Street photography is a challenging genre that needs the right equipment and the necessary training. You have to be creative, tenacious, and always ready to snap the perfect moment.
This genre of photography can be demanding, but if you think clearly, it has an easy part as well. You can shoot a lot of different people and places. The streets and people are always surprising. Shoot them in constant motion and expect the unexpected.
You will be delighted to see how many perspectives this kind of photography can capture. But let’s see what you need to be a successful street photographer.
The marvels of daily life are exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.-Robert Doisneau
In this article, you will find:
- a complete definition of street photography;
- the best camera and lenses;
- the right equipment for this genre of photography;
- how to modify camera settings;
- other tips that will help you take stunning street pictures.
Table of contents
- What is street photography?
- What is the law on taking photos in public?
- Camera equipment
- Camera settings
- What are the best lenses for street photography?
- POV street photography
- Street photography tips
- Editing street photography
What is street photography?
Photograph the world as it is. Nothing’s more interesting than reality.Mary Ellen Mark
Besides the fact that photography is a visual art, I always like to add that it is an art of words as well. Why is that? Because you have to create a story with all the various branches of visual creativity.
So, I’m going to simplify street photography definition as candid photography of humans or places that incorporate a meaningful story. The most exciting stories are those on the streets. And don’t summarize street photography just by shooting on the streets.
You can shoot at the airports, at the beach, in the subway, or any other public places.
As I said before, street photography is very similar to candid photography. But it doesn’t have to be like that all the time.
Sometimes you should ask for permission to take shots of people on the streets. Of course, surprising humanity in action can give you stunning perspectives, but it can capture a bad picture as well.
Some people have an aura that transmits emotions, feelings, and only good vibes. There’s one more thing to know. Street photography is not just about people. It is also about the tiny elements of the world like animals, flowers, various objects, and so on.
Think of capturing people in architectural environment and combine humanity with natural elements. Astonishing, right?
What is the law on taking photos in public?
As a beginner, you may wonder what the law on taking photos in public is. Well, there is no law preventing people from taking pictures in public places unless the images that have been taken are indecent.
You can shoot people without their knowing only if this is happening in a public place like pubs, restaurants, public transport and so on.
Street photography is about taking quick pictures of people and not be observed. However, if you get caught, I advise you to smile and tell people that you are a photographer, and you work on a project that implies street photography.
Then, ask them if it is okay that you took pictures of them and show your masterpieces. When they will see what your camera captured, they will be perfectly fine with the fact that you photographed them.
However, you can create a photo release form to prevent possible legal ramifications.
For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.― Henri Cartier-Bresson
As a beginner, you may wonder what the best camera for street photography is. Well, nowadays, using the right settings, you don’t need a special camera for this genre of photography.
However, I advise you to use a small camera. You don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable or attract their attention to you.
Moreover, don’t carry a heavy camera with you. smaller ones are easier to use and carry around when you take long walks. The more spontaneous you are, the more impressive your photos will be.
Also, small cameras have a silent shutter mode, which won’t turn heads on you. People will see you like a simple tourist taking pictures of buildings.
Once you embark on the adventure of street photography, you will need a few other accessories.
Take with you extra batteries, memory cards, and all the accessories that you think you will need. Always be prepared and ready to shoot some moves.
Moreover, comfortable shoes for street photography are as essential as the gear. Your feet will cross many places, and you’d better have the right shoes and outfits.
And now, let’s get technical! What are the best camera settings?
Knowing your camera is an essential part of your job. For every genre of photography, you have to change the camera settings depending on many factors like light, angles, the time of the day, etc. Here comes the exposure triangle.
If you want to create some shadows and a dark picture that will send strong emotions, use a fast shutter speed and a small aperture.
To get high-quality photos use the lowest ISO you can.
When there’s a lot of movement in a scene, consider choosing a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.
But when you have natural light from the sun, consider using a large aperture to produce a shallow depth of field. If you have a subject that catches your eyes, focus your camera on him.
What are the best lenses for street photography?
We must look at the lens through we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.― Stephen R. Covey
Many photographers use prime lenses because they tend to be smaller than zooms. This will help you capture spontaneous moments and be more focused on the subject.
Street photography is a popular genre nowadays and many people are willing to be photographed. In this situation, I recommend you to use a 35mm focal length lens to capture the entire scene.
You can also use a pancake lens. Pancake lenses lend themselves perfectly to street photography because they are lightweight, compact, and easy to travel with.
POV street photography
As I said before, shooting street photography is an action that needs as little gear as possible. You have to be invisible and not make your work difficult carrying heavy equipment.
Though, this rule does not apply if you want to shot Point of View (POV) street photography videos for Youtube.
This street photography technique involves another camera – usually a smartphone or a GoPro. POV street photography video will allow you to show other photographers how you take street pictures.
Also, they will learn and experience different techniques from you. POV street photography is becoming more popular every day, and you clearly should take two cameras with you (one for pictures and one for videos).
It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a professional. You have to experience many styles and techniques.
Street photography tips
Now that you know what this genre of photography is and you have the right gear and settings for your camera, you are ready for action. Grab your bag, a pair of comfortable shoes, and go hunting for some outstanding pictures.
The more you practice, the higher your chances of becoming a professional are. Let’s dig in and add some great street photography trends that are admired nowadays.
The most important thing that your pictures should capture is emotions. I don’t see it as difficult. In that crowd of people on the street, I am convinced that you will find people expressing happiness, sadness, love, joy, and all those feelings.
Pay attention to their body language and facial expressions. This will expose a touching street story. There’s one thing that you should be aware of: be quick.
You will capture the most moving emotions when people don’t notice you. So, be a ninja of photography.
2. Once in a moment
All in photography is about capturing the moment. Well, this time, moments are happening very fast, and you should have your eyes open and your camera ready to shoot.
Moments are limitless, but each of them is special. If you see an up to the mark street photography scene, take tons of pictures.
Try to shoot it from different angles, but be careful not to be noticed. Then, choose the images that express most of the moment you wanted to capture. Out of 20 pictures, I am sure that you will find at least 2-3 photos.
3. Focus on details
Photography is about observing the small details. If you have a trained eye, you will be able to see objects or natural elements that have an important role in your pictures.
Mostly, the details are the ones that make your photographs look captivating. Focus your eyes on random objects that integrate perfectly with the subject and the moment you want to capture.
Also, pay attention to composition, symmetry, colors, shadows, lights, and any other elements. If you want to capture the subjects and the details, shoot from a distance.
You will be able to join all of them, and you will get a story to tell. Try to be creative and play with these components.
4. Behind the window
Once you are on the streets, you will be surrounded by many pubs and buildings. Try to capture some pictures with people behind the window and shoot them from different angles.
What are the most loved beings by people? Pets. They are always in a good mood, and they have the power to change your feelings with every gesture they make.
Capture pets on the streets, and don’t forget to pose them from down low. Maybe you will catch some smiles or fierce expressions. Pets are lovely anytime.
6. Silhouettes and shadows
Here come the mysterious stories. Capturing silhouettes will place your subject in a shadow, and you will get mystical scenes.
Pay attention to strong backlighting that can form a suitable background to bring the subject out of the light and gain perfect shadows.
Practice this technique until you catch the deal and always wait for the subject to be in the right spot. Be spontaneous and fast as a rabbit.
7. Urban photography
Street photography doesn’t always have to involve people. You can shoot objects, landscapes, elements, buildings, and so on.
Urban landscapes are hard to shoot because you have to find the right balance of buildings, objects, items that send emotions.
It is hard, but not impossible. With the right amount of vision, you will find the perfect spots that will get you magnificent pictures.
Getting inspiration from others is always good advice to give. Of course, maybe some of us are born with the vision, but we must deepen it.
Start to google it and find out what the best street photographers are. Look for their pictures, their techniques, and start practicing.
One of the most famous street photographers of all time is Henri Cartier Bresson. He is known for capturing the “decisive moment” that refers to the precise moment of action.
If you want to become a professional, you have to act as one. How do you know to behave like a skilled photographer? Well, search many photographers and get inspired by their work.
Once you have the right amount of research, be creative, and start your adventure.
And have confidence in your camera. It will be your best friend.
Editing street photography
You don’t take a photograph, you make it.– Ansel Adams
Post-processing pictures is an important operation of photography. Your camera won’t always capture the perfect lighting, and some imperfections can appear in your photographs.
These two tools will help you get the desired twist to images.
For this genre of photography, you should pay attention to white balance, composition, sharpening, exposure, contrast, shadows, and effects.
Depending on your pictures, you will have to have fun with all these features and edit your images to get your work done.
This way, photography will be a hobby and a job. Don’t settle for less. You can even sell photography prints and help you make the right amount of money to invest in your gear and maybe your home studio.
At first, it will be a little harder until you get to be known, and have clients start looking for you. You have to start from the bottom and dream big.
You can also start as an assistant, you will earn money and experience too. Or you can become a freelance photographer. To get to all this, you must first make a portfolio. It may seem complicated, but it isn’t.
- Be creative, tenacious, and ready to capture the moment.
- Shoot various people, places, and get crazy with perspectives.
- Your pictures want to tell a story.
- Street photography is not just about people, but elements and details.
- Don’t get observed. Be a ninja of photography.
- There is no law preventing people from taking photos in public places.
- For camouflage like in books, take a small camera with you.
- Get extra batteries, memory cards, and comfortable shoes.
- Camera settings are essential for every genre of photography.
- Use prime lenses for capturing the best parts of humanity.
- Bring two cameras: one for videos (|POV) and one for pictures.
- Creativity and practice will get you breathtaking pictures.
- Capture emotions and take tons of pictures.
- Focus on details.
- Pay attention to composition, symmetry, colors, shadows.
- Play with shadows and silhouettes.
- Find the right balance to transmit emotions through urban landscapes.
- Take inspiration from other professional photographers.
- Editing is a part of your photography job as well.
Once you love photography, you will never stop shooting and experimenting with styles and techniques.
It will become a part of your life,and you will be always on an adventure – finding the right places. If your first street photograph didn’t turn out properly, don’t worry.
There is always room for improvement. That’s why we should never expect perfection. We are in a continuous process of learning.
And, you can edit your pictures to improve them because this is a part of your photography job as well.
Street photography can be challenging because you have to be fast and ready to capture the moments.
Shoot people in various places, edit the images, and show people your skills. As a photographer, you must have a stunning portfolio to grab people’s attention.