The Ins and Outs of Street Photography: 10 Simple Steps

Street photography emerged in the late 20th Century as a means for capturing everyday life, for documenting social activity, and to “hold a mirror up to society”.

Hopefully this tutorial will provide some useful advice for street photography as well as highlighting some of the ethical and practical issues that will help you get started on you quest to document life on the streets!

Step 1. What Is Street Photography?

Street photography meets the desire to document social activity, aiming to capture the essence of life in a specific time and place, highlighting single acts of human behaviour, often providing snapshots of real and literal moments of life.

Photographers such as Henri-Cartier Bresson and Garry Winograd are past masters of this documentary style, but anyone is capable of capturing their locality—you just need to have an eye for detail and an awareness of what’s going on around you.

Step 2. Which Camera to Use?

There’s no right or wrong camera to use for street photography, it’s all about personal preference. You need to bear in mind that manoeuvrability and general mobility will be far easier if you don’t have lots of equipment; so maybe limit yourself to just one camera and a lens or two if you feel it necessary. This will also make you more inconspicuous and less like to stand out as a photographer (but more of that later on).

Traditionally, it’s best to use a fixed lens, something fairly wide like a 28mm or 35m, although that means getting fairly close to your subject. You might want to start off with a 75mm or 50mm so you can keep a bit of distance to build up confidence.

Step 3. Capturing the Place You Are In

Before heading out, consider the place you’re going to shoot. Does it have a particular mood or style that you want to try and capture in your shots? Maybe it has a particularly high tempo and vibrancy that you could aim to exemplify or maybe it has a more sleepy and quaint demeanour?

Think about any particular features or landmarks and consider whether you want to represent them as points of reference for the location, or whether you’d rather leave them out so you shots are more ambiguous.

Step 4. Go Out and Find It

There aren’t any definitive places to recommended for going out to shoot street photography, you’ve got to go out and find it! Don’t wait for it to come to you, you’ll find far more interesting subject matter if you get out and get involved with your surroundings.

Maybe set a route to walk around the town, keep a look out for anything interesting, and have an eager eye for what’s happening all around you. Have the camera settings decided and ready so you don’t waste time fiddling about and know how your camera works so you can change any settings in reaction to what you’re seeing.

Step 5. Instinctive Decisions

You’ll find that the more time you spend in areas like this, the easier it becomes to catch the goings on around you. Your eye will be trained to spot points of interest. Street photography involves a lot of instinctive decisions, particularly with regard to composition.

For me, the best way to approach this is to forget any compositional rules and just go with whatever feels right to you, different photographers will see things differently and have a different take on a subject, so shoot what you see.

Step 6. What’s Your Motive?

The motive for your photography is important to consider before you go out, otherwise you’ll be spending time making lots of decisions on the street and missing out on potential shots.

Consider whether you want to take the stance of honest documentary shots that capture a place for what it is, highlighting the style and mood of a place and it’s inhabitants. On the flip side, you can look to be more creative and capture and highlight the things that people might not notice, to create something artistic from something that might not usually catch the eye.

Step 7. Photographing in Public

When entering into street photography it is important to understand the moral implications of what you are doing. In most countries, taking photos of people in a public place is totally legal and you’ll only need permission if you’re going to use the photos for commercial use – but please check the relevant laws and regulations for where you’re planning on shooting.

It’s important to keep in mind that asking someone if you can shoot them will affect how they behave in the shot and, if you’re looking for a natural style, shooting in covert might be a better option. Be inconspicuous, not suspicious.

Step 8. When Not to Shoot

When considering who and when you shoot, make sure you have thought about where you’d draw the line personally. Consider illegal activity, confrontation and other people’s children—these are all probably best avoided.

Once you’ve set your boundaries you can start getting involved with the scenes and moments that you do want to capture. Be aware that some people react positively to a camera, which can make for a great shot, but others really don’t want to have their photo taken. Respect their decision. If you do get confronted, be polite, smile and co-operate fully with the other party.

Step 9. Black and White, or Colour?

You’ll see from the examples that I’ve chosen for this article that the majority are black and white. This wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, but traditionally, documentary and street photography have been in black and white.

Shooting in black and white will highlight the action in your scene, it will draw the eye into the points of interest and maximise impact. That’s not to say though that there isn’t room for colour in street photography, I always shoot in colour and then convert later, but consider whether colour will add anything to the shot, if not, stick with black and white!

Step 10. Get Up and Go!

So there you go, hopefully you’re up to speed with the ins and outs of street photography and you’re ready to get out and capture your own neighbourhood.

Don’t spend too long thinking. Obviously if you have a certain motive, or want to capture a certain mood, then employ those whilst working, but the best thing you can do is to grab your camera, get out and start shooting.

You never know what you’re going to find, and it’s the perfect chance to find out whether all those articles you’ve been reading have given you a better “instinct” for photography!

by Simon Bray

Simon Bray is a freelance photographer from Manchester, UK, working on commercial shoots as well as photographing weddings, musicians and artists, and also taking time out to capture landscapes in the surrounding countryside.

Frame Within a Frame Photography: A Guide

A Post By: Kevin Landwer-Johan

Frame within a frame photography is a creative technique that works in many genres of photography. But what is it, and how can you use it for amazing photos?

In this article, we’re going to take a look at this composition “rule” – which you can apply very obviously or even very subtly in your photographs.

So if you’re ready to create some unique images…

…then let’s get started!

What is frame within a frame photography?

