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Street photography is about capturing people in their environment and the beauty of everyday life. Some people really have a knack for it, and for others it takes a little bit more practice. Here are some tips to help improve your street photography:
1. Choosing Your Lens
Choosing which lens to use is one of the most important factors for street photography. A wide angle or a prime lens are your best options. You may be tempted to go for a telephoto lens, creating distance between you and your subjects so you feel less awkward—this will only work against you. Who wants a person standing across the street with a telephoto lens taking their picture? It’s a little creepy, right? You may need to get out of your comfort zone and think more of how your subjects feel. A compact camera with a wide angle lens, is smaller, lighter, and more discreet than a large DSLR. A great advantage of a wide angle lens is that you don’t have to point your camera directly at the subject to capture them.
Photo by Shakil Hussain
2. Get Close
As mentioned above, using a wide angle lens encourages you to get close to your subjects. The closer, the better. This close perspective gives the viewer the feeling that they are a part of the captured moment. You’ll also be able to blend into a crowd and become part of the scene, rather than standing out at distance. Being part of the crowd also gives you a chance to discover a shot that you might not get if you were further away.
Photo by Shakil Hussain
3. Take Your Camera Everywhere
To get a great shot, you must be ready at any moment. The best photographer is a prepared photographer. Bring your camera everywhere. You never know when you’ll see a great shot, that perfect moment. More often than not, you’ll wish you brought your camera with you. Mind you, we all have a camera with us most of the time already. Don’t disregard your smart phone as camera; it’s certainly better than nothing.
Photo by Ajay Khatri
4. Get out of Your Head
Be confident; act like you are supposed to be there. It is understandable to be concerned with how people will perceive you taking pictures, or fear standing out like a sore thumb. We feel that we have to follow these social norms. Start off by going to a familiar spot, like a café or park. Sit and watch people for a while, and from there, take pictures. Let the pictures come to you, so to speak. As with most things, the more you practice, the easier it will become.
One more thing: smile. It also helps if you look friendly and trustworthy. Smiling at strangers will most likely put them at ease, and, therefore, you will be more at ease. This leads into my next tip
Photo by Braden Barwich on Unsplash
5. Ask for Permission
Some street photographers will say it is not true street photography, if it's not candid. I believe you should always ask permission. If you've taken photos of people in passing, it may be hard to run after them to ask their permission, but I recommend getting permission either before or after you've taken the shot. As long as you're courteous and polite, most people like having their picture taken.
Photo by Daneil Howill
6. Look for Opposites, Multiples and Patterns
Street art is unique from other forms of photography in that it can convey humor and irony in everyday life with the juxtaposition of opposites. Opposites in people's appearance or emotion, old and young, or short and tall, or happy and sad. Look for people's position in relation to one another, right or left, sitting or standing, or up and down.
Using multiples and patterns in your shot creates an interesting composition with repetition.
Photo by journey cloud on Unsplash
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
7. Be Patient
You might have to wait to capture a moment. Instead of searching for it, try staying in one spot for an hour or two and wait for the moment to happen. Also, pay attention to people’s behaviour—it will help you to anticipate their next move.
Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash
8. Shooting from the Hip
Shooting from the hip is great when you are starting out with street photography. It can feel a bit awkward standing on the street pointing your camera at strangers. You feel all eyes are on you the second you lift your camera to your eye. Shooting from the hip allows you to capture candid moments without being noticed. It may take some practice to get used to shooting this way, but guaranteed you’ll get some great shots.
Photo by Molly Porter on Unsplash
9. Ask Yourself Questions
Before you start shooting, take time to think about your shot. What’s the story you are trying to tell? What’s the emotion you want to convey? Does your shot draw the viewer into the scene? Will they stop and study the photo? Take the time and ask yourself these questions next time you’re getting ready to shoot.
Photo by Lily Lvnatikk on Unsplash
10. Camera Setting
Setting your camera to aperture priority (AV or A) keeps things simple when you’re shooting street photography. It allows you to manually select your f-stop and ISO, letting the camera select the appropriate shutter speed. However, if your camera is selecting a shutter speed below 1/80, you may end up with a blurred shot. It depends on if this is the look you are going for. Using a slower shutter speed with moving subjects creates a blurred effect, which is a great way to convey movement, and can create an ethereal feel to your shot. On the other hand, if this is not the look you want, you may try increasing your ISO, and/or choosing a wider aperture to freeze any motion.
If you’re newer to photography, you may want to set your camera to Program (P) mode. This will allow your camera to do all the work of selecting the right aperture and shutter speed, and you can simply focus on your shot.
Photo by Boris Stefanik on Unsplash
Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash
If even after trying all these tips, you don’t feel like street photography is your thing, then don’t force it. Street photography isn’t for everyone. Do what inspires you; do what you are passionate about.