Street photography has always been a favorite challenge. Because it is so accessible it is easy enough for just about anybody to participate in. It’s not like you need any more equipment than pretty much whatever camera you have in your hand. And for many people location is as simple as walking out of their front door into their neighborhood.
These are some tips that I’ve discovered along the way as I ply my efforts into street photography.
The city is not a place that I live. But it is a place that provides obvious street photography opportunities. The easy thing is to simply sit on a street corner and just spray the corner with photos. I would suggest that there is nothing inherently wrong with that. It’s just that approach is a little too cluttered for me.
Waiting until something interesting or exciting happens then pressing the shutter is how I work. Plus I despise having to go through hundreds if not thousands of photos when I’m done. No, I wait patiently until something/someone catches my eye then I take the photo.
Look for Patterns
When I’m doing street photography I typically give myself some leeway into trying weird compositions. I mean, if you’ve seen one guy riding a skateboard down the street you’ve likely seen a thousand. But if you frame that guy into a colorful background or balance him with another element then you have the potential for something interesting.
Unless I am working someplace new I do not typically walk around and randomly take street photos. I scout the area I want to work in and find a place that has traffic I am interested in as well as a pattern, frame, leading lines, etc., which I want in the shot. I set up shop and patiently wait until the magic unfolds.
Up Close and Personal
Street photography can be many things to many people. Some like to shoot objects. Other, like me, prefers the human element.
Taking candid portraits on the street can be a little unnerving. This is the case especially if the subject sees you taking the photo. If that happens then you can smile and if engaged just offer an explanation that you thought the photo moment looked pretty great. Then show them the photo and if you’re so inclined offer to send it to him.
Sometimes you will have to explain to someone that it is perfectly legal to take photos of whatever you want in public spaces. But if challenged I simply erase the photo.
Regardless, I enjoy capturing that person’s split second moment in time. That second in time of that person’s life has been recorded. What were they thinking about?
Street Photography Camera and Lens
A Panasonic G7 micro 4/3 camera and 35-100mm lens is what I typically use for taking photos on the street. Especially if I believe I am going to be focused on individual’s faces. If I am shooting a little more run-and-gun then I’ll snap on a 12-35mm.
The M4/3 camera system is light and far less obtrusive than a DSLR. Plus I love being able to flip out the LCD screen and sneak photos without having to lift the camera up to my face.
Aperture priority is the basic setting I use. I shoot as wide open as I can to blur the background as much as possible in most cases. Sometimes I want to highlight patterns and such so I’ll decrease the aperture to keep more in focus. Nighttime is always wide open though.
There are discussions about whether to use JPEG or RAW. Not for me. I always record in RAW.
Street photography is a favorite. I find that as I get more experience shooting that candid photography interests me more and more. Street photography allows me to practice without having to schedule people or attend specific events like plays and such. I hope with these tips you might find some value in finding out if it is right for you too. All it takes is time and a little gumption to get out there and start taking photos of the movements of the street.