Member Gallery September 2021

Member gallery

Street Photography: 80 Superb Examples & Tips -Prakash Ghodke

Street photography is a type of documentary photography that features subjects and people in candid situations. It’s usually focused on public places such as streets, parks, beaches, malls, political conventions and other settings. In this showcase we have collected some beautiful examples of street photography, along with few tips to perfect your own technique!.

Before you pick up a camera and head out into the street, it’s worth reading through our guide: The Ins and Outs of Street Photography: 10 Simple Steps. In it, we discuss the best choice of camera, finding a location, trusting your instinct, and the challenges and dangers of photographing in public. It’s a great place to start!

Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography
Street Photography

I hope you enjoyed today’s inspiration post, and feel ready to head outside and capture what’s going on around you. Do you have your own example to share? We’d love to see it in the comments – just post a link to it below, and we’ll take a look!

Getting Close and Personal: 11 Tips for Close-up Candid Street Photography A Post – James Maher

 
Tip #1: If you see a banana stand, hang out near it.
Street photography is not easy. It tests your nerves, your hand eye coordination and your instincts, and lord knows I’ve missed more ‘moments’ than I can count, but the satisfaction of capturing that split second where everything comes together can make it all worth it.

This article is going to focus specifically on tips to help you get your camera as close to people as possible without them noticing. It is certainly not the only way to do street photography, but it is a very effective way. It helps you catch the world around you in an uninterrupted fashion. And if you happen to get caught then so be it, just smile and own up to what you are doing. You’ll be surprised at how understanding most people are about street photography once you are honest with them.

Now for the record, I use a pretty beefy Canon SLR, primarily because I can’t afford the Leica M9 and the Fuji X100 hasn’t come out yet, but I’ve still figured out ways over the years to get up and close with it without being noticed.

1. How you Hold the Camera
2-kissing_couple.jpg

Speed is key and how you hold the camera can make all the difference in the world. I like to wrap the camera strap around my wrist instead of around my neck. It is much quicker and easier to maneuver the camera this way and it also allows you to easily ‘shoot from the hip’ if you need to. When walking down a street I usually hold the camera in front of me at a 45-degree angle, halfway between vertical and horizontal, with my finger on the trigger. This way, I can easily get my camera into the right position if something spontaneous should happen, without tipping off the subject that I am going to photograph them.

2. Shooting from the Hip
3-hindi_paper.jpg

Unless you have a very small rangefinder, the reality is that it is much easier to photograph someone without them noticing if you don’t have to raise the camera above your chest or look through the viewfinder.

The advantage to shooting from your hip with the camera strapped to your wrist is that it really becomes an extension of your arm. You don’t have to shoot in front of you and can shoot sideways or even backwards if you need to. It frees you up to integrate your lens into a situation without anybody noticing. You can shoot from the hip with either both hands or one hand holding the camera, but one hand gives you a little more freedom to aim in any direction. Just keep your arm straight down at your side and then angle the camera up and in whichever direction the scene is happening. Then, if you need to, you can raise your arm or bend your elbow a bit to get the exact frame, but be discreet about it.

3. Use a Wide-Angle Prime Lens
I prefer a 35mm (or 20mm on a cropped sensor.) When you shoot from the hip you have to get used to what the camera is going to catch without actually looking through the viewfinder. The prime lens allows you to easily anticipate this and with some practice it will eventually become instinctual. The wide angle helps because it allows you to get closer while also capturing more of a scene and it really injects the viewer into what is happening.

Also, wide-angle prime lenses are usually very light and small, are much easier to maneuver and are much less noticeable than the larger zoom lenses.

4. The Low and Slightly Diagonal Angle
4-vendor.jpg

Another advantage of shooting from the hip is that you can catch people from a very low angle. I often prefer my candid photography to come from a close-up and low angle because it elongates people and allows the subject to fill the frame. This is obviously not true for every situation, but a lot of the time this is my personal preference.

The slight diagonal angle can be very pleasing, especially for vertical portraits. The angle injects some energy into a photo and allows you to catch a bit more of the surroundings. It creates a lead for the eye to enter the photo and keeps it there, bouncing around between the subject and its surroundings.

5. Be an Actor (and don’t make eye contact)
5-big_guy.jpg

As a street photographer, you can benefit a lot from acting. You might play the part of a spaced out tourist, engulfed in something happening across the street, or perhaps someone who is lost and has to stop for a moment to collect himself, but you are certainly not someone who looks like he is about to take a photo.

I like to act like I’m walking around daydreaming, just spaced out by my surroundings and looking in the somewhat opposite direction of what I want to photograph. I will make my path intersect in the right way with the subject and then stop as if I’m gathering myself or as if I see something interesting. My body will often be angled away from the subject while my camera will be at my hip pointing up at it. Then I take a photograph or two and walk out of there like nothing happened.

Most importantly though, is to never point your head directly at the subject, or god forbid, make eye contact! There is something almost evolutionary about eye contact that will make a person immediately notice you. Even for a split second, it will ruin your cover. Instead, try to look ‘through the person’.

6. The Stutter-Step
6-hands_broadway.jpg

Sometimes stopping completely is not an option. It will just look too obvious. But at the same time you have to be completely stopped to take a photo. No matter how fast your shutter is, if you are slightly moving while taking a photo then it will probably be ruined.

So there is a move called the stutter-step (can you tell I’m a basketball fan?). It’s basically just a very quick stop in full stride, almost like you freeze for a second in mid motion. It probably looks a bit ridiculous to anyone who’s actually paying attention, but it happens so fast that nobody will notice. Once you try it out you’ll understand what I’m talking about and it takes a little bit of practice to get used to.

7. Be Prepared to Change your Camera Settings Quickly
7-locksmith_nap.jpg

I often shoot on manual because I like to have my exposure dialed in before taking these types of photos. When getting close-up you never really know how the camera is going to read a situation and that often leads to a lot of messed up exposures. Manual shooting on the street however can take some serious getting used to, because if you suddenly go from a sunny street to a shady street then you will have to remember to change your settings. I usually keep a sunny and shady general exposure setting in my head and flip back and forth between them.

But what happens then if something sudden occurs? Say you’re walking down a sunny street, settings set up perfectly, when all of a sudden you look to your right and notice a couple of locksmiths in a very dark van, one passed out and one about to light his cigarette? The moment is about to happen! Well in this case I quickly switchover to Aperture Value on my camera, which I have preset with a low aperture value. Even though you will have a loss of some depth of field, you will be able to have it work in both extreme bright or dark situations with a fast enough corresponding shutter speed. You can also do this with shutter value as well.
8. Wear Dark Clothing.
It will help you blend in.

9. Set up your Background Beforehand
8-grand_central.jpg

This is a little out of the realm from what I have been talking about so far, but after all there are a million different ways to take a great street photograph. Search out an interesting background and then wait for the right person to come into your scene. Be patient, it might take some time.

The accompanying photo is not close-up, but I waited for hours for the right person to stop in the right position and it eventually paid off.

This practice also allows you to be in the correct position before the person comes into the scene, so you can ::gasp:: actually look through the viewfinder! Just make it look like you are taking a photo of the background. Some of the best street photographs were planned instead of found. Find the right location and wait it out until the moment happens.

10. Blur and Grain and Black and White
9-nuts.jpg

In this photo, because I wanted the camera focus to be on the NUTS street vendor stand (to emphasize the ‘nutty’ quality of this arguing group of tourists), it meant that I couldn’t get the people in foreground to be perfectly sharp. That just goes with the territory and sometimes you have to make some sacrifices. In this case I think it works… in black and white.

As a street photographer I’m much less afraid of blur and grain than a lot of people. The reality is that it’s not always bright out, you need a fast enough shutter speed and you don’t have the luxury of using a tripod. You will often be stuck with some blur, slight soft-focus or grain from a high ISO.

Now this is only my personal opinion, but I think that these types of photos just look so much better in black and white. You can really turn something that looks terrible in color into a great photograph by making a good black and white out of it. After all, street photography is about the content in the photo, and black and white often helps to focus on that.

11. Fill the Frame with the Subject (and don’t be afraid to crop)
10-hanging.jpg

My biggest critique of street photographers is when I see a photograph with an extremely interesting subject, yet the photographer decided to shoot the entire street and make what should have been the entire photo become just a small part of the frame. Fill the frame with what is important and cut out everything else. Leave some room for the imagination.

Also, with a prime lens and fast moving subjects you’re not always going to be able to be in the perfect spot or catch the perfect angle on the fly. Don’t be afraid to crop in or improve the angle afterwards. This is not landscape photography, where you are always able to plan out every aspect of your image before taking the shot. You should get used to using the crop tool, even if it’s just for a slight correction.

Just remember that the hardest part of street photography is getting out of the front door. The moments are flying around everywhere, but you need to be there and be bold with your camera to be able to catch them. Now get in there and get close!

Two New ‘Rules’ of Composition that Can Improve Your Images – Petapixel

Whirling-Dervishc
Portrait photographer James Allen Stewart wants to show you how to break the old rules of composition… with some new rules. In a recent video, he introduces two of his own rules that have helped him compose more interesting, dynamic images.

Click play below to see Stewart (and his pug) go through both of the rules, and then keep on scrolling to see some example images and read about each rule individually:

Rule 1: Balance the Darks and the Lights
It’s important to strike a balance between the dark and light parts of your image, even if this pulls you away from traditional compositions like the Rule of Thirds.
Darks, Stewart maintains, are compositionally ‘heavy’ and draw your eye; lights, on the other hand, are much lighter and don’t pull your attention as strongly. Use this relationship to strike a balance that will lead your subject’s eye to the image’s focal point.
For example, this crop is rule of thirds balanced:

While this one is balanced using the darkness and light rule:

The focal point of the image is her eye, but the rule of thirds does a poor job drawing your focus there because of the dark patch in her swirling hair. The wider crop uses the dark background to balance the image and leave no doubt where the viewer’s eye should land.
Rule 2: “Read” Your Photo from Left to Right
Most languages are written from left to right, and Stewart argues that your images should be “written” in the same way. Read the story of your photo from left to right, and see if it makes sense.
Is it intriguing? Does it have a climax? Does it get to the focal point too soon and then drop off uncomfortably into nothing?
In one example Stewart uses, his image originally looked like this:

The story—at least to Stewart—is okay but it reaches its climax (the subject’s face) too quickly and then drops off. By simply flipping the image, it takes on a new life as it’s read from left to right:

As with any composition ‘rules’ these are not hard and fast, but they offer an interesting alternative to the standard compositions you’ve probably become accustomed to seeing.
“Of course the new rules are just a way of seeing things with fresh eyes and maybe approaching your work more intuitively,” Stewart told us over email. “As for myself, I know I can lack ‘the spark’ sometimes, and can use methods of composition that aren’t just grids… it makes your creativity flow better.”
Let us know what you think of Stewart’s suggestions in the comments down below, and if you want to see more of his work, visit his website, Instagram, Facebook, and 500px.
(via Fstoppers)

10 Tips For Incredible iPhone Street Photography – Kwe Bentum

Street photography has become incredibly popular in the mobile photography community. This genre of photography is all about narrating a compelling story of people’s daily lives, photographing interesting architecture, or often a combination of both. There are so many endless possibilities with street photography and it can be immensely rewarding, but capturing the hustle and bustle of city life can be difficult. In this tutorial you’ll discover ten great tips for improving your iPhone street photography and telling interesting stories through your imagery.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 10

Street photography, especially with people involved, creates a unique moment in time that can usually never be repeated. Improving your street photography can be very rewarding, especially when there’s a purpose or a powerful story behind every photo taken.

Our eyes are naturally drawn to lines and symmetry, which you’ll find all over towns and cities. Capturing an interesting subject in such a setting adds so much to aperfectly composed photograph, allowing you to create a visually appealing image that tells a story and evokes emotion in the viewer.

So, let’s take a look at ten tips that will help you to produce amazing street photography images with your iPhone.

1. Find A Good Location

A good location is essential because it provides an interesting backdrop for your photo. Even though street scenes are often very busy, try to find a spot where there’s not too much distraction in the background. Being able to isolate your main subject from the background will make them stand out much better.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 11

Pay attention to the time of day when shooting. In some places, weekends are the best times to photograph locations that are typically busy during the week. Early mornings before rush hour are ideal for capturing quieter street scenes.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 6

Don’t forget to look for interesting objects in the foreground too. The white lines of this street crossing provide excellent foreground interest that add depth to the photo and draw the eye towards the main subject.

2. Photograph Strangers

Taking pictures of strangers can be a daunting prospect when you first start shooting street photography. But it’s the act of capturing the unique moments of people going about their daily lives that makes street photography so interesting.

The iPhone actually makes it very easy to take photos of people without them noticing you. Its small size, and the fact that you can pretend you’re using it for something else such as listening to music or sending a text, makes the iPhone a very discreet camera.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 20

Shooting with the iPhone held in vertical portrait orientation will make it less obvious that you’re taking a photo. If you hold it in horizontal landscape orientation, this is probably an indication that you’re taking a photo which might ruin the moment once a stranger in close proximity finds out they’re being photographed.

Try to blend into your surroundings so that people don’t take any notice of you. Standing in the middle of a road with your iPhone held out at arms length is going to get you noticed! This will result in you being unlikely to get natural shots of people in the street. Another way to remain discreet is by pretending to be tying a shoe lace, andtaking your photo from a low angle.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Great places to photograph strangers are during a train commute, stoplight intersections, coffee shops, or loading zones for taxis and buses. If you’re at an intersection, strangers will probably be more focused on watching for the green light or crossing the street, rather than paying attention to a photographer.

3. Use Burst Mode

Capturing action shots of moving subjects can be difficult. There’s the possibility of blurred images due to unsteady hands or the fast movement of subjects, and often the subject has disappeared by the time you’ve pressed the shutter button.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 7

Anticipating the shot and using burst mode is really important when photographing moving subjects such as people walking down the street or moving traffic. Using burst mode ensures that the perfect moment is captured, such as a person in full stride or with an interesting facial expression.

Kwe Bentum iPhone Photos 9

The native camera on the iPhone 5s, 6, and 6 plus has a burst mode option. TheCamera+ app also has a burst mode feature which is a great asset for all iPhones.

To activate burst mode simply hold down the shutter button and your phone will take a series of shots. You can then choose the best photo from the sequence. Make sure HDR mode is off when capturing motion shots since it can add blur to your images.

Every second counts when photographing motion, so try to anticipate the movement of your subject and start shooting in burst mode just before they enter the part of the frame that you want to capture them in. This will ensure that you never miss the perfect shot.

4. Photograph Interesting Architecture

Street photography isn’t all about photographing people. Towns and cities are full ofinteresting buildings which can make great photographs on their own. You could capture the whole building, an entire city skyline, or just part of a building to create a more abstract shot.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 8

Photograph them from the outside and the inside, trying out different angles to create unique compositions or symmetry. Using leading lines will help you to create very strong compositions that draw the eye into the image.

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

Photographing buildings from an interesting angle, such as this shot looking straight up towards the sky creates a more unique image than shooting it from straight on.

5. Look Up

Don’t just walk around photographing the obvious subjects at eye level. Look up to see what’s above you, then create interesting look-up shots of buildings, bridges,trees, etc.

Move around and try out different angles while looking at the iPhone screen to capture a unique look-up perspective. Try placing your phone against a building and shooting straight up towards the sky.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 22

You can create amazing symmetrical shots using this technique, and if the building has a lot of glass you might be able to capture some great reflections too.

6. Look Down

As well as looking up, pay attention to what’s beneath you. Look down at the ground to see what interesting shots you might get, such as cracks in the pavement, discarded objects, etc.

Pay attention to puddle reflections and other shiny surfaces as you can capture stunning reflections of buildings and people in these reflective surfaces.

Processed with VSCOcam with e6 preset

Crouch down low and experiment with the shooting angle until you get the perfect reflection in your composition. For a more intriguing approach, try flipping your image upside down in post-processing.

Alternatively, shoot from high up to get a bird’s eye view of the scene. Try standing on a bridge or the balcony of a tall building and shooting straight down on a busy street scene.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 4

Stairwells also make great locations for this kind of shot. Try to be creative when shooting stairwell photos. Adding a person as a subject might help create a more unique shot with a strong focal point.

7. Get Close To Capture Small Details

Street photography isn’t all about capturing wide angle street scenes. To add variety to your shots, try getting up close to your subject and capturing small details with your camera. These small details can also tell a story.

How about taking a close-up shot of the texture of peeling paint on an old building, or the umbrella of a person walking in the rain? Focusing up close on an object in the foreground is a great way of creating a shallow depth of field and blurring out the background.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 23

By focusing on my wristwatch in the foreground of this photo, the background has been thrown out of focus. You can still make out the scene in the distance, but it creates a more unique shot of this famous landmark.

Another interesting technique you can try out is to capture a close-up photo of raindrops on a shiny surface with a reflection in the droplets.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

If you have a macro lens for your iPhone, try using this lens on a window with water drops. Such a close-up view will enhance the reflections within the water droplets. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that the reflections are inverted in the droplets.

You don’t necessarily need rain to create water droplets. You could use a tiny water spray and a plastic CD cover to produce your own water droplets. When used with the right street backdrop, a powerful image can be produced.

8. Capture The Magic Of Golden Hour

The time of day and the type of light that you shoot in can make a big difference to how your street photos turn out.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Shooting when the sun is low in the sky, during the golden hours around sunrise and sunset, is often the best time of day to capture photos. This kind of light creates a lovely warm glow in your images.

Golden hour is also the perfect time for capturing stunning silhouettes where your subject appears as a dark outline against the bright sun. At this time of day you’ll also notice long shadows created by the low sun.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 5

These long shadows will add interest and drama to your street photos, creating powerful compositions with a sense of mystery. Using long shadows in the foreground of your photo is a great way of adding foreground interest and leading your eye into the image.

9. Shoot In Harsh Light

An alternative approach to shooting at golden hour is to try shooting in harsh sunlightaround the hours of midday. We’re often taught that photographing in sunny conditions will ruin your photos, but if you get it right you can create some incredibly dramatic shots.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 12

This kind of light creates harsh shadows and lots of contrast in the scene which can add drama and mystery to the shot. Urban “canyons” provide the best conditions for harsh light. Look for locations that have areas of bright light and dark shadows. Buildings are great for casting large shadows over a scene.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 19

These kinds of photos often look great in black and white as this accentuates the contrast between the light and shade. Under-exposing your photo is the best way to create the most dramatic light and shadow-play street photos.

10. Venture Out In Bad Weather

Lastly, instead of only shooting when the sun is shining, always remember to take advantage of bad weather. Snow, rain and fog provide all sorts of gifts for the street photographer.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 24

On a rainy day, you’ll find an abundance of umbrellas which make great additions to your photos. They add a splash of color and a strong geometric shape to your images. Water droplets, reflections, and textures on wet roads are also powerful elements that can add to the final image.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 15

One of my favorite techniques is to take advantage of little water droplet formations on glass panes at bus stops or coffee shops on a rainy day. Shooting strangers through the droplets can lead to incredible abstract-style street photos.

Processed with VSCOcam with h3 preset

Make sure you set focus on the raindrops so that the scene outside appears blurred. Wait for a person (especially with an umbrella) to walk by and take a few shots with burst mode.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 17

Fog is great for isolating your subject as it provides a plain white backdrop in a scene that would normally have a busy background. You can also create powerful images by taking look-up shots of tall buildings that disappear into the low fog.

iPhone Street Photography Tips 1

Snow also creates an interesting environment for street photography. It adds brightness to the scene and you’ll find people behaving differently in snowy conditions. Try using the flash to capture falling snowflakes – the bright light can help to pick up the details.

