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Street Photography: Our Top Tips for Beginners

Street photography is a specific type of photography that documents normal, “real” life. In street photography, you’ll normally see candid shots of everyday activities and people.

Because of this, it’s often tricky to get perfect street photographs – it’s all about the timing, the subject and your composition.

Below, we’ve listed our top tips to help you get perfect street photographs every time you step outside.

Go for Less Gear

Since your main subjects are people, you’ll want to be as discreet as possible. The less equipment you’ll have on you, the less threatening you’ll appear.

mirrorless camera for street photography

Compact system cameras are perfect for street photography, their petite size making them the ideal, stealthy companion for street photographers. These days, many mirrorless cameras come with flip screens, helping you shoot tricky angles or take photos from the hip.

And of course, the interchangeable lenses means you can take just the lens you need for any street photography expedition. The best lenses for street photography are wide angle lenses between 25mm and 50mm.

Zoom with Your Feet, Not Your Lens

The essential component of any good street photograph is the intimacy you’re able to convey. This means it’s important to get physically close to your subjects.

It’s easy to tell which photographs have been shot from across the street with a zoom lens and which has been taken in the midst of the action. Put your viewer in the action by placing yourself there when you take the image.

man untangling fishing net

Watch Your Shutter Speed

Much of street photography is about spontaneity – and being prepared for any unexpected shot. This means you’ll want to have a high shutter speed capable of capturing split-second action.

Your shutter speed should sit above 1/180th of a second if you hope to capture sudden movements as sharp photographs. Keep your ISO between 200 and 400.

woman sitting on window sill

On the other hand, if you want to capture a more creative shot, blurriness can add an element of intrigue. If you want to blur vehicles or people – or if you want to pan a shot – try lower shutter speeds.

Fish for Photos

The fishing technique is common practice for street photographers. This requires you to find an interesting scene or background and wait for an intriguing subject to step into it.

Of course, you’re going to have to be patient – you could be waiting ten minutes or you could be waiting an hour. You’re basically “fishing” for the shot.

man crossing bridge

Take Dozens of Photos

When you’re just starting out, you might be tempted just to take one or two photos of a scene before moving on. This is a common beginner’s mistake.

Professional street photographers will work the scene, capturing the same scene from different angles and perspectives. They could take anywhere from 10 to 20 photographs of the same subject.

Naturally, you’ll need to make sure you have plenty of memory on hand, which is why it’s always ideal to carry around additional memory cards.

woman standing in crowd

Use Exposure Compensation

Shadows and light can make a great effect in street photography. Dial down your Exposure Compensation setting to negative numbers – -1 or -2 exposure compensation.

This can help add more negative space by creating dramatic shadows in the background and highlighting your subjects.

Look for Leading Lines or Shapes

Streetscapes are filled with interesting geometric patterns, curves and lines. Look for strong lines, shapes, and textures. They help add drama, character and emotion to your photos.

Look for leading lines, such as alleyways, driveways, light poles, and more, to add an element of interest to your background, and then employ the “fishing technique” we mentioned above and wait for something interesting to happen in that space.

row of chairs

You can even add more intrigue to your photos by experimenting with angles. Why not shoot diagonally, for example?

Look for Opposites

A common feature of street photographs is juxtaposition. This is where you find contrasting elements that still have a relationship to one another.

For example, you can use a billboard advertising a Caucasian model as a background, with an Asian subject as the focal point.

Look for contradicting emotions, subjects, composition, or themes – anything that might surprise.

Declutter Your Scene

Make sure your photos are simple by either filling the frame with a single scene, or embracing some negative space.

Keep subtracting from the frame until there are no distractions left in your shot.

woman begging on street

For more photography tips and tricks, be sure to check out some of our other features and advice articles on the Camera House blog today!

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