Sometimes we tend to forget the obvious in our quest for the hidden. Here are a few ‘obvious’ tips to remember when shooting on the streets.
- Get In close. All too often the actual ‘subject’ of a street photograph gets lost in the activity going on around… Get close to the subject, make them the primary object in your frame.
- Be observant. Street photography is all about observing people, their actions and juxtapositions. Keep your eyes open, look for interesting connections.
- Shoot a lot. I tend to shoot only when I’m sure that I know that I have a good shot in my frame. While this is a good practice, it can lead to missed opportunities. Shoot more frequently than you expect to shoot and weed out the boring shots when you download your pictures.
- Don’t worry about the light too much. Concentrate on the people, your composition and your safety. Today’s cameras do a great job of metering a scene well. Use their readouts. Maybe even shoot in auto exposure mode.
- Use a ‘normal’ sized camera. I’ve had a lot of people balk when I pick up my Canon EOS 5D with its 24-70mm lens and flash. They go into “hide” mode; feeling shy and possibly even worried. This is one of the reasons why I’ve moved down to a ‘toy’ like camera.
- Use a Wide Angle lens. Being a participant brings you closer to your intended subjects. It can bring you right into the midst of the action. Keep a wide angle zoom or prime lens handy for these occasions.
- Participate. Some of the best street photographs I’ve seen are those of people who are fully aware of the photographer. You’re more likely to get a memorable photograph when you’re part of the scene and reacting to the emotions and drama that is being acted out around you.
- Know when to shoot candids. Candid photography on the street is one of its charms. Use the right equipment – long lenses, nondescript clothing and casual attitude – and you could get some gems.
- Dress Normally. Gearing out like a “photographer” could lead to some hostility. Dress normally, keep your camera bag small and inconspicuous.
- Worry about your camera at home. Concentrate on the street when you’re shooting. I prefer to choose my equipment carefully before leaving for a street shoot and not worry about what I “could have got” with some other equipment. When you’re on the street, make sure that you involve yourself in the scene as much as possible. Street photographs don’t need high-quality equipment to bring out the right emotion. Its all about the moment. Keep it that way, and you’ll find yourself reacting to the right elements; People – not your equipment.
- Know how your equipment works. Street photography is very spontaneous and a moments fumble with the controls can leave you wishing you were quicker with your equipment.
- Carry your camera inconspicuously, but not suspiciously. This will give you opportunities in street photography that you would not expect. Be casual about the camera and keep it away from your face as far as possible. Try to avoid looking like a “photographer.” As a side effect, trying to hide your camera and sneaking a photograph in when possible may make you look suspicious. Like I said, be casual about the camera.
Obviously, one can go on and on about street photography tips. If you think that there are some more obvious tips that I’ve missed out, do leave them in the comments.
I’ll leave you with some interesting links on Street Photography
- Chris Weeks’ “Street Photography for the Purist” PDF (thanks, for the tip, the_wolf_brigade)
- A comprehensive Street Photography how-to (scroll way down)
- Photojojo – How to shoot Impromptu Street Portraits
- Luminous Landscape – Documentary and Street Photography – A look at the various lenses that you could use.
- Lenses for Photojournalism
- in-public – Street Photography
- Street Photography links – Photographers, Interviews, etc. (a lot of them)
- Street Photography links from Alan Wilson (a lot more…)
Susheel Chandradhas is a Photographer and cinematographer. He has been taking photographs and studying photography since he was a kid. His classmates all believed that he would write a book on photography... Instead, he writes this blog. His passions include photography, parkour, wide-angle lenses, blue skies, fire extinguishers and fast computers.