Street photography is often one branch of photography that is for the purists. For those who are less concerned about aesthetics and more about the subject and the story that it tells. It’s about capturing unique and often fleeting moments that can be funny, powerful or even sad. It’s a genre of photography that is incredibly hard to master but when done properly can produce amazing results. Here are 5 things that could be letting down your street photos.
Street photography often involves people. Whether that is capturing a portrait of someone or people going about their daily lives. But often the biggest barrier to people wanting to capture great street photos is their shyness when photographing strangers. What if that person notices and confronts me? Every photographer at some point has probably had this running through their head.
But what is the worst thing that can actually happen? The person asking you what you are doing? Or they may simply turn their head or cover their face? They might even ask you to not take their picture? But none of these scenarios warrant the fear of actually trying to capture photos. In all my years of photography I have never had a confrontation regarding this issue. In fact, most of the time people will be flattered that you are taking their photo and if on the odd occasion someone asks you not to, then just smile and say “OK”.
Just don’t be shy, because there is no place for shyness if you want to capture great street photos.
Don’t Know Your Camera
Unlike landscape photography where you will often have time to sort out your settings, compose your shot then take a photo, for street photography you have to be quick. Often the moments that present themselves to you are fleeting and will be gone in a flash. The only way to ensure that you can capture these moments is to know your camera inside out.
Your camera should be an extension of your arm and you have to be able to know the settings you need and how to change them without even thinking. The only way to get to this point is by learning and practice. The more you practice what you learn, the better and quicker you will become until eventually it will become second nature to you.
It will be pretty hard to capture a fleeting moment if you have to take your camera out of your backpack first. To ensure that you can capture good street photos you have to be ready all the time. That means your camera should be out of your bag, turned on with the lens cap off. You should also ensure that you have enough memory space and that your battery is charged. The last thing you need is to suddenly have to change memory cards or a battery as a moment presents itself before you.
The other thing that is worthwhile doing is to make sure that you have your camera set to roughly the settings that you might need. For example, if you are at a location where there isn’t enough light (i.e. because of tall buildings either side) so you need to raise you ISO to ensure you have a sharp enough shutter speed, then make sure you set this as soon as you start walking down that street. Once you have moved to another location where the settings need to change, then do so straightaway. This will ensure that you are always as ready as you can be when you need to capture the photo.
Looking For The Obvious
The thing about street photography is that you often have to look beyond the obvious to capture great photos. This means you need to be constantly looking around and evaluating the scene in front of you. Instead of looking at a scene and thinking is that a good photo, try to consider what the narrative or story is. Most of the time street photography isn’t like landscape photography where you are looking for things which are aesthetically pleasing, you are looking for unique moments that capture stories. These moments are often not obvious to most people which is why when they are captured in a street photo they tend to be powerful.
So, try to always look beyond what is in front of you and you’ll be amazed how often you’ll notice amazing photo opportunities that you didn’t think existed in the first place.
Trying Too Hard
If your street photos are not looking great, one reason could be that you are trying too hard. Street photography is mainly about the subject in front of you and if there isn’t something interesting happening, the most beautifully lit scene wouldn’t really work as a street photo. When you rely so much on your subject matter then it can be frustrating when nothing interesting presents itself. So, you end up putting yourself under pressure to capture something which you wouldn’t normally.
There are times when you should just take some time to sit down and relax and just wait for things to occur. If you find that you’ve had an unsuccessful day photographing, don’t get disheartened. The key is to go back again and again as inevitably photo opportunities will present themselves.
Street photography is always a great genre of photography to get into or even practice in. The great thing is you don’t need expensive equipment or even exotic locations to make it happen. Just a camera and a local street will often present countless photo opportunities. Avoid these 5 things and you will be on your way to capturing great street photos.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission.