Does the city life interest you? Do you wish to learn how to capture the decisive moment? Are you interested in the crowds, the everyday person walking down the street? Then stick around this page for a while, I’ve got some tips to share with you to help you make the best out of street photography.
Street photography has been very popular for a while now and a lot of photographers, from beginners to experts, aspire to master this art form. Street photography, as the name suggests, is mainly based on shooting candid shots of the city and everyday life happening around you captured through your camera lens.
There’s many technical approaches to this form as well as many “right ways” and “wrong ways”. The best tip I can give you is to practice relentlessly and with time, you’ll develop your own personal style or blend different styles together.
No. 1: Get out of your shell and be ready to experiment.
You were probably expecting me to talk about equipment and the best lenses to use first but I feel it’s much more important to talk about you and your comfort zone. Practicing street photography will force you to put yourself in public spots, you might feel a little vulnerable, and you might have lots of concerns about people’s reactions to you. One of the most important things to success in this form of photography is to let go of this and focus on the shots you’re trying to capture.
Try different angles and distances, some people feel better taking photos a close distance while others prefer to take them farther away where they might go by completely unnoticed. Others prefer to take photos in crowds, large gatherings, or busy streets while others pick to sit by a café or a restaurant or take photos in solitary or nearly empty streets.
Don’t stick to one style simply because it’s comfortable, you might end up missing opportunities to take incredible photos you’ll be immensely proud. Most people try to approach street photography as them being an observer, someone sitting on the background looking at the street life but not being a part of it, and while this is true, it’s not the only way to engage in this art form.
Let’s take the Humans of New York project as an example. What started off as a street photographer’s experiment turned out to be a very interesting project that has reached a global scale. The photos shared tell stories that touch millions and have actually inspired change, actions, donation campaigns and opened doors for people that wouldn’t have ever dreamed of it.
Add your perspective, vision and personality to your shots. Look for something you have seen others do or create and take your art to the next level one shot at a time. Experiment and try as many things as you can think of don’t just go the general styles that you’ve already seen before.
Dealing with People’s reactions
“Ok, that sounds fine, but what do I do if someone confronts me?” Simple, show them the photo you took where they appear, explain to them what you’re doing and why you took that photo. If they ask you to delete the photo, delete it right away and go about your business. Remember to smile, be cordial, calm, and if they react aggressively, put some distance between you and the person.
If there’s children around, be mindful of the parents, perhaps even ask permission first as their protective parental instincts might alert them towards you if they see you taking a photo of their child without permission.
No. 2: There’s no right equipment
Now, before you lose your patience with me, understand what I mean: there’s many different opinions on what the right equipment for street photography is. Different photographers will choose what they think is best or what they know has worked best for them in the past. With the surge in technology, and smart phones cameras stepping up to the game, there’s people who actually rely on their smart phones to take candid shots. However, here’s a few general rules thumb that you definitely need to keep in mind:
1.Pack lightly. Whatever equipment you choose to go with, keep in mind that you might spend hours out in the streets rather than inside a studio or a comfortable space. Packing lightly will help you move faster and the less equipment you have to juggle in your hands, the better you can focus on what you came out for: the perfect shot.
2.Dress comfortably and according to the season. Again, remember you’ll be moving around, out under the unforgiving sun or in the cold of the night.
3.The general advice camera settings are: 35-40mm pancake lens since they’re close to the human eye’s frame of vision and they tend to be small and compact thus making the work easier for you. A shutter speed of 1/200-250, an aperture of f/16 and an ISO between 200-400.
Going hand-in-hand with the first tip, you’ll need to experiment with camera settings time after time to see which work best for you, your style and the results you wish to achieve.
No. 3: There’s many ways to achieve the perfect shot.
The perfect shot or the decisive moment in street photography is present and at the same time, already gone. If you take too long, it might be gone by the moment you’re ready to take the picture and if you don’t pay attention, you might miss it all together. Personally, I recommend that you go with gut and take as many photos as you can whenever you see something that speaks to you.
You’re taking photos of life as it happens, don’t worry about explaining the shots to yourself or maybe even looking at them right after you take them. Try taking at least 10-30 shots of a scene that really caught your eye and then go through them later to choose the best ones.
You should also keep in mind that the quality of a photo might not always be what makes it the best. Some people might disagree and will think that everything in your photo needs to be sharp, clear and pretty much perfect but that won’t always be the case and that doesn’t mean those are the only good shots. Life isn’t perfect and you’ll be capturing that through your lens, you might find incredibly artistic and breathtaking photos that are sub-par in quality compared to others but still somehow send a message that can’t be ignored.
In the end I’ll repeat myself by reiterating that you should try and explore as much as you can until you find what works best. You might end up not changing anything or you might end up finding new skills and styles you hadn’t reckoned with before. Whichever way you go, make sure to have fun and to enjoy the experience.