10 Tips For Successful Street Photography

Posted on
10 Tips For Successful Street Photography

Street photography at its heart is about documenting everyday life and society from the streets. Street photography can be practiced everywhere and you do not need to travel extensively to capture great shots.

Street photography is a candid artform, done without the permission or knowledge of your subject. This does not mean that pictures cannot be staged. You may spot something that catches your interest, you can wander up to strangers and ask for their permission to take their picture. This is a great way to get an intimate portrait of someone in their environment.

The most important part of street photography is to have fun and enjoy getting out there with your camera. The main goal of street photography is to capture emotion, humanity and depict the depth of a person’s character. It takes time to get the perfect shot but the art can be perfected with patience and practice. 

  1. Choosing The Best Lens

Deciding which lens to use is the most important factor in any form of photography. People often rely on telephoto lens, but it is likely to do more harm than good. Standing on the other side of the street, aiming a huge lens at strangers may come off as slightly creepy. Street photography is all about getting up close and personal, looking inconspicuous is essential. Using a wide-angle lens and getting lost in a busy crowd. Many street photographers choose a compact camera that is less confronting than a large DSLR, being smaller, lightweight and discreet. 

2. Camera Settings

The quickest and easiest way to set up your camera for street photography is by using the AV(aperture-priority mode) and selecting your f-stop(aperture) and ISO manually. The camera then decides the shutter speed(exposure). Starting at around f/16 on a bright sunny day with an ISO between 200-400 is a good place to start. If the camera displays a shutter speed higher than 1/200th a second you will be good to go. 

Adjustments to the aperture and ISO should be made accordingly after considering the shutter speed that is being displayed by the camera. You run the risk of capturing a blurry picture if the shutter speed falls below 1/80th. This blur can be removed by simply increasing the ISO and/or choosing a wider aperture. Novice photographers set to the camera to P mode(program or auto) and let the camera select the correct settings. You can still adjust the EV if the shot needs to be over or under exposed. 

This proves to be useful if you are shooting run and gun(in a hurry with no time to think), but you do not have much control over what the camera is doing. So it is not always the best option. Program mode does an acceptable job but it is not able to freeze the action in low light where the shutter speed is too slow. 

3.Get Close To Your Subjects

A wide-angle lens enables you to get close and personal to your subjects. The biggest advantage it has is that it gives the viewer a feeling of being there in the moment. It helps in blending in with the crowd as a part of the environment, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb with a giant lens. 

Most successful street photos are taken only a few meters away from the action and sometimes only inches away. Wandering through the park, a busy street or market can be highly rewarding, you may come out with some excellent pictures if you have a keen eye for the correct action. Sometimes your pictures may not come out as what you wished for, that is when you use your feet as your zoom and get closer to your subject. 

4. Take Your Camera Everywhere

It is a spontaneous expression of art, it waits for no one. It is an art that needs to be practiced vigorously in order to be perfected. Your camera is an extension of your vision. It is a way of presenting your perspective of the world to everyone. You will regret not having your camera with you if you come across something that draws your attention. If you are serious about street photography, your camera will always be by your side. Street photography is all about the ‘decisive moment’, where you have a split second to capture an image of your subject before it is gone forever. Second chances are extremely rare, so stay strapped.

5. Ignore The Voice In Your Mind

People often struggle with the idea of street photography. The main concern is about your subjects getting angry about the fact that a big camera is being waved in their face. They may threaten you with physical violence or even call the police. Fear is a common problem that people face, it is possible to overcome this fear by practicing and getting out more with the camera. 

Finding an interesting spot to sit in is quite effective. Spending time in cafes and restaurants while travelling may expose you to some interesting environments. You will feel at ease observing the surroundings at a distance. You will seem less inconspicuous if you are sitting outside a cafe compared to standing in the middle of the street. 
Tune out and listen to music while prowling for pictures. Music is like a distraction that can help you relax and inspire creativity. It makes you comfortable in your surroundings, something to help you tune out from the ambient sound and noise. 

6. Shoot From The Hip

Street photography done at the eye level often comes out quite attractive. However there will be several times when it is not possible to raise the camera to the level of your eyes. Therefore shooting from the hip is a useful trick to capture decisive moments. 
Shooting from the hip is an excellent way to capture candid shots. Shooting from the level of the eye may seem a little pressured, people often tighten up. They get conscious of the fact that someone is clicking their picture. This can be avoided by shooting from the hip. 

7. Shoot At Night

Night photography is a great opportunity to get unique images in the city. There is an ocean of opportunities to play around with the lights. It is not as easy as shooting in the day. Several factors need to be kept in mind while clicking pictures at night. Low shutter speeds should be avoided in order to avoid blur and using the ISO and aperture to compensate for the low light situation, are some issues that need to be kept in mind while shooting at night.
Carrying a tripod while shooting at night may help you while clicking long exposures. Using a fast aperture lens on the other hand will help you shoot low-light scenes and still freeze the action. The image can be given a bold statement with the help of interesting lines, shadows and compositions. Silhouetted subjects often make for interesting compositions with the shadow filling the foreground. 

8. Think Outside The Box

Photography has the ability to portray powerful ideas and emotions through the simplest of settings. Street photography is often associated with people or portraits on the streets, in reality it is much more than that. Street photography at its core is all about capturing intriguing juxtapositions or showing diversity in a uniform environment. 
It might be difficult to achieve in busy and bustling streets, but taking a stroll down an alleyway or sidewalk may just reveal the beauty of the mundane to you. It is a great way to use creativity to express oneself, with or without people.

9. Image Quality Is Not Everything

street photography don't worry too much about quality

Many photographers may disagree, but image quality while shooting on the streets is not as important as it is while shooting for commercial work or while shooting landscapes. It is advisable to strive for high quality images but it is not the worst thing if your pictures lack a certain quality. Composition, light, drama and the emotion that you are trying to convey are more important than image quality. If your pictures capture all this perfectly, you are well on your way to becoming a great photographer. 
Poor composition negates the effects of sharpness, low noise and image quality. Bad lighting and no atmosphere often tell a story. It is important to focus on what really matters so as to ensure that you come out with a great street image. 

10. Have Fun

It is important to enjoy what you do. It is only if you enjoy your trade that you will be able to shoot unique images. If street shooting is not your forte, then chances are that you will probably end up taking ordinary pictures. Creativity flows where passion lives, so it is essential to do what makes you happy. Creativity cannot be forced.

Leave a Reply