Frame within a frame photography is all about positioning your main subject so it’s framed by something else within the scene. 

You can use anything you like for this. For instance, you might use a full rectangular frame, like a door or a window. You could even use an actual picture frame.

But frame within a frame photography is not limited to structures that completely surround your subject. 

You can incorporate body parts and tree limbs as frames. Using rocks, plastic bags, or mannequins can be an effective way to add a frame within a frame. These things may occur naturally, or you can bring them in as props to include in your compositions.

Frames in front and behind

Typically, we think of a frame that surrounds a subject as being in front of it.

But it doesn’t need to be.

Because you can often effectively frame your subject with something that’s behind them.

Here are three examples to illustrate what I mean:

In this first photo of the welder (above), I’ve used a hole cut in the steel to encircle the worker. There are also more holes in the panels behind him, though it’s the front hole that acts as the main frame.

In this second shot, however, while the gate pillars do frame the young monks, the contrast of the shadow on the wall also helps to frame the main subject.

Here’s a third example where I have used frames both in front of and behind my subject. By lining up the front and rear windows in the train carriage, I have managed to carefully frame the young woman.

Depth in frame within a frame photography

The woman on the train (above) is also an example of how using frames within a frame can help create an enhanced sense of depth in your compositions.

This becomes even more exaggerated when you use a shallow depth of field. Blurring the frame shows that the frame and the subject are at different distances from the camera (and it also helps draw the viewer’s eye to your subject!).

For instance, look at the photo below. The white pillars on either side of the dancer and the circular shape behind her head frame her well. And the shallow depth of field helps create actual depth in the image.

Note, however, that you can use frame within a frame photography in circumstances where you convey no sense of depth.

Take a look at the photo above. Are the people walking in front of or behind the large palm trees? The trees create a nice frame, but because the key elements are silhouetted, there’s no visual information to reference depth.

Composing with existing and created frames

Some frames are more obvious than others. Unfortunately, more obvious frames tend to be a bit too common in photographic compositions – to the point that they become clichéd.

So instead of using obvious frames, access your imagination. Look for unusual elements you can incorporate into your compositions. These can sometimes create interesting frames around your subjects.

Frames don’t have to be physical; you can always use light and shadow as a frame. Look for areas of contrast that surround what you’re focusing on. Carefully position yourself and your subject to maximize the effect.

Out-of-focus elements can also be used to create frames. When you have an object in the foreground that doesn’t form a complete frame around your subject, simply choose a wide aperture setting and make sure the foreground object is close enough to your camera. You’ll get a rather abstract form that can frame the subject and help lead the viewer’s eye into your picture.

Take a look at the image below. Do you see how the blurred vegetation creates a frame around my subject?

Making use of what’s around you to create a frame can be very effective. Here, I have used the model herself to make a frame within a frame:

Look for frames and you’ll find them

Practice looking for frames, and you’ll begin to see them everywhere. Study the work of other photographers and see how they work with frames. Do a quick image search online for examples, and you’ll soon see how imaginative some photographers are with frames!

Then go out with a camera. Like anything, the more you do frame within a frame photography, the easier it becomes. Set yourself the task of creating a frame within a frame every time you head out to shoot.

That way, you’ll begin to train yourself to see situations where you can incorporate this compositional technique into your work.

Frame within a frame photography: Final words

Frame within a frame compositions are a great way to focus the viewer’s eye on your subject – and a great way to add depth to your photos.

So make sure you get out and practice! As I explained, the more you practice, the sooner you’ll be creating stunning frame within a frame photos.

Now over to you:

Have you ever tried frame within a frame photography? Do you have any framing tips? What are your favorite frames? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

11 Street Photography Ideas to Spark Your Creativity

A Post By: Kevin Landwer-Johan

Coming up with fresh, interesting street photography ideas can be a challenge – especially if you’re first starting to explore the genre.

But don’t worry. Because in this article, I share 11 ideas for beautiful photos, all designed to help you get excited about street photography.

Some ideas are a little more abstract than others; some may suit your tastes and others may not. But don’t only consider the ideas you feel comfortable with. Step outside your comfort zone and try something new. It’ll help you grow as a photographer, and it’ll add a richer dynamic to your portfolio of images!

1. People connecting

Instead of photographing individuals or groups of individuals, look for people interacting with each other. Aim to capture their relationship. This may be as simple as the exchange that takes place when someone buys a newspaper or street food. 

I photographed the ladies below in a street market in Myanmar. The place was packed, and busy, too, with people coming and going. The two women met in the middle of the street and had a good catch-up. I have no idea what they were talking about, but it seemed like they had not seen each other for a while.

Standing close to them, I took a series of photos. They were engrossed in their conversation and quite oblivious to my presence.

2. Bicycles

I think you’ll find bicycles in most cities, towns, and villages, no matter your location. And they make wonderful photography subjects! You can photograph people riding bicycles, or bicycles that have been parked, bicycles with their owners, and bicycles without.

Look at the shapes and lines. Emphasize the wheels, handlebars, or seat. Come in close and consider the details. All bikes are unique and have some special features that you can focus on.

I’ve been photographing bicycles since I got my first camera. By now I have a pretty good collection of bike images.

3. Shadows and reflections

This idea is a little more abstract, and it’s all about looking for interesting shadows and reflections to photograph. 

Note that you can find shadows and reflections made by pretty much anything. And it’s not about the item itself, just the effect of it interacting with the light. 

