10 Crucial Street Photography Tips
While much of street photography involves a keen eye and perfect timing, there are a few strategies you can use to take your craft to the next level:
- Get the right equipment. While anyone with a smartphone has access to a decent camera, the best cameras for street photography are lightweight point-and-shoots, due to their small size and discreetness.
- Know your camera. Familiarity with all the camera settings and how they affect your photography is key. For instance, knowing how to pre-focus or autofocus your DSLR camera can make the difference between a blurry shot and a great shot.
- Pick the right shoot mode. Aperture priority mode will allow you to manually adjust your depth of field while automatically matching the proper shutter speed. A smaller aperture means a larger depth of field, which is ideal for landscape shots where you want full-frame focus. A wider aperture is great for close-up portraits because it creates a shallow depth of field; this allows you to pull the subject into focus while blurring the background. Shutter priority mode allows you to choose the shutter speed while the camera automatically sets the aperture. A fast shutter speed is good for capturing movement in public places without motion blur—like candid shots of a busy street in New York.
- Use the right lenses. Prime lenses have a fixed focal length, while zoom lenses allow you to adjust focus. A wide-angle lens is great for shooting street shots because it allows you to capture more of the background, allowing you to put your subject into more context and deliver a photograph with impact.
- Keep your eyes open. The “decisive moment,” as coined by street photography pioneer Henri Cartier-Bresson, is about capturing the emotional, spontaneous moments that exist all around you. In order to do this, you must always be watching with your camera at the ready. Even after you take your shot, don’t pull it up to review—that moment is already gone, so just keep observing.
- Shoot from the hip. With the right setup, you can skip the viewfinder and leave your camera at waist level. This allows you to remain discreet, capturing even more natural candids.
- Take shots at different times. Daytime photographs obviously have a different feel than photos taken at night. Experiment with taking photos in different levels of light, making use of shadows and contrasts to give your photos a bolder impact.
- Be personable. Some of your shots may be discreetly taken candids, but what about when you want to take some intimate street portraits? Introducing yourself to the person you’re photographing and build a rapport with them. You’ll get better photographs of you subjects if they feel comfortable and at ease.
- Be patient. It may seem like street photography is all about taking photos in the moment, but there’s also a lot of waiting involved. Be ready to park yourself on a bench with your camera at the ready—like a visual stakeout—waiting for the perfect shot to come to you.
- Get creative. Street photography doesn’t just have to be about people. Sometimes it’s about the contrasting visuals of a cityscape—weeds growing through a sidewalk, or an abandoned storefront. Look to capture the essence of anything that stands out to you.
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