So wrap up warm and dry, and venture out into the city in bad weather. I guarantee you’ll find some great street scenes to capture with your iPhone!

If you also want to take incredible photos with your iPhone, please join 138,712 subscribers who receive our free iPhone photography email tips that you won’t find anywhere on this website.

Amateur street photography: a beginner’s guide – John Carvill

Camera Club member and photographer-about-town John Carvill explains how to capture great street scenes – and why they’re worth it despite the perils of the pavement

Picture the scene: you’re out on the sidewalk – maybe shopping, chatting or just daydreaming. Suddenly, you notice a shifty-looking bloke pointing a camera at you. What’s your reaction? Discomfort, embarrassment – anger?

Before you lose your temper, spare a thought for the person behind the camera. As a practitioner of the increasingly popular art of amateur street photography, I can assure you there’s every chance the photographer is feeling as embarrassed as you, and is just as uncomfortable with the idea of invading your privacy.

So why do we do it? Are we just voyeurs and stalkers out to spy and gawk? Well, no, but these assumptions mean we’re often in a precarious position. Perhaps our most compelling excuse is the chance to make something out of nothing, to preserve or even celebrate a fleeting moment that barely existed and yet contained something special – a look, a feeling or just a random assembly of shadows and shapes.

We talk about “taking” a photograph, but the process is nowhere near as one-sided as the word implies. There’s a crucial exchange between a photographer and the one-off moment they seek to capture. The moment was already happening and yet, at the same time, was also brought into existence by the photographer – it wasn’t fully there until it was recorded. It’s like taking a scalpel to the flow of the street and slicing off a fragment, which becomes something more than it was. There’s a kind of drama to the act.

City streets are a great place to take photographs. Even mediocre shots can capture something of the energy and romance of communal life. It’s no wonder that street photography is enjoying a renaissance. You may have noticed people pointing cameras at strangers in the street, or perhaps you’re tempted to try your own hand – either way, Thames & Hudson’s recent anthology Street Photography Now confirms its increasing popularity.

For those who yearn to make the leap from admiring other people’s photographs to photographing other people, street photography is the obvious starting point. But it presents a challenge: you only get one chance to capture each moment before it’s gone; there are no second takes. The advantage is that there are an infinite number of these moments.

Scratch
Scratch. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Ironically, street photographers expose themselves to even more scrutiny than their subjects. They must, in the age of terrorism, keep a watchful eye on the watchful eye the police are keeping on them. They face a range of reactions and – as an armchair street photographer who has recently jettisoned the armchair – I’ve written a summary of the reactions I’ve encountered, and included a few tricks and tips.

Hostility
A negative reaction is what every nervous neophyte most expects and fears. I’ve never encountered a level of hostility that threatened to escalate into violence. I’ve been eye-balled by police officers, admonished by security guards and asked: “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I’ve received countless dirty looks, plus the odd suggestion that I “fuck off, yeah?”. But even then, hostility can quickly fade and even transmute into friendly chat.

Hostility
Hostility. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Resentment
This is often just an expression of self-consciousness. One way to counter it is to convince your subject that their natural instinct is correct – ie that nobody is interested in photographing them. So try this (which works more often than you might expect): pretend you weren’t really taking a picture of them at all. Subtly re-aim the camera and take (or pretend to) a couple of shots beside or beyond them.

iPod Girls
iPod girls. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Act naturally. Don’t take just one shot of a subject and then lower the camera. The singularity of the act will mark it out as conspicuous. Instead, take (or appear to) any number of photos before and/or after the one you really want. Move through a crowd fluidly operating your camera, looking as unselfconscious as possible. As in many areas of life, looking and acting plausible can count for a lot. Several books recommend shooting from the hip, but this is hit-and-miss. A better method is to hold your camera between chest and eye height, and fire away in the general direction.

If you do get caught taking someone’s photo, you might as well make sure you’ve taken it. Don’t make the mistake of sheepishly lowering the camera before hitting the shutter button. Try to assume an air of indifference. If you’ve got professional-looking equipment (ie anything more sophisticated than a digital compact) a lot of people will assume you’re a news photographer. It’s also a good idea to say it’s for a college course. But if you tell them it’s a hobby, for some reason you’ll be met with a look of incredulity, roughly translated as: weirdo!

Tacit disapproval
Tacit disapproval. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Disapproval
This is probably the most common non-positive reaction. Most of the time you can just brazen it out – smiling broadly, nodding affably, moving briskly but unhurriedly away.

Sometimes, people ask you to delete the photos. It’s probably best to avoid getting into a debate about who does or doesn’t have the right to demand that you delete a photo (answer: nobody). Unless you think you have captured something truly brilliant, though, it’s probably best to capitulate, if only for the sake of good photographic karma.

A foolproof method of getting round this is to use film. Since you can’t delete a photo from a film camera, no one can demand that you do.

Some fella
Some fella. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Neutrality
Some people don’t react at all. This lies at the edge of what we could call the sweet spot of street photography. A young lady might give you a haughtily dismissive gaze, an older man may simply have seen too much of life to be perturbed by some whippersnapper with a camera.

But don’t overdo it: a neutral reaction doesn’t mean you’ve wandered into an outdoor annexe of Madame Tussauds. Have respect: take one or two shots, then move on.
Get a move on, son!
Get a move on, son! Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Obliviousness
This is the centre of the sweet spot. People on a busy street can be too distracted to notice much, giving a photographer free rein. Street fairs and carnivals are the ideal scenario – loads of different people to choose from and most of them in good spirits.

The Minx
The Minx. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Others are too wrapped up in their own thoughts to notice someone standing right beside them, clicking away. These rare moments of total unselfconsciousness are there to be captured … if you can summon the nerve.

I don’t even know you exist
I don’t even know you exist. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Nerves. The ability to master (or at least live with) them is a key skill in street photography. Don’t be ashamed of feeling nervous – all but the most confident people do – but be assured that the experience is unlikely to be fatal.

Indulgence
Indulgent people are not oblivious, they’re just curious or mildly amused. They give the street photographer a restorative dose of complicity. One knowingly indulgent smile from a stranger can counteract an entire day of wet clothes, aching feet and missed opportunities.

