Street photography is one of the more challenging types of photography to get into. If you’re used to shooting friends, landscapes or other objects that don’t move or shout at you, then you might find street photography to be a little bit intimidating as a beginner.
Fear not though, in this post I’m going to share some street photography techniques to give you a running start when you decide to take up the mantle of street photography.
Photos via Laurence Norah, Finding the Universe
Pick the right gear
You might think that a nice long lens that lets you pick off your photography targets from afar would be perfect for street photography. While this can help you get more candid shots, you will in fact find that for the best results you’re going to want to be getting up close and personal with your subjects, which will lend images a more realistic feeling.
I’d recommend a fast wide prime, something in the range of 17 – 40mm, with an aperture that’ll go as wide as your wallet can afford. Something 2.8 or faster would be perfect for your aperture, meaning you’ll be able to keep shooting as the light goes down.
A smaller camera will help you feel less obtrusive, and people do sometimes behave a bit strangely when you poke a full sized DSLR in their faces, but this is where the rest of the tips will come in handy.
Don’t be self-conscious
Street photography is not the same as other styles of photography you might be more used to, such as landscapes or photos of friends.
Street photography often requires you to get up close and personal with complete strangers, or arrange yourself in odd positions in public places. You need to get over your fear of looking odd, and just get on with it. You will however, find yourself needing to:
Work on your people skills
Street photography, by definition, takes place on the street. Obvious, I know. The thing is, the street is likely to be full of people, and some of those people are likely to be fascinating photography subjects.
Whether they are street performers or just passers-by, you’re going to want to be sure they don’t mind having their photo taken. Getting to know people, being friendly and asking permission go a long way towards helping you avoid having upset people shouting at you.
Of course, you can’t always ask permission as it might ruin the shot or the moment that you are trying to capture. In those cases, I’d advise asking afterwards if you’re ok to use the shot. Being friendly and approachable goes a long way towards getting good results.
If all that being friendly and embarrassing yourself sounds tricky, I’d advise starting your street photography career by gently easing your way into it. The best way to do this is to find some sort of event where people having their photo taken is more expected.
Something like a street festival, market or parade would likely be a good option, giving you the chance to get to work on your techniques without having to worry about upsetting anyone. Just check with the event organizer beforehand that you don’t need special permission to shoot an event.
Take your camera everywhere
Obviously, you can’t take a picture without having your camera. You might be more used to taking your camera along to shoot specific occasions or locations, but street photography opportunities can crop up anywhere at any time.
For this reason, you’re going to want to get used to taking your camera with you wherever you go, and getting used to using it more often. Practice, after all, makes perfect.
Learn the rules, be polite
While it would be great to be able to take photographs everywhere, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes places, people or events just aren’t going to let you take photos, and you’re going to have to abide by the rules.
That said, it’s worth reading up on your local laws when it comes to public photography and maybe even printing out a copy of the applicable ones, so you have them to hand should you find yourself in an unpleasant situation. If this does happen, remain calm, don’t get angry, be polite, and if the easiest solution is to demonstrably delete any offending photos from your phone and apologize, then just do that!
Get out there!
Hopefully I haven’t made street photography sound too terrifying with talk of rules and personal embarrassment, and you are still keen to give it a go. It can be very rewarding to capture slices of life, and you can always start with more static subjects and warm yourself into pushing your camera into people’s faces.