Dark shadows on a bright, sunny day are created by interestingly shaped items. Bikes make wonderful shadows. Trees do, too. Use your imagination when the sun’s out, or at night when passing under a street light.

(Also, think long and hard about whether you want to photograph just the shadow, or whether you want to include the item making the shadow, too.)

Reflections are all around you: In shop windows, the chrome of a classic car, puddles on the pavement after rain. Once you begin to look, you’ll start to see them everywhere.

4. A bird’s-eye view

Look for locations where you are above the action. Capturing a bird’s-eye view of a street scene offers a perspective most people won’t otherwise experience.

After all, a view from above shows the world differently from how most of us see it.

So how can you achieve the bird’s-eye view perspective? Search for a footbridge or an overpass. Balconies, second-floor windows, and mezzanine floors are also all great places to shoot from above.

5. Interesting modes of transport

How are people getting around? What are they using to carry their stuff from one place to another? Look for unusual and interesting modes of transport to photograph.

You might find an old person pulling a cart or an entrepreneur with a vehicle crafted to fit their specific needs. Maybe you’ll see a business person in a suit on a scooter or skateboard.

Many cities have public transportation that may seem common to their inhabitants – but it’s unique to the location and very unusual outside of those places.

6. Find the best light

Morning and evening are often considered the best time to take photographs because the light is richer and more flattering. But whatever time of day you can get out and about with your camera, always try to determine where the light is best.

In street photography, you need to study your locations and decide where to position yourself to make the most of the light. You can’t change the light, so you must do what you can to manage it well. 

When you can’t get out in the morning, late afternoon, or evening, you’ll need to try harder to find the best light. It’s not impossible, just challenging. Look for where the light reflects and plays off surfaces in an interesting way. Position yourself and wait.

You may be surprised at what you can photograph.

7. Work one location

Shoot in the same location, over and over again. For a week, a month, or a year. Commit to spending time at the same location regularly – for longer than you think you will need to.

By sticking with a single location, you’ll be forced to push yourself creatively.

Consider what makes the place unique or special. Aim to capture its character. What do you observe happening each time you’re there? Visit at different times of the day and night. How does the light vary? Shoot from as many different angles as possible.

Sure, it’ll seem hard, especially at first. But it’ll be great for developing your eye and your creativity.

8. People working

Find people doing what they’re good at. Ask permission and offer free prints of your best photos.

When someone’s engrossed in what they’re good at, it’s easy to capture expression and feeling. You may be surprised at what you can photograph just from walking down the street.

Once you’ve found a person to photograph, observe them carefully. Look for peak moments in their activity. Watch for repetition. Capture the most significant aspects of their tasks with the aim of telling a story about what they are doing.

9. Shoot in black and white

Working in black and white is a classic – and somewhat cliché – street photography idea, but I feel compelled to include it. Black and white is easy to overlook. But it’s a great way to produce powerful photos.

Some photos are simply stronger in black and white. Some subjects and lighting conditions just lend themselves to monochrome.

Are you struggling with inspiration? Thinking and photographing in black and white can be the perfect way to get your creativity flowing!

Strip away the color. Pay careful attention to the light and tone. Look to present more feeling in your photos.

10. Photograph people (and interesting things)

Get bold. Take some street portraits. And if possible, get your subject to pose with a prop.

Why? Props help people feel more comfortable. Plus, when a person’s holding something interesting, their attention will be a little distracted. They won’t be totally focused on you and your camera.

Ask the people you photograph some questions about their prop. Show that you are interested. This can also bring up valuable information, which can then lead to other street portrait ideas.

11. Local animals

Look for birds, dogs, and cats in the street to photograph. Capture them as they sleep and as they eat.

Find a cat who owns the space it lives in. Look for a dog that wants attention from everyone who passes. Capture birds as they clean up crumbs left on an outdoor cafe table.

You’ll end up with some wonderfully intimate street shots!

Street photography ideas: final words

Hopefully, you’re now feeling far more motivated – and you have plenty of ideas worth photographing.

So choose one or two items that resonate with you. If none of the above work, check out the list below, where I’ve included some additional options. Work on a few to see which ones stick. Then go with the flow, and you’ll soon find you don’t want to put your camera down!

My list of additional street photography ideas:

  • Environmental portraits
  • People and signs
  • Minimalism
  • Empty streets
  • Current issues
  • Hands
  • Close-up portraits
  • Silhouettes
  • Slow shutter speed
  • Decisive moment
  • Street art
  • One color
  • Shapes (squares, circles, triangles)
  • Looking through things (frame within a frame)
  • Worm’s-eye view
  • Reflections
  • Photograph from inside
  • One lens

Street photography idea FAQs

What makes a good street photo?

It captures the essence of a place as you perceive it.

How do I start street photography?

Pick up your camera and head out the door. It’s as simple as that!

What are the rules for street photography?

I know of no rules for street photography. But here are a few suggestions: Photograph what you’re interested in. Be polite and stay safe. Make good art.

Is street photography legal?

In most countries, you are allowed to photograph whatever you like so long as you are on public property.

10 Street Photography Tips for Beautiful Shots

By: Eric Kim

How can you capture stunning street photos? What’s the best way to get started with street photography?

As an experienced street shooter, I’ve been exactly where you are – and over time, I’ve developed plenty of street photography tips and techniques to go from beginner shots to standout professional images.

That’s what this article is all about; I share everything you need to know to jumpstart your street photos, including:

  • My favorite street photography gear
  • How to get over the fear of being noticed
  • An easy way to make your subjects feel comfortable
  • Compositional tips to really get those eye-catching shots
  • Much more!

