Table of Contents
- What is Street Photography?
- What Makes a Good Street Photography?
- Camera Equipment for Street Photography
- Digital SLR cameras
- (Nikon D750; Canon 5D Mark IV)
- The film camera
- (Leica M6; Leica MA; Mamiya 7 II)
- The mirrorless camera ( Sony Alpha a7 III; Olympus PEN-F; Fujifilm X-Pro3)
- Compact cameras
- (Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III; Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100; Leica Q2)
- Which lenses are best for street photography?
- How do I adjust my camera for the best street photography?
- The Street Photography Code of Ethics
- Street Photography Tips and Ideas
- 1. Shoot with a silent shutter
- 2. Use continuous shooting
- 3. Take your picture from the hip level
- 4. Choose lightweight equipment
- 5. Pay attention to reflective surfaces
- 6. Emphasis on the gaze:
- 7. Experiment with slow shutter speeds
- 8. Use different lenses
- 9. Dress so that your appearance does not cause unnecessary attention
- 10. Don't neglect the non-touristy parts of the city
- How to push through your fear of street photography?
- Create Your Online Photography Portfolio Website
Urban photography has always been and will always be the most accessible genre. The most interesting thing about street photography is its unpredictability. You leave the house and you don't know what you're going to come back with.
For creativity, photographers need an interest in the world around them and a camera. Where to look for subjects? How to catch sincere emotions and stay unnoticed? What weather is good for a street photographer?
Read the answers to these and many other questions in our article. In this comprehensive article, we'll help you learn more about street photography. We'll tell you what you need to think about, including equipment, ethics, and even legality. This is the best guide to street photography to help you get started in this genre of photography.
What is Street Photography?
Street photography is a genre that captures random occurrences and people's daily lives. You can take street photographies on:
- city streets;
- public transportation.
Instead of people, the images may show traces of their presence. This genre is close to reportage photography. But it is not limited to essential events and socially significant topics. In the foreground, there is a striving to imprint reality as it is.
The subject of urban photography is mostly people in public places. More precisely, we can describe street photography as a genre in which there is no place for posing. The photographer explores and captures the relationship between the characters and their surroundings. This type of photo looks pretty good in a portfolio. It can catch lots of attention.
The main elements of street photography are:
- careful observation;
- "eyes wide open";
- a willingness to capture everything that appears in the viewfinder;
- filming objects that seem meaningful, exciting and, interesting.
A photo is not planned without prior arrangement. This is also another key aspect. That's why photos taken at public events have a different feel than casual ones. In the former, you rarely get a spontaneous shot. Still, we can classify them too as pictures of streets. There is always room for flexibility and experimentation in this genre.
History of street picture
Street photography was born at the same time as technology for photographing people. You can trace this chronology of the development of this genre:
- The first cameras required too long shutter speeds to capture the occasional passerby. Besides, the machines were bulky and attracted attention. And street photography in the modern sense gravitated toward inconspicuous photography. We can see the earliest images of the city in the pictures of Louis Daguerre. He photographed Parisian streets from the window of a photo studio. Such photographs became widespread by the end of the nineteenth century. Since then, there was an improvement in portable cameras.
- Urban photography, like its related genres, owes much to the compact 35-millimeter camera. They came on the market in the 1920s. They made it possible to take inconspicuous photographs. Such photos looked more realistic than staged ones. One of the most important photographers of that period was Eugene Atget. He is the father of street photography.
- Street pictures emerged as an independent genre with a basis in the 1950s. Henri Cartier-Bresson's photographs and publications played a big role in this. He is one of the founders of the famous photo agency Magnum. His book "The Decisive Moment" became a source of inspiration for photographers.
Today, this genre has found new life thanks to the advent of digital cameras first. And then smartphones that allow you to take the best quality street photography. With their help, everyone can try as a street photographer.
What Makes a Good Street Photography?
Emotion and mystery are the keys to good street photography. Recognized masters say that street photography has a special aesthetic. But no one can give a precise definition. They all say, look at many proper photographs, and you'll see for yourself.
The famous photographer Robert Doisneau said: “The marvels of daily life are so exciting; no movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.” It's almost magic and a fairy tale. According to Nick Turpin, pictures of streets should be a revelation or enlightenment. But if we talk specifically about language, there can be different approaches:
- There may or may not be people;
- They may or may not be the main thing;
- The emphasis could be on the play of light. For example, the observation of light could be the main thing;
- It could be the main thing's color;
- It could be a black-and-white photograph;
- It could be a photograph with or without flash;
Because a street photographer never knows what kind of "catch" the day ahead will bring. Hence the main advice to a street photographer - take your camera wherever you go. And always take pictures of the streets as much as possible.
Camera Equipment for Street Photography
Street photography is good because you don't need advanced photographic equipment. So, the simpler, the better. The best camera equipment for street photography is a small, silent camera in auto mode and a couple of lenses. Experienced photographers tell to set the best parameters for daytime street photography shooting:
1/320 shutter speed.
And don't be afraid to use high ISO. It is better a little grainy than blurred pictures.
After all, the photographer should not stand out in the crowd or draw attention to themselves. They should become part of the street, part of the crowd. Leave your long lens at home, but if you have a wide-angle lens, you're in luck. It's perfect for shooting in a confined space.
But that's not the point. You can make a great shot with a plain camera or even a phone. It's more important for a photographer to have perfect shoes than an excellent camera". Sebastiano Salgado said it. But if you are still in the mood to buy a camera, follow our street picture recommendations below.
Digital SLR cameras
(Nikon D750; Canon 5D Mark IV)
The film camera
(Leica M6; Leica MA; Mamiya 7 II)
The mirrorless camera ( Sony Alpha a7 III; Olympus PEN-F; Fujifilm X-Pro3)
(Canon Powershot G1 X Mark III; Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100; Leica Q2)
You can use the control wheel to switch between modes quickly.
They also often don't shoot well in low-light conditions. It makes it difficult to capture moving subjects, shoot at night, or achieve a narrower depth of field;
Each camera has its pros and cons. Choosing the best camera for urban photography is easier if you know your needs:
- If you are not limited in money and want to engage in professional photography you should think about a digital SLR camera.
- If you are a beginner photographer and hope to develop your skills and become a professional. You may consider purchasing a mirrