I follow the continuing work from a lot of street photographers on the ‘net and I’ve noticed, by far, the dominant orientation is landscape.
I also frequent gallery spaces and exhibitions and the street photography in these spaces doesn’t have a bias for orientation.
For a while now I have been mulling this over I am inclined to believe, for the less experienced photographers, this is a comfort zone issue.
Disregarding the aged compositional rules favouring portrait the more formal orientation and landscape the serene and distant cousin, the decision between the two should really be more related to scale and mood.
Personally, I remain constantly aware of surroundings and context. In the example, above, the railings and steps draw the gaze to the man who might well be reflecting on his book purchases. The framing would be lost in a horizontal scene.
The orientation choice for the top image was purely down to scale. I spotted the phone covering the man’s eyes as he persisted his own gaze to a photograph. I literally couldn’t convey the busy scene without the portrait orientation which, in this case, is all the more immediate and ‘in the scene’.
The reflection image below seems most natural in a vertical format. There’s an intimacy about the couple. The reflection, the lamp post, railings and foliage, draw the gaze up and down so that, maybe two or three times, your eyes fall upon the couple. Were this scene to have more to the left and/or right, you might not connect with these two at all.
Shooting portrait is a bold move and requires confidence; you are effectively widening your focal length and cropping your scene, but your street photography can be massively rewarded.
Landscape is not the ignoble twin, but portrait certainly isn’t as stuffy and formal as the old rules might have you believe.