Street photography is one of the most popular genres of photography. It is one of the easier branches of photography to practice and it’s accessible for most people. But good street photography isn’t straightforward and often people struggle to capture street photos really well. So to help you, here are 6 street photography tips to implement on your next shoot.
Don’t be shy
Unfortunately, street photography means having to interact with people. Sometimes people won’t notice that you are photographing them. At other times, they will. Or you may even have to get their attention so that you have that engagement between the subject and the photographer in the photo. There is no way around this, so to be a good street photographer you need to get over your shyness. This is often one of the biggest barriers for people in this genre of photography. There are no tricks or shortcuts, it is simply a case of the more people you photograph the more confident you will become. So set yourself a task of just photographing 1 person you don’t know a day. In time this will help you build confidence to photograph more and more people.
Be daring with your photos
A big part of street photography is about capturing unseen moments. But also to try and present these in new and exciting ways. So this means trying to look beyond just eye-level shots. Compose your shot with your camera close to the ground or high up in the sky and you will get a completely different look and feel than the same shot at eye level. You can also take this further and capture photos at angles and without looking through the viewfinder (a technique known as shooting from the hip). Street photography is more about capturing these stories and moments rather than a perfectly framed shot that you have deliberated over.
Don’t be afraid to just wait
Like most genres of photography, sometimes you have to act fast. A fleeting moment might present itself that you simply have to capture. With street photography, this is often the case. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes you can’t wait at an interesting location for something to happen. Think of it like setting a “photography” trap. Find an interesting location and then just wait for the right elements to come together for you to take the shot. For example, this might be someone walking into your frame. Or it might be because you want the light to change so that you are getting a nice shadow across your shot. This is a really great technique for you to use to capture those unique street shots.
Stop chimping and keep shooting
Chimping is a phrase used to describe the habit of constantly checking the LCD on the back of your camera. There is nothing wrong with doing it for something like landscape photography. But for something like street photography where you might constantly be seeing interesting photo opportunities, every time you look at the back of your camera, you might be missing something in front of you. So try to avoid looking at your LCD and instead keep shooting away. You can always check the results later.
What settings should you use?
This is often the most common question that I get asked in regards to street photography. While there isn’t a magic formula in choosing your settings as every scene is different, there are some common settings that you will likely need to use. Firstly I would recommend using continuous focus mode as more often than not in street photography you will be dealing with moving subjects. I would also recommend setting your camera on burst mode rather than a single shot. It’s very difficult to nail the perfect moment in a moving scene with just one shot. Beyond these settings, everything else will come down to the subject and what creative effect you are hoping to achieve. As a general rule look for a wider aperture and a fairly fast shutter speed if photographing moving subjects. This might mean having to raise your ISO.
Embrace bad weather
As a photographer, you are always told to look for great light and perfect conditions for photography. While both of these bits of advice are very valid for street photography as well, street photography does allow for a bit more leeway when it comes to conditions. For example one of the best times for street photography is after a rainfall where you will end up with some wonderful reflections. Or in cloudy conditions when the flat light makes it easier to manage harsh contrasts. You really can take street photos in any condition as it’s more about the story rather than the conditions. So when the weather isn’t ideal for those landscape shots, grab your camera and take street photos instead.
Street photography can produce some truly remarkable photos. These are often a great glimpse into everyday life that most people miss day-to-day. The great thing about street photography is that unlike say landscape photography, you have ample opportunity to practice and capture unique photos. With the tips above you’ll be on your way to capturing great street photos.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.