I see you!
I see you! Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Posing
When taking street shots, sometimes you find people happily posing for you; other times, you might explicitly ask someone if they mind posing for a shot. In either case, the danger is that they instinctively lapse into their standard having-my-picture-taken pose, one which is often unflattering and seldom interesting. You can counteract this by pretending you’re not ready, or having problems with the camera, then quickly firing off a shot. Some people have such interesting faces that posing doesn’t matter; others are so relaxed or eccentric that even when posing they are incapable of being boring.

Here’s to you!
Here’s to you! Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Mugging
No, this isn’t when a disgruntled subject sprints off with your camera (though I admit, on a mean city street there is a risk). Mugging is when someone else jumps into the frame. It can be fun to watch people pulling faces and monkeying around, but it rarely makes for an interesting photo. The exception is when the subject and interloper interact and inadvertently make the image work.

It’s all good
It’s all good. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Passing by
City streets are an endlessly interesting subject in their own right. But what looks like a compelling scene when you’re squinting through the viewfinder can sometimes come across a bit flat in the final image. Waiting for someone to walk into the scene can work wonders. Just scope out an interesting background, then wait for a suitable person to come along. It can get a bit frustrating when the perfect subject does come along only to notice you setting up a photo and helpfully walk behind you.

Commute
Commute. Photograph: John Carvill/Flickr
Street photography is rife with ironies and contradictions. The shots wouldn’t exist in any meaningful way without the people in them, yet many of these people might, if asked, opt to remain out of the frame. The key is to empathise with your subjects and treat them as you’d hope to be treated yourself – with kindness and respect. After all, this is a celebration of the streets and the people in them.

The novelist Saul Bellow once described his habit of recharging his creative energies by plunging into the New York subway and immersing himself in the crowd. He called it “taking a humanity bath”. That’s what we do when we take street photographs: we take a long hot bath in humanity. It’s just that we bring a little of the bathwater home with us.

STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS AND TECHNIQUES – DAVE BECKERMAN

When you’re getting started the challenge is overcoming the fear of taking pictures of strangers. Since telephoto lenses are not normally used in street photography, how can you stand a few feet from your subject, put the camera to your eye, focus, and click the shutter without getting nervous? A good street photographer is not only fearful in the beginning (this is a good sign of being sensitive) but they also don’t want to do anything which will change the how the subject is behaving.

With practice, you can overcome your reluctance to photograph strangers as well as learn techniques which will help you get better candid shots. One word of caution – it can be addictive. After a while the street photographer will choose which seat has the best view in a restaurant, or which side of the street offers the best possibilities.

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL AND MORAL ISSUES

The first thing to accept is that you are invading the privacy of your intended subject. You may have the best intentions in the world, but once you decide to point your camera at someone without their permission, you will be invading their personal space. This is what it means to take a candid street shot. Before going into the physical techniques which can make your job easier, it is important to look at your own motives. Most of the time, you see something that you simply want to share with the rest of the world. It might be funny, odd, mysterious, have an interesting design, or any other quality that you think is worth shooting. But you are nervous about taking the photograph. This is normal. When you are just starting out, ask yourself whether you would take the picture if you weren’t afraid of your imagined consequences. This may seem drastic, but pretend that this is your last day on earth, and that nothing else matters but getting this shot. Take a deep breath and after learning the various techniques listed below – you should be ready to get at it.

DRESS THE PART

You’ll be headed out to a tourist spot, so dress like a tourist. I’m not kidding. Although you may have lived in your city for 50 years, get yourself a tourist map and dress like you have just arrived from the mid-west on vacation. I’ll leave that part for you to figure out.

Visit a crowded tourist attraction where everyone has a camera. Dress and act as just another tourist. Study your tourist map. Gawk at the landmark like everyone else. And keep an eye out for interesting subjects.

DO NOT REMOVE YOUR EYE FROM THE CAMERA AFTER YOUR SHOT

Start off like everyone else. Take pictures of the landmark. Keeping the camera to your eye you can now scan through the crowd for something interesting. As you take pictures, do not remove the camera from your eye even after you have the shot you wanted. Continue to move the camera around pretending to take pictures. Never give away the fact that you’ve taken someone’s picture by removing the camera from your eye after taking the shot.

You may not find anyone worth shooting, but this is an easy way to get started. It shouldn’t be very scary, and you will find that even while standing very close to your subjects you can take their pictures without arousing suspicion. You can employ the same techniques at street fairs, or parades. Just about any crowded area which is filled with tourists is a good place to practice.

KEEP BOTH EYES OPEN, TURN OFF THE LCD

Keep your non-shooting eye open. You should be able to look at possible subjects even with the camera to your eye. Most DSLR cameras have an LCD screen for viewing images on the back. This should always be turned off.

You just don’t want the LCD coming on while the camera is to your eye. It’s annoying and it gives away the fact that you’ve taken a shot, especially in a dark location. Also, if the LCD is off, and you hold the camera a bit in front of your face, you can see the reflection of what’s going on behind you.

Knowing what is happening behind you is useful in a street where people are moving around because you can estimate the distance the potential subject will be when you turn around, and have your camera pre-focused for that shot. Of course you’ll need to gauge how fast they’re walking towards you, and about where you’ll turn around and snap. But again – as you turn keep the camera to your eye as if you are just looking around. You will be surprised at how easy it is to take a picture of the subjects when they are five feet or so from you without them knowing.

SHOOTING FROM THE HIP VS. HAVING THE CAMERA TO YOUR EYE

As a general rule of street photography, if you can get the shot with the camera to your eye, you will get a better shot. I know that there is an entire school of shoot-from-the-hip photography, which you can practice as well, but you will never be able to frame this sort of shot as well as if you put the camera to your eye. (That’s my own opinion and of course open to debate.) There will be times when it is simply impossible to shoot with the camera to your eye, and so shooting from the hip is worth learning. But I don’t think it’s a good way to get started.

You need to make decisions about depth-of-field. A common technique for the street photographer is relying on hyper-focal distance. I don’t think this is as necessary with modern auto-focus cameras, but the idea is that with a wide lens, in the 30 – 35mm range, you can set the lens to f8, if you have enough light, and set the focus at ten feet, and know that everything from approximately 6 feet to 15 feet will be in hyperfocal distance.(I’m not looking at a lens as I write this so the exact distance and f-stop may be off, plus most modern autofocus lenses don’t include a hyperfocal scale. But for older cameras with a hyperfocal scale on the lens, this is a tried and true technique.) I just haven’t found it to be necessary with modern auto-focus cameras.

