Street photography offers a refreshing authentic glimpse into the human spirit in a time of over-contrived selfies. Newcomers to street photography often feel a sense of trepidation about taking shots of other people in public. To help I have assembled five tips, each taken from a larger roundup article on street photography tips.
Enjoy, and if you have any tips to add, please do so in the comments!
1) You Can Ask for Permission
When I take street shots, I feel excited. You never know who you will meet along the way.
Taking portraits of other people can be frightening, though. Some are afraid of intruding on people’s privacy.
Say you see a remarkable person, and you want to take their photograph. Go ahead and ask them. That’s how I got this street portrait of Robert Moore, an entrepreneur in DC. For more, read this Digital Photography School article discusses both getting over concerns about candid photos and asking for permission.
One extra tip here: I tell people I am a street photographer, and I show them my Instagram account. This sets them at ease. I also offer to send them their picture (whether or not I publish the image).
2) Wait for the Shot
Some street photography is about the people, and other shots revolve around the scene and its ambience. In some instances, a scene is created by a mural, a great sense of symmetry, or the light falling just right.
When I happen on a situational scene, I will literally frame my shot and wait for a subject to walk into the frame. On some occasions — like the above foggy morning scene — the shot can take as long as 30 minutes to happen. But when it does, magic occurs.
This is sometimes called the fishing technique. Check out Tom’s Guide for this and 11 other tips.
3) The Right Equipment
The never-ending questions about what equipment to use can be amusing. And like most photographers, I have lots of it. That’s why this discussion on the right street photography equipment from Photography Life is perfect…
The final answer? It’s inconclusive. Why?
Because there is no one size fits all solution for street. In the end, it’s about your ability to tell a story through the camera.
I personally prefer to use a fixed lens on one of my Nikon DSLR cameras, specifically either a 35 mm (see the above), 50 mm, or 85 mm lens. While each offers a different look, a fixed length forces you to focus on the actual art of photography rather than switching lenses or fiddling around with the zoom. Focusing on framing and composition, and not the gear is particularly important when you are first learning street.
4) Character Shots Require an Eye
If your primary subject is a person and you are telling their personal story, then your shot needs to include their eyes. As this PetaPixel article by Eric Kim notes, eye contact creates a stronger emotional bond, and inspires people who see your image to engage with it.
The above photo was taken at the 2017 Pride Festival in DC. I literally stood in the street waiting for the best costumes and outfits to walk towards me. This woman’s costume was great, but her eyes make the shot. Robert Miller, Deputy Director of Photography at The Washington Post, chose this image from last year’s Pride Festival for the Glen Echo Photoworks “United/Divided 2” exhibition.
5) Shoot for You
Photography is one of the most documented and discussed hobbies out there. Purists argue for rules and composition all while loathing technological advancement and its impact on photography. Others want to push the envelope of innovation and technology to create new styles of imagery.
Every time I try to make my photography a literal representation of someone’s interpretation of those rules, the images suffer. This novice’s view of street photography reminds me that in the end, I photograph as an expression. That means I need to shoot for me, rules or no rules. Go off the beaten path and create an image that captures your vision and yet, may be unconventional.
What tips would you add?