Let’s dive right in, starting with my first tip:

1. Ditch the zoom and use a wide-angle prime

Street photography is not like your high-school science class. You don’t examine your subjects under a microscope. Rather, street photography is about experiencing life up close and personal.

When starting out as a street photographer, you may be tempted to use a long zoom (e.g., a 70-200mm lens) so you can shoot from afar and feel less awkward. But it will do much more harm than good.

First of all, you will look hugely conspicuous in public holding a monster zoom lens. A long lens stands out from miles away and people will notice.

Second, if you use a zoom lens, you have to point it directly at somebody. This makes the person you’re trying to photograph aware of what’s happening as if they have a gun pointed to their head.

So instead of a long zoom, use a lens that’s much smaller, more inconspicuous, and less threatening: a wide-angle prime, such as a 24mm f/2.8 lens, a 20mm f/2.8 lens, or a 35mm f/2.8 lens.

People will be far less bothered by such a compact lens, and they often won’t even notice you holding it. Plus, by using a wide-angle lens, you can capture your subjects without pointing your camera directly at them; for instance, you can compose so they’re off to one side, and it’ll look (to your subjects) like you’re shooting a completely different part of the scene.

2. Get as close as you can

In street photography, closeness makes a big difference. So when I tell you to get close, I mean it. Get so close that you can see the perspiration dripping from a person’s forehead or the texture of their skin.

When you combine closeness with a wide-angle prime lens (as discussed in the previous tip), you’ll get a highly immersive, engaging perspective. The viewer will feel like they’re a part of the scene, not just someone looking in from afar.

Plus, if you get very close to your subject, they won’t think anything of it; they’ll believe you’re taking a photo of something behind them, especially if you aim your camera slightly to the side.

3. Always carry your camera with you

If you’ve been doing street photography for a while, you’ve probably heard this one a million times – but I bet you’ve come up with a million excuses and reasons not to carry a camera.

“My camera is too heavy,” you probably think. “It’s frustrating to keep the camera constantly charged and ready to go.”

And yes, carrying a camera can be frustrating. But you know what’s more frustrating? Missing the perfect photo opportunity and regretting it for the rest of your life.

Yes, that’s a bit dramatic, but it’s genuinely true; you never know when the most amazing moment will present itself. Do you really want to be standing there without a camera when it happens?

On the other hand, if you get in the habit of always carrying your camera with you, you’ll never miss those “Kodak moments” that always seem to happen with no warning. I myself have taken some of my best images at the most unexpected times – images that would have been impossible to capture if I were not dedicated to keeping a camera by my side.

4. Disregard what other people think of you

Here’s a street photography tip for beginners:

One of the things that you’re probably worried about is being viewed by other people as a “creeper,” a “weirdo,” or simply getting unpleasant comments. But you must learn to disregard these thoughts.

When you’re shooting on the streets, you will most likely be alone. That means that any judging bystanders will be people that you do not know and will most likely never see again in your life. Why let them get in your way?

You may feel constricted by social rules, especially when you’re just starting out. But remember, social rules are not laws, and in many locations, there is no law that prevents photography in public places.

If you’re really struggling to get past your fear of being judged, here’s a simple exercise to try:

Spend time doing something unusual in public. Lie on the ground for a minute and see how other people react. Then get up and simply walk away like nothing happened. Walk into an elevator and stand facing the back wall. Go to a busy intersection and stand like a statue. People won’t care, trust me – I had to do that last one as an experiment for one of my sociology classes.

The social world is full of rules that constrict us. Break them, learn to be at peace with it, and shooting in the streets will become quite natural.

5. Smile often

When shooting in the streets, a smile can go a long way. If you take a photo of someone and they give you a weird look, simply tip your hat to them and show them two rows of your pearly white chompers. They’ll generally go on with their day (and they might even smile back).

I use this approach all the time, and I get around a 95% response rate, even in Los Angeles. Some of the most unapproachable people smile back at me. People trust a street photographer who smiles; they will simply see you as a hobbyist, not someone with malicious intent.

Plus, by smiling often, it’ll help you relax – and a relaxed photographer is a better photographer!

6. Ask for permission

Many street photography purists say that the only real street photography is candid. And it’s certainly true that you sometimes don’t want to ask for permission when shooting on the street; otherwise, you’ll fail to capture those unique, spontaneous moments that really define the genre.

That said, there’s nothing wrong with asking before shooting, and street portrait photography is a genuinely interesting area of exploration.

So feel free to go up to strangers who you want to photograph and ask to take a portrait. Most people love getting their photos taken, and as long as you act courteous and casual about it, many will accept.

Also, try approaching mundane subjects of everyday life, like the waitress at a diner, the bellhop of a hotel, or even a parking lot attendant.

7. Be respectful

There’s a tricky, gray line that every street photographer must navigate:

Whether it’s acceptable to photograph the homeless. Some street shooters avoid this type of photography completely, while others specifically aim to document difficult living conditions.

Personally, I try not to take photos of people who appear too down on their luck. I do think there are tasteful images of the homeless that generate awareness and support – but there are also many images that look like pure exploitation. Think of the cliché shot of a homeless person crouched over on the street, begging for money. Such a photo might look “real” or “edgy,” but that doesn’t mean you should take it.

Before you press the shutter button, determine the message you are trying to convey. Are you shooting to build awareness of the atrocious situations that many homeless people experience? Or are you merely taking a photo of a homeless person for the sake of taking their photo or to boost your portfolio? If it’s the latter, you should probably put your camera back down, though ultimately only you can decide what to do.

8. Look for juxtaposition

For me, juxtaposition is what makes street photography so unique and fascinating compared to other genres. Thanks to the careful use of juxtaposition, street photographs can convey the humor, irony, and beauty of everyday life.

The idea is to take two contrasting elements – often a subject and their environment, or two subjects – then put them together in the same frame.

A few quick juxtaposition tips:

  • Look for signs with interesting messages that seem contradictory to the people standing nearby
  • Be on the lookout for human heads that seem to be displaced by other objects, such as street lamps
  • Look for two individuals that differ in height, complexion, or even weight
  • Look for several individuals displaying a range of emotions, be it happiness, sadness, curiosity, anger, etc.

By the way, juxtaposition doesn’t always need to make sense. Some juxtapositions highlight a clear message, but others simply emphasize the absurdity of life, and that’s okay, too!

9. Tell a story

Many beginner street photographers simply try to capture people out and about, and that’s fine – but as you progress, try to add a bit of narrative to each of your photos.

Before you take an image, imagine that you are a film director and that you’re trying to make an interesting movie. Who are the main actors? What is your backdrop? How are the main actors interacting? What kind of emotions are you trying to convey?

Ultimately, images that tell a story are the ones that really stick in the mind of the viewer. And the absolute best images tend to be so illustrative, so evocative, that the viewer returns to them again and again.

So when you get the opportunity, weave a narrative into your photos!

10. Just do it

This is my last tip, and it’s an absolutely essential point to understand:

If you want to be a street photographer, you’ve got to get out and actually shoot. Reading about street photography techniques is helpful, but photography isn’t done behind a computer screen! At some point, no matter how hard it might feel, you need to head out that door and start capturing the world.

So grab a DSLR, point-and-shoot camera, smartphone, or even a disposable film camera – then hit the streets. The beauty of the world awaits, so don’t miss your chance.

Street photography tips: final words

Hopefully, you found these street photography tips and techniques useful. Remember, street photography is all about getting out and capturing the world, so push away your discomfort, do a big smile, and take some great photos!

Now over to you:

Which of these street shooting tips do you like most? Which do you plan to use? And do you have any tips of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Surreal scenes and broken dreams: 2021’s best street photography – in pictures

From a giant eyeball on the subway to a winged dog at a wedding, here’s the year’s best photography at street level

There is No Bad Light for Street Photography

By: Valerie Jardin

One of the advantages of being a street photographer is that you certainly don’t need to get up before dawn to catch the good light. Harsh sunlight, nighttime and rainy days are only a few of the most desired situations on the streets. Getting up too early, before people are out and about, may actually be counter-productive in your search for the decisive moment.

The key is to use light, any light, to your advantage

Any time of day or night, be aware of the quality and quantity of light, and look for interesting light sources and subjects.

Nighttime photography

The night adds a new dimension to your street photography. There are so many interesting light sources to work with such as street lights, traffic lights, car lights, neon signs, etc. Even bright Smartphone screens illuminating people’s faces can make for a fun shot. Learn to focus manually for night photography. Even if the auto focus works in most conditions, practice switching to manual focus rapidly, it may save the shot!

It’s true that a simple slider action in post-processing can bring out details from the shadows, but that doesn’t mean that you should always use it. This is a common mistake that I see too often when the night scene starts to look like it was shot in the daytime. Let the shadows fall where they do and embrace the atmosphere and mystery of the night.

Don’t worry about noise, especially if you shoot black and white. First, you can now push the ISO of most cameras to very high numbers with very little noise. Second, the little bit of grain in your pictures will enhance the mood and atmosphere. Likewise, embrace the motion blur and the slightly out of focus shots. Who says that a good image has to be tack sharp? What’s the point of technical perfection if your subject is boring, or the story non-existent?


The key to successful silhouette photography is to find a well-defined subject. Remember that not everyone makes an interesting street photography subject and the same principle applies to silhouettes. The shape of the body should be well defined, capturing the right gesture is even more important to achieving a strong image. Many elements can add interest as well, such as umbrellas, bicycles, hats, etc. Watch for obstructions in front of and behind your subject, and if they are moving, make sure you don’t catch them in between steps. Setting your camera in burst mode will increase your chances of getting the right gesture. Remember that your subject is not the background, which can act as a distraction, so do not be afraid to blow out the highlights behind your silhouettes unless it is an integral part of the story.

In order to shoot successful silhouettes, you need to take control of your camera first. Instead to going through all the steps here, check out: How to Photograph Silhouettes in 8 Easy Steps.

Shooting into the bright sun

Shooting into the sun when it’s low in the sky can create some dramatic shots. Add a sunburst effect when possible. The starburst effect is best achieved by setting your camera at a small aperture and hiding the sun partially behind a structure or person. Experiment with exposure compensation to get a nice dark silhouette and once you’re happy with the result, wait for the right subject to enter your frame, or the right action to happen.

Strong shadows

Street photographers love shadows. Similarly to silhouettes, not every shadow works. It should be really dark and well defined. The surface on which it shows will also play a part in the result. It’s important to strategize and position yourself to get the best possible shot, the shadow may hit a wall next to the subject for instance. Long shadows are also really interesting when shot from a higher vantage point. Sometimes it’s all about the shadow, and the subject casting it does not even need to be fully included. This method, if well executed, will add an element of mystery.