PRE-FOCUS

For example, with the Canon and Nikon DSLRs you can assign focus lock to a button on the back of the camera and exposure to the shutter button. You anticipate that you are going to shoot a certain subject, and hold the back button down to focus on them, but maybe you aren’t ready to take their picture yet and they aren’t moving much. You can continue to hold that back button down until you are ready to take the shot, or you can turn the lens to manual focus while holding the button down. Then you can release the button and know that the focus remains the same. Don’t forget to turn autofocus on the lens back on when you’re finished or all your subsequent shots will be out of focus.

Modern cameras have a matrix of focal points. They are a big selling point. But they are not very useful for street photography. I would recommend turning them all off except for the center focal point, which you’ll use to pre-focus with. I don’t like the idea of having the camera decide what to focus on.

Suppose you’re walking down a New York street and you see a bunch of subjects leaning against the building to your right. You know that you are going to turn and face them at take your picture and then walk on. So the distance between you and any building directly to your right is the same. You focus on a building to your right before you arrive at your subjects and lock that focus. Now as you approach your subjects, you turn to your right and take your shot without the need to focus.

HAVING A FRIEND ALONG

This technique goes back a long way in the history of street photography. Walker Evans would bring a woman friend along with him, and stand on a crowded street pretending to take pictures of her. She was a decoy, and he would move the camera so that she wasn’t in frame and take pictures of the people that behind her.

GADGETS

Sneaky camera gadgets have been around for a 100 years. The right-angle attachment on the viewfinder was often used by famous street photographers. It can swivel at various right-angles so that you are looking in a different direction than where the lens is pointed.

A similar device that fits on the end of the lens has a mirror inside. The front of the lens is points straight ahead, but the mirror is pointing to your left or right.

Both gadgets are still made, but they take some getting used to. I haven’t found them necessary, although I’ve experimented with both devices.

TOUGHER LOCATIONS

The subway car is another popular locale for street photographers.

When Walker Evans did his series of subway “portraits,” he used a Rollei Twin Lens camera. You look down at the ground glass to focus and compose. Evans used a cable release which he ran up the arm of his coat. He put the camera on his lap, sat directly across from his subject, and kept his right hand in his pocket to operate the cable release.

He knew ahead of time, what the distance was too his subject. If you are shooting on the same subway line, the trains are always the same dimensions. If you don’t have a camera with auto-focus, you know the distance between different points.

Evans had one problem with his setup. After taking his shot, it was very obvious that he was advancing the film to the next frame. He would usually get up and settle down in another car with a new frame loaded.

Although the subway is a difficult place to shoot, it has one advantage: it’s noisy. There’s always enough noise to drown out the click of the shutter. I have taken thousands of pictures on the subway with the camera to my eye without running into any sort of trouble other than the occasional nasty stare. However, before the camera is raised to your eye it should already be focused. This rule is true for most street shots.

You can focus on your subject when they aren’t looking, set the camera lens to manual and wait for “the moment” if it ever happens.

Whether on a train, or some other location, the easiest time to shoot is when there is a distraction. For example, when the mariachi band enters the car, everyone will be looking at them. You can shoot other passengers without being noticed.

And even if you are seen, people will understand that you have your camera out if you take a few shots of the mariachi Band as well. This is the same technique as using a landmark as a reason for taking pictures.

Another modern phenomena which makes life easier for the street photographer: everyone, whether on the street or in a subway car, is already distracted by their iPods, cell phones, e-books, and Blackberry devices. One day I was on the train, and noticed that everyone around me had earphones, or were reading their email. Combined with the noise of the train, I was able to take closeup shots of a passenger who was about a foot and a half away from me without being noticed by anyone. I found that amazing. It wasn’t like that ten years ago.

SHUTTER SPEED

As a rule for hand-held shooting, your shutter speed should equal the focal length of your lens. If you shoot with a 30mm lens, your shutter speed should be at least 1/30th of a second. If your shoot with a 90mm lens, your shutter speed should be at least 1/90th of a second to prevent blur due to camera shake.

Some photographers can hand-hold a camera at 1/15th of a second with a 30mm lens and some will have trouble holding the camera steady enough even at 1/30th of a second with a 30mm lens. So this is just a guide. Camera shake is also a property of the camera. An SLR camera, with the slap of the returning mirror, vibrates more than a Point and Shoot camera which doesn’t have a mirror. Many Digital SLRs now feature “Live Mode” where the mirror slap is no longer a factor. So you will need to experiment to find out the lens / shutter speed combination which will prevent camera shake with your setup.

But remember this, camera shake is not the same thing as motion blur. Even if your camera is set on a tripod, with a mirror lock-up, and a cable release, if the motion of the subject is too fast for your shutter speed, you will have a perfectly blur free background (no camera shake) with a blurred subject.

I call this technique The Stutter Step. The object of the stutter step is to be able to freeze your walk, in mid-step if needed, at the same instant you click the shutter, and then continue on as if nothing has happened. If you do it slowly, someone walking briskly behind you may just about bump into you because you have stopped dead in your tracks for an instant while you put the camera to your eye and took a picture of someone walking towards you. For this sort of shooting, where your subject(s) more directly towards you, it is best to have as fast a shutter speed as you can manage.

Digital SLR cameras usually have the following settings: P (program mode), AV (aperture mode), TV (shutter speed mode) and M (manual mode). They also have a a bunch of icons representing other situations such as Action Mode, or Portrait Mode, or Night Mode. Don’t use these. Again, you don’t want the camera to make decisions for you.

But it is handy, to set your AV and TV modes so that with the twist of the dial, you are set for aperture or shutter speed priority. In the case where it is a sunny day and you are walking, and expect to be taking pictures of other people who are walking, you can work in TV mode, with your shutter set to 1/1000th of a second. This assumes that you are using a relatively fast lens, and that you can shoot at an ASA of at least 800.

But to return to the stutter step. Your camera is hanging around your neck. You are wearing tourist clothes. You see an interesting situation developing ahead of you. Your camera is set to shutter priority of 1/1000th (more if you can manage it), and you must image what distance you will be when you take the shot. Aim your camera at the sidewalk and focus at the distance that you imagine you’ll take your shot and lock that focus in.

Now, just when the situation is right, you halt, sometimes in mid-stride, the camera moves to your eye. You already know whether this is going to be a vertical shot or not, and what the frame will be, and while you are stock still, you take your shot and just as if nothing happened, you continue on your way. Your subjects have passed you. Even if they noticed you, it is unlikely they will turn back to find out why you may have just taken their picture. Maybe you did, and maybe you didn’t.

WHICH CAMERA?

