gestures. Stuff you can’t control… and you don’t know what you have got until you get home and download the files onto your computer.

What are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

For me, the two most impactful elements are the expressions and body language of the three friends. How they are interacting with each other. The story; and the color, light, and decor in the cafe create mood and atmosphere.

If you could make this photo again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

I am not sure. I am not 100% happy with the shadows of the plant leaves, which are falling on the woman on the left’s face, but that is unavoidable. It feels wrong to say I would not do anything differently, but it is the whole Johari window situation. I am sure there are a lot of things I could have done better, but the challenge is you don’t know what you don’t know. In five years’ time, I may kick myself and wonder how I could have been so stupid not to have done x or y. This is part of my personal growth and evolution as a photographer. There is no such thing as doing your best, only doing your best in the current moment with your current level of skill and knowledge. Your best today won’t be the same as your best tomorrow. Your best tomorrow will hopefully be better.

Caroline Preece shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Caroline Preece, London, England


Equipment and settings

Fujifilm X-T5

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Comments (2):

  1. Geoff Maxted

    March 29, 2024 at 16:18

    I like the informal grouping. Has a painterly quality as if Rembrandt was strolling by the cafe and had an idea


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