Sunlight can create some really cool reflections in windows, puddles, or other surfaces and add interest to your street photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

High contrast situations

Harsh sunlight and deep shadows can create ideal situations for the discerning street photographer.  The sun comes out after the rain? Even better! The wet pavement will add yet another dimension and interest.

Dappled light

One of my favorite daylight situations in street photography is when I find a nice source of dappled light. Remember that even if the situation is ideal, not every person walking down the street will make an interesting subject. It’s often a game of patience…

Rainy days

As long as you protect your gear (and yourself), rainy days can provide some of the best street photography opportunities. People on the streets will behave very differently when it’s raining, creating some interesting situations. Umbrellas also make for good props. There are also ways to embrace the rain by focussing selectively through windows, car windshields, etc.

Open shade for street portraits

If you enjoy doing street portraits, then the same simple rules that you apply for any other portrait will help you achieve the best result. Once you’ve asked your subject for a portrait, you might as well go the extra step and ask them to move slightly, or even cross the street for the most flattering light. Look for open shade to avoid harsh shadows on their face.

Golden and blue hour

Of course, there are also beautiful photographs of people to be made in the early morning and late evening hours, but always remember that there is no bad light!


Never use the quality of light as an excuse not to hit the streets. Making any light work in your favor is part of the fun and also the best way to improve your skills and get some cool shots. Have fun!

50mm Street Photography: What Makes It Great (+ Tips)

A Post By: Simon Ringsmuth

There’s a longstanding debate about whether 50mm street photography is the right way to go, or if wider lenses are a better choice. Most people who practice street photography prefer lenses with a broader field of view like 35m or 28mm, but that doesn’t mean 50mm is useless. Far from it, in fact.

There are many good reasons to choose this focal length when shooting photos out on the street. Shooting with a 50mm lens also unlocks lots of photographic possibilities – along with adding some creative constraints – and the results you get just might be among your all-time favorite pictures.

Reasons to use a 50mm lens for street photography

The first lens I ever purchased for my DSLR was a 50mm f/1.8, and I still use that same lens today. It’s kind of a jack of all trades option, and it lets me get great shots in a variety of situations, especially when shooting with a full-frame camera.

I have since picked up a variety of other lenses but find myself returning to the classic “nifty fifty” time and again, especially for street photography. It has a charm and sense of character to it that other lenses can’t match, and it’s a great option for beginner street photographers who want to step up from their kit zoom lenses.

In other words: There are plenty of reasons to use a 50mm lens for street photography. Not convinced yet? Here are some of my favorite reasons to stick with a 50mm lens when shooting on the street, starting with:

1. 50mm helps isolate your subject

Streets are filled with activity: pedestrians, vehicles, tourists, animals, and much more. Shooting with a wide-angle lens makes it easy to capture an entire scene – but difficult to isolate a single subject.

On the other hand, when you use a 50mm lens, the field of view is constrained, so your subject is often isolated amidst the chaos, hustle, and bustle of daily life.

While you can get a similar effect with a wider lens simply by moving closer to your subject, you may feel like you are imposing on your subject’s personal space. Shooting with a 50mm lens is a great way to make your subject stand out while also maintaining a comfortable distance.

2. 50mm lenses have amazing depth of field

Every lens adjusts the depth of field, but it’s much easier to manipulate DoF on a 50mm lens compared to a wider lens. To get pleasing foreground or background blur on a 28mm or 35mm lens, you need to close the distance between you and your subject or shoot with a very wide aperture, which tends to get expensive.

Moving near to your subjects is fine if you are comfortable getting close to strangers, but lots of street photographers like to leave a bit of distance. Thankfully, the large f/1.8 or f/1.4 aperture on most 50mm lenses lets you get sharp subjects and beautiful background blur even while standing back a bit. This depth of field can be the difference between a decent photo and a great one, and it’s a great tool to have in your back pocket for when you really need it.

Of course, longer focal lengths like 85mm or 105mm give you even more control over depth of field, but these options can isolate your subject a little too much. Whereas 50mm hits the sweet spot; it lets you get enough in the frame while also offering fine control over depth of field.

3. 50mm helps you capture fast action

Some might cry foul on this one, since any lens can capture fast action as long as you can get a quick shutter speed – but once again we find that a 50mm lens hits the sweet spot. As long as you have plenty of light and good autofocus, you can freeze a moment in time with any lens, but if you want to do this in a street setting, 50mm is the way to go.

With a wide f/1.4 or f/1.8 aperture, you can easily get a shutter speed of 1/500s or 1/1000s in most lighting conditions, which is plenty for stopping movement and eliminating motion blur. And the midrange focal length is perfect for honing in on one subject while not interfering with the movement that you are trying to capture.

If you want a bit more reach, you can shoot with a 50mm lens on a crop-sensor camera, which will put you even closer to the action when photographing, say, musicians or street performers. The 50mm focal length is ideal for freezing motion on a single subject and focusing your viewers’ attention, which is tricky when shooting with wider focal lengths.

4. 50mm gets you close to your subject

Here’s one of my favorite aspects of shooting with a 50mm lens:

It’s not really a wide-angle lens, but also not really a telephoto lens. It exists in the gray middle ground between those two extremes, and as such, lets you tap into the power of both. This means you can get up close and personal with subjects on the street without being too close, especially if you shoot with a crop-sensor camera. You can also stand back and give yourself some breathing room while getting near enough to make a personal image.