A good street camera has the following characteristics: a quiet shutter, interchangeable lenses, fast lenses (F-Stop of F2.0 or lower), no shutter lag, RAW capture mode, the ability to focus well in dark places, usable high ASA, a good viewfinder and lightweight enough to take with you wherever you go. I don’t know of any digital Point and Shoot camera that meets all these criteria. A digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) will meet all or most of these properties. The Canon 40D, for example is no heavier than a Leica M, but the fast lenses are larger. The high end Point and Shoot, known as a digicam, has some of these features, but they don’t have interchangeable lenses, and the zoom lenses are not usually faster than F2.8 at the wide end.

The current crop of DSLRs have many features of a good street camera.

So, let’s get to it. Whatever digital camera you use, turn off any beeping the camera makes. Also turn off the immediate playback on the LCD. Do some tests to find out that highest ASA you can use without getting too much digital noise. Again, this is where DSLRs are best. Cameras like the Canon Mark II can allow you to use an ASA as high as 3200 (maybe more) without creating much digital noise in the image. Most point and shoot digital cameras creating noiseless images at much about 200 ASA.

Most DSLRs depend on a tic-tac-toe matrix of focal points. Keep the center point on, and turn the other focal points off.

For a digital camera with a cropped sensor, a 30mm F1.4 is a good walking around lens. Sigma makes an excellent one though remember, the Sigma f1.4 30mm won’t work with a full-frame sensor). If you are using a full-sized sensor, then a 35mm f1.4 lens, in combination with a 50mm f1.4 is an excellent combination. Having a lens that gives you a good quality shot at F1.4 is very important. And just because a lens opens to F1.4 doesn’t mean that it’s good at that F-Stop, so pick this lens carefully. In the Canon line, the 50mm F1.4 which is for a full sensor, and which works with a cropped-sensor as well, is one of their best lenses and compared to their other F1.4 lenses is cheap.

A DSLR usually has a method for decoupling the exposure from the focal point. It’s a good idea to do this. The Canon 40D and in fact almost all Canon SLRs (going back to the film days) have this feature. You set the focus lock to a button on the back of the camera, and a half-press of the shutter locks exposure. I dwell on this idea because many times you are going to use the button on the back to pre-focus your shot, and do framing as the camera comes to your eye. The idea that you want the camera to take it’s exposure off the focal point doesn’t make much sense. In general, if you are relying on the meter, than it’s better to lock focus, and have the meter do a general reading of what’s in the frame.

Whether it’s a sunny day, or an overcast day – ASA 800 is a good place to start. You almost always want all the shutter speed you can get. If your camera produces very noisy images at ASA 800 than it is not the right camera to use.

Never use a lens cap. Not at any time, for any reason. You should always have a UV filter on the lens, which will protect the lens and make it easy to take a quick shot. You can always tell an amateur if they are using a lens cap.

THE BENEFIT OF HIGH ASA

One benefit of modern cameras is the ability to shoot at a high ASA. You may be able to set your walking around shutter speed at 1/4000th of a second, with an ASA of 1600. Some of the newer cameras have usable ASA ratings of 32,000 and higher without causing noise in the RAW image. This opens up a new world to street photographers. With a high ASA you can shoot with a high F-Stop and a fast shutter speed in low light situations like the subway. For example you could use an F11 f-stop with a 1/1000th of a second shutter speed, and still have enough light for a proper exposure on the subway. That is a new development in street shooting.

Previously, street photographers would push their film or use fast film for shooting. They might use an ASA of 1600 or more, but the resulting negatives would be grainy. As I write this, the Canon Mark II can easily shoot at 1600 ASA with results similar or better than 400 ASA black and white film.

DON’T THROW ANYTHING AWAY

No matter how you try, and no matter how good your street technique is, most of your shots will be ordinary. You might come back after a day of shooting with nothing to show for it. You may feel non-productive.

Street photography is like fishing. If you enjoy fishing, the catch is important, but the entire experience of getting up early, and making many fruitless casts from your boat isn’t non-productive. You may enjoy the experience whether you return with fish or not. You simply can’t cast your rod and expect to catch a fish every time.

Your best street catches make up for all the uninteresting shots. Unlike fishing, you can’t always tell immediately if you’ve caught a great shot. Many street photographers will let their captures sit for a while before looking at them. What this means is: don’t throw anything away. Make backups of your images, and even if you think they’re not very good – don’t toss them. Given the inability to describe what makes a good street shot, you shouldn’t throw any away. Even an out-of-focus shot might have something interesting in it when you have enough distance to judge it. Your may find something in a shot that seems boring when you look at it again a few years later. This has happened to me enough times so that I never delete digital images.

THE OBLIVIOUS PEOPLE

Street Photography is easier then it used to be. People in the city walk around with their senses clogged up. More people are oblivious to what is going on around them than ever before. Music is blasting in their ears, or they’re talking on their cellphone. If they’re not talking on the phone they may walk the streets while reading their email. This makes it easier to photograph a stranger without them noticing you.

Street photography is harder than it used to be. Since we live in an age of urban terrorism and web postings, people and the police are more suspicious than ever. This suspicion extends to landmarks and property. The subways and the streets are filled with video cameras watching your every move. While you take your photographs, most likely you too are being photographed. In New York all major infrastructure contains signs banning photography.

In New York, although it is legal to take pictures on the subway, there is the possibility that you’ll be questioned by the police who think you may be a terrorist. Maybe they don’t know the current laws. You are allowed to photograph on the subway, so long as you don’t use a flash or tripod. However, it is always a good idea to have valid ID with you in case you are stopped. I have been stopped many times while photographing on the subway and usually I just explain that I’m a fine art photographer, working in black and white, and show some ID and that’s enough. If you are going to use a flash, or a tripod, it is still possible to get a permit to photograph in a specific location in the subway.

ASKING PERMISSION

Photographers who are starting out want to know if it’s a good idea to ask permission from your subject. It would be nice if you could, but it isn’t practical. Once you strike up a conversation with your subject, you are no longer doing street photography. From that point on, the person will strike a pose, and you will be doing what I call street portraits. Should you get a model release? Unless you are doing street portraits, it isn’t practical. On any given day, you may take 100 images only to find one good one (if you’re lucky). It would be impossible to ask each person you photograph to sign a release Many of your shots are of people that rush by you in a fraction of a second.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE CAUGHT

At some point, you will be caught, and your subject will approach you. Maybe they say, “Did you just take my picture.”

Honesty is the best policy. The answer is, “yes.” You smile, and try and explain what it was that you found so interesting about them. With a digital camera, you can show the image on the back of the camera. The person may then be annoyed, or they may be flattered. If they are upset, and the picture isn’t that great, then you could offer to delete it for them – and don’t play any tricks. Delete it while they watch. If it’s a great shot and you want to keep it, then you’ll have to win them over. If you were using a film camera you could just shrug it off and say “no.” But everyone knows that you could just show the picture on the back of the digital camera.

