Street Photography Tips & Ideas for Starters

Part 1: What Makes a Good Street Photograph?

The concept behind street photography is simple: it’s about photographing people going about their lives, living among their communities. Street photography means capturing moments and interactions; it’s about being natural and candid. While so much street photography is associated with urban life, rural communities are abundant with street photography opportunities, too. If there are people, living life, there are street photography possibilities.

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Of course, what makes the ideal of street photography so simple is what makes it so difficult to execute in practice. It’s easy to miss a moment. If people notice that you’re out and about taking photos, their behavior can change. And you might well feel a little hesitant raising your camera to take photos of strangers. But when you get it right, even if it’s just one photo among hundreds, it is very rewarding.

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The key skills that you will need to hone to create compelling street photographs are an intuition for spotting a story or a moment and the ability to react to it and being able to compose effectively while on the go. Of course, a street photograph might not feature a person at all: the story could be the remnants of the interaction and the echo of what happened.

Part 2: Tips and Tricks for the Best Street Photography

When you’ve decided to head out onto the streets with your camera, what should you be doing to capture the best street photography images? We’ve put together these street photography tips to help get you started.

1.Be Prepared

A smaller rather than larger camera is best for street photography. Apart from it being less obtrusive, it’s also not going to feel as heavy by the end of the day when you’ve been out and about. A prime lens with a 50mm or 35mm focal length is ideal. Don’t forget to pack spare batteries and memory cards, weather-appropriate clothing, and a drink and snack.

2.Use Aperture Priority Mode

Using aperture priority mode means that you have creative control over your depth of field, but your camera adjusts the shutter speed and ISO in order to secure a good exposure. It’s the happy medium between full control over your exposure, which can mean missing a shot if you can’t make the necessary changes in time, and your camera making decisions that don’t allow you any creative choices.

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3.Practice Approaching Strangers

Be sure that you know the laws regarding taking photos in public wherever you are shooting: they do vary. And however, you go about it: be respectful. You don’t necessarily have to ask for permission, but if you do, knowing how to approach strangers and ask for a photo is a skill: often a smile and nod to your camera will do it. Offering to send them a copy, or at least showing them their photo can help, too.

 

To build up your confidence, try photographing parades, fairs, and street performers. You will often find that market traders will be more than happy for you to photograph them and their stalls if you agree to tag them should you share your street photographs on Instagram or Twitter.

4.Notice Your Surroundings

Even when you are not out with your camera, observe your environment to look for areas where interactions frequently occur, what will make for great backgrounds for photos, and how the light moves and falls. When you are out with your camera, your eye will be honed for these things and you’ll be able to light your subjects effectively and capture them from angles that really tell a story.

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5.Set Yourself a Challenge or Theme

By setting yourself a challenge or theme for each street photography expedition you undertake, you will keep yourself motivated and your output fresh, ensure that you practice different skills, and maintain your focus while you are out and about. Your themes could be anything from no faces to mainly green in the photo, or composition of threes.

6.Light and Shadow

When you are taking a casual walk in your neighborhood and always look for shadows. Specifically, notice the length and direction as it will vary throughout the day, creating unique patterns. Look for how light and shadow interact with each other in your chosen street corner or environment. These contrasts will give your photos intensity, interest and bring to life your scenes. We would recommend that you visit the same place several times, or make it a point to walk back the same path and observe.

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7.Shoot Silhouettes

Shooting with natural light can often present you with great opportunities to capture silhouettes. To do this, you need a defined subject that is backlit against an interesting background. By exposing for the background and not the subject, you will create an outline of the subject against it.

8.Behind Glass

Even if you are taking a break for a bite to eat and something to drink, a window seat in a café will leave you with plenty of opportunities to photograph passers-by. Keep close to the glass so that you can avoid reflections. Or, maybe you want to capture yourself as a reflection in a shop window? Try it!

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9.Photograph People from Behind

You don’t have to include someone’s face in a photograph for it to be evocative. A couple walking down the street away from you, holding hands, is just as good a story as them walking toward you. Sometimes it’s the things that are unseen that say the most.

10.Pay Attention to Animals

People walking their dogs; stray cats; territorial pigeons: all of them are a part of the community and could well offer you an excellent photo opportunity. Don’t overlook animals when it comes to street photography.

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11.Be a Friend to Bad Weather

Bad weather can turn up some of the best photographs if you give it a chance. You just have to be well-prepared. Look for people sheltering in doorways, or jumping over puddles. How do we choose and decide to pass in the street with umbrellas? Interactions are still happening: you just have to look for them.

12.Monochrome or Color?

There’s a long history of shooting street photos in black and white, but color works, too. Before you go out shooting, it might be worth deciding if that day’s photos will be black and white or color. It will help you to focus on your storytelling, and what’s important.

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13.Find a Style

As you shoot more street photography, you will probably find that you gravitate toward a certain type of image. Perhaps you love photographing people at market stalls, or maybe you like to capture people on their lunch breaks. Maybe you love particular colors. Or you could prefer certain types of composition. Whatever it is, work on developing it. That doesn’t mean to say that you should do it to the exclusion of anything else, but being able to identify your work is a great asset.

14.Post-Process Your Own Images

Learn how to process your Raw images so that you can crop them precisely how you want them cropped, bring out the contrast just so, and work on stylistic editing that might set you apart from other photographers, for example, split-toning.

 

These tips and street photography examples should set you up for your own street photography adventures, with a bit of inspiration and some ideas. Go out, look around, be confident. Remember that you are telling stories with your camera. More than anything, enjoy it!

 

If you are looking for additional tips on photography techniques, check out more details on portrait photography, as well as landscape photography.

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