I’ve shot street photos with a variety of focal lengths and consistently found that 50mm strikes the best balance. Wider lenses capture entire scenes, while telephoto lenses are great for portraits. But 50mm lens lets you capture scenes that also feel personal by bringing you just close enough to your subject, and the results can be amazing.

5. 50mm gives you a unique perspective

While some people think the 50mm focal length is boring, I have found the opposite to be true, especially for shooting street photos.

When capturing the image above, I was on top of a three-story parking garage and shooting straight down to get a shot of the pathway light. While I was framing the shot, a pedestrian happened to walk through the image, and I got a picture that wouldn’t work at all with a wider or longer lens.

I frequently come across situations like this with 50mm lenses, where a wider focal length would ruin the shot. It’s this unique perspective that makes 50mm so good for street photography. You get a perspective that takes ordinary scenes and turns them into interesting, creative photo opportunities that can ignite your curiosity and inspire your imagination.

50mm street photography tips

1. Don’t always shoot wide open

Wide-aperture lenses are outstanding photography tools, but when not used carefully, they can cause problems.

It’s tempting to shoot wide open at f/1.8, f/1.4, or even f/1.2 if your 50mm lens has that capability. But while the results can be sublime, there are a lot of reasons to stop down to f/2.8, f/4, or even smaller, especially when doing street photography.

For one, a smaller aperture gives you more wiggle room with depth of field, plus it results in better overall image sharpness. Street photographers often use zone focusing, which is extremely difficult when shooting at very wide apertures, especially on a 50mm lens.

Also, shooting wide open can occasionally give you too much background blur, to the point that it’s distracting or downright ugly. My rule of thumb is to use my 50mm lens one or two stops down from its widest aperture for most street shooting, then open it up all the way for those situations where you really need it.

2. Capture action through panning

If you really want to take your street photography to the next level, try some panning shots. This is a great way to capture motion using long shutter speeds, especially with a 50mm lens.

Start with a small aperture – try f/8 – and a relatively slow shutter speed, such as 1/30s. Then put your camera in continuous high-speed shooting mode, set your autofocus to AF-C instead of AF-S, and fire away as a cyclist, pedestrian, or automobile zooms past.

It might take a few tries to get the shot you want, but with a little practice, you will soon create works of street art that you will be proud to print and hang on the wall or share on social media.

3. Look for light and shadow

This tip isn’t specific to a 50mm lens, but in my experience, it’s easier with one. You see, the constrained field of view at 50mm makes situations of light and shadow easier to find, since it forces your eye to look at a smaller portion of the world compared to a wider lens.

When shooting on the street, look for unique photo opportunities that use light and shadow in creative ways. Try shooting silhouettes or using backlighting to create interesting photo opportunities. Pay attention to the time of day and adjust your shooting accordingly. I really like going out in the early morning or late evening when the sun casts long shadows over everything; you can create amazing photos that you just can’t get at other times.

4. Capture moments, not people

This is another tip that’s good for any street photography situation, but one that is often enhanced when shooting with a 50mm lens. Try to capture moments in time that display singular elements of humanity: purpose, decisiveness, intention, drive, and so on. Don’t just get shots of people standing around, wandering aimlessly, or sitting and staring at their phones. Look for emotions like love, caring, compassion, happiness, or fear.

Take pictures that tell a story, such as the one above, which I shot on a college campus on Valentine’s Day. A 50mm lens is ideal for these human moments – you can stand back a bit, get your subjects sharp and focused, and create a sense of three-dimensional space through careful use of aperture and depth of field. This elevates your street photos from flat, boring images of random passersby to slices of life that showcase the best of what humans have to offer in this world.

50mm street photography: conclusion

Street photography is all about personal choice and finding a style that works for you. While the 50mm street photography isn’t the first option for many people, it has some distinct advantages and unique qualities that can help you create impressive images and develop your own artistic vision.

If you have never tried shooting street photos with a 50mm lens, give it a try. I think you’ll like what you see!

Now over to you:

What do you think of 50mm street photography? Have you tried it? Do you have any images you’re proud of? Share your thoughts and photos in the comments below!

Street Photography

The art of capturing a scene in a public place, particularly on the street, is called street photography. Many of these types of photographs are also considered to be candid in nature, usually unstaged and shot spontaneously.

Depending on the country, there are certain consent laws to take into account when taking photos of people in public. Being aware of what these laws are in a given location is an important part of capturing street photography for broader use.

Another genre that’s closely linked is urban photography, in which photographers capture street scenes in city settings. Portraiture and architecture often play a part in these images as well.

Subject matter doesn’t always need to include people, however. Capturing environments that don’t include visible human activity can also be considered street photography. In those cases, human presence is usually implied through the composition of the image. While also having many similarities to documentary photography, street photography tends to be less deliberate in its purposeful or defined messaging.

5 Exercises to Improve Your Street Photography

Do you want to capture amazing street photography, but you just feel like you’re not good enough? Don’t worry, because this article is going to give you five fantastic street photography exercises that are guaranteed to improve your street photography. It’ll provide you with the tools you need to take amazing street photos.

Let’s get started.

1. Find a scene and stand in place for an hour

It might not seem like it…

…but a lot of street photography is about being patient.

In fact, plenty of the best street photos were taken after a significant amount of standing in place and waiting.

You see, great street photography often involves a powerful background with a focal point. And that focal point is often a person.

But to get the right person in the right place is one of the toughest parts of this genre of photography.

So this exercise is designed to make sure you recognize the rewards of being patient

Here’s what you do:

Start by finding a scene that you like. A building, an alley, an interesting background of some sort. Make sure there’s a decent amount of foot traffic.

Then previsualize. Where would you like your main subject to walk into the frame? Imagine the precise place you’d like them to be when you take the photo.

Then wait.

Now, plenty of people will walk through your scene who don’t fit with your previsualized photo. Maybe they don’t stand in the perfect place. Maybe they don’t have the silhouette you’re looking for.

And that’s okay. After all, this is an exercise in patience!

However, I recommend you take photos of these people anyway. You might end up with something unexpectedly powerful.

Even if you do get the shot you like, keep standing in place. Stay there until an hour has passed.

Because it’s important you understand, not just the rewards of patience, but how to be patient. So even once you’ve achieved your goal, stand in place, and keep taking photos. See what you can get.

Make sense?

2. Shoot an entire outing from an unusual angle

When you’re just starting out in street photography, it’s very easy to take every shot at eye-level.

Putting your camera up to your face is natural. And it can sometimes help you get over the stress of taking photos in public; you can feel like you’re hiding.

But shooting at eye-level is a recipe for consistently boring photos.

Instead, you want to take photos from many different angles. Different angles are the key to creating a dynamic, powerful portfolio.

So the street photography exercise is simple:

Go out with your camera. And only take photos from an uncommon angle.

Which angles count as “uncommon”?

The low angle is a great start. The lower you take your photo, the more awe your photos will generate because it’ll feel like the viewer is looking up at the scene. For the photo above, I shot up toward the clock tower in an attempt to make the image more dramatic.

Plus, a low angle can often clear the background, making it less distracting. It causes people in the background to fall away, leaving only buildings and sky behind your main subject.

To shoot at a low angle, you have a few options. You can sit down or crouch low. Or you can hold your camera down at your hip.

Of course, you don’t have to shoot from a low angle! If you like, you can try finding a vantage point (such as a parking garage), and shoot from high above.

The choice is yours. Just make sure you get used to trying new angles.

It’ll seriously improve your street photos!

3. Ask five strangers if you can take their picture

One of the biggest barriers to great street photography is your own nervousness.

After all, it’s hard to capture photos of people from a distance, let alone up close. You probably worry about people getting angry or even threatening you.

First of all, you should know that, in most countries, it’s legal to photograph people in public places. So you’re not breaking laws.

But the anxiety doesn’t always go away once you know your rights.

This is where this street photography exercise comes in handy.

All you have to do is go out shooting. And ask at least five people if you can take their photo.

It’s okay if they refuse. It’s okay if they agree but the picture is bad.

The only thing that matters is that you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. You’re forcing yourself to see that plenty of people don’t mind having their photo taken in public. And when people do mind, it’s not the end of the world.

This is an exercise that I recommend you try once a week (or until you no longer struggle to photograph people in public).

Because even if you prefer to photograph people without approaching them, knowing that everything will turn out okay will significantly improve your levels of comfort (and, consequently, your street photos!).

4. Only photograph strangely-lit people for a day

If you want to capture amazing street photos, you’ve got to start paying attention to the light.

This is easy to forget about because street photography involves so many variables: people moving fast, cars causing distracting backgrounds, etc.

But you can’t fail to consider the light. Otherwise, your photos will be very inconsistent.

Which brings me to the exercise:

Only photograph people who are strangely lit for the day.

By “strangely lit,” I’m referring to non-standard lighting. The people shouldn’t be lit with standard front-lighting, cloudy lighting, or standard overhead lighting.

Instead, there should be strong backlighting, side lighting, or shadows running through the scene.

By forcing yourself to pay attention to this, you’ll get a better eye for lighting. And it’s the first step toward taking more creative, unique street photos.

Personally, I’m a fan of backlit street photography. So I recommend going out when the sun is low in the sky to see if you can find some backlit subjects.

But you can also shoot people who are walking through shadow. This works especially well if the area around the person is bathed in sunlight, in order to create a high-contrast shot.

Just find some unique lighting, and you’ll do just fine.

5. Spend a week only taking photos of small details

Most street photographers only ever take photos of people.

But here’s the thing:

The streets have plenty of compelling details, too. And a street photographer who can find these details is a street photographer worth watching.

Tiny details lend character to your street photos, even if the main subject is a person. And tiny details can be the sole subject of a photo, as well. You just have to know how to capture them.

This is why your final street photography exercise is dedicated to photographing those beautiful small details.

All you have to do is deliberately photograph little details for a week. Forget about photographing people. Forget about photographing architecture.

Instead, focus on capturing the most compelling details possible.

This might involve creating some abstract photos. Photograph contrasting colors up close. Or photograph spray-painted graffiti.

You can also capture some wider photos: the signs of restaurants, or the front door of buildings. All of these are excellent potential subjects.

Just remember: When you photograph small details, don’t just try to faithfully render the details themselves. Instead, create a compelling composition out of the details. Try to include multiple interesting features.

You’ll take a few boring photos, sure. But you’ll develop an appreciation for the smaller aspects of the city.

And you’ll take some stunning photos in the process.

5 exercises to immediately improve your street photography: Conclusion

Capturing beautiful street photos can be difficult. And for beginning photographers, it can seem impossible.

But if you do these street photography exercises, you’ll notice your outlook starting to change. Street photography won’t seem so difficult.

And you’ll start capturing some amazing street photos.

So get out and start practicing these street photography exercises!

by: Jaymes Dempsey