Most of the time the person is flattered and wants to know if you would like to take another shot. At this point they almost always strike a pose, and you take the picture knowing that you won’t use it. You aren’t a war correspondent. Very few images are worth getting into a big hassle over. In all my years of shooting, the worst that’s ever happened is that someone asked if I would please delete their photo. I think this happened twice out of ten thousand shots.

SUMMARY

  • Choose an easy locale with lots of tourists when you are first starting out.
  • Turn off any beeping your camera does.
  • If you photographing individuals in a crowd, don’t remove the camera from your eye after you take a shot, but keep scanning the crowd with it.
  • Turn off the instant playback on the digital LCD
  • Use a wide to normal lens. Don’t rely on telephoto lenses
  • Make sure that you are focused and know how you are going to frame the image before the camera goes to your eye.
  • Only shoot from the hip, or without looking through the viewfinder as a last resort.
  • Practice looking for specific literal ideas: irony, juxtaposition, design elements, joy, sadness, emotional moments, things that you find unusual, surprises.
  • Be prepared to take a hundred shots for every good one. And try and understand what a good shot means. (This is outside the scope of this article).
  • Always have a camera with you. You’ll take some of your best pictures during your normal daily routines.
  • Know the laws. You don’t need to get into a big hassle with the police when they stop you from taking pictures in a place where you know it’s legal to take pictures; but it’s important to know your rights.
  • Do not ask for permission or a model release, unless you are doing “portrait” work on the streets. Do not expect that you’re images will be usable for print ads unless the subject is not recognizable (profile, shot from the back etc.)
  • If you are afraid to put the camera to your eye – try to imagine that this is your last day on earth, and that the shot you see before you will be great. In other words, you may need to psych yourself into taking the shot. But there is a balance and if it really is too scary – then don’t force yourself. Your own fear will come across to the subject. When to shoot, and when not to push it, is something you’ll learn with time.
  • Never use a lens cap (have an UV filter on the lens instead)
  • Remember that no matter how many of these techniques you use, you are still invading someone’s privacy. There is no way around that. So you must feel that what you are photographing is worth the effort.
  • And finally, give yourself time to get used to the experience. Expect to be nervous in the beginning. Also expect that after you’ve been at it for a few years these techniques will become second nature. I think that being nervous is actually a good sign. Anyone with some degree of empathy will be uncomfortable doing street photography in the beginning. If you are the type of photographer that begins by sticking your camera in the faces of strangers, it is doubtful whether you are sensitive enough to be a good street photographer.

Street Life: Tips For Successful Street Photography -Sara Louise Petty

I’m fascinated by the lives of others. I love collecting images of people and scenes on the street. I find that often these images can be ironic, poetic and thought provoking.

I started my photographic journey on the streets of Manhattan, usually whilst pushing my son in his stroller with one hand, shooting with an old Nikon 35mmSLR in the other. Interesting times! I think perhaps the addition of the stroller and baby made me less threatening to folks who may have caught me taking their picture. Here are some tips on successful and fun street photography. Babies are optional.

Travel light and bring the right lens for you. 

Don’t carry too much equipment. Choose one lens and stick with it. I have a small cross-body bag I use for film, lipstick and essentials, but keep my camera around my neck or over my shoulder. Choose your camera wisely. After a whole day, certain cameras become very cumbersome to carry—if you are serious about walking the streets—so plan the equipment in advance. A comfortable camerastrap is a must. I find the best ones have neoprene cushioning at the neck. Take your camera everywhere with you so it starts to feel part of you. Your lens choice is very important. I find that prime lenses, such as 35mm or 50mm, give me sharper images than a zoom lens. I like to get closer to my subjects, rather than rely on a zoom to get me there —that almost ruins the intimacy of street photography. Start with a 50mm or 75mm, gain confidence and get closer from there.

Color versus black and white.

I like to simplify my photos to give more focus to the subject matter. I find that while I love color for portraits and conceptual work, black and white gives me a cleaner and more simplified image. There are so many images, ads, other people and cars on the streets, it can get very confusing to the eye in a color image. Sometimes a color image is necessary, especially if one is shooting in a place like Times Square, for example, or in a colorful place like India. Pay close attention to the background and how it may enhance your picture.

Steal a moment.

Watch people’s behavior and body language. Anticipate moments before they happen, such as a couple about to kiss. Follow human interactions, watch people. Stand in a spot for an hour, or in one specific area. Wait for a moment to happen, rather than search the streets for it. Try to be invisible.

Look for multiples.

Often I find multiples or repetition interesting in a shot, so look for scenes with this type of rhythm. For example, during fleet week in Manhattan, the sailors were walking the streets in groups, as were the four marines in the photograph below. Parades and protests are also great places to find good street scenes.

Freeze frame.

Streets are bustling places, full of people going about their daily lives—often in a hurry. Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to get sharp shots even during movement. Street photography is something that requires fast reactions and fast shooting. Metering exposure in such situations (and to not miss a shot) can be hard. Very often I can guess the exposure, or perhaps use the “sunny 16” rule. Try to experiment with your camera settings and utilize the Shutter Priority mode to keep that shutter speed fast, or perhaps the Aperture Priority mode, if you want to remain more in control of your depth of field. The important aspect of street photography is to be fast and ready at all times.

It’s also interesting to try slower shutter speeds on the street and capture movement. Blurred vehicles, people running or panning shots can be just as intriguing as in-focus ones.

I caught you!

In my last B&H Insights article, I referred to catching people through my portraiture. In my street photography work I refer to it in a slightly difference context. The joy of street photography (and also the hard part) is that you want to capture a moment without the person even knowing you are there. It’s more about being unobtrusive and subtle than interacting with people. However, very often, the subject will notice you taking their picture. That moment of the subject first catching you is quite telling. I find that moment to be extremely real.

 

Don’t be afraid.

Street photography requires confidence. Act like you should be there. Don’t be afraid of confrontation. I have been yelled at many, many times but it’s all part of the experience. Explain yourself. Be polite, smile and say sorry if somebody is offended you took a photograph of them. Offer to e-mail the photograph. It takes practice being comfortable in this style of photography, but the results are very true to life and worth it.

All images in this article are © Sara Louise Petty.

Sara Louise Petty is a New York-based fashion designer and most importantly, mother. Always a lover of photography and the arts, she picked up a plastic toy Holga camera and started to experiment with analog photography. Although the Holga produced (and still produces) some of her most moving images, she moved on to 35mm and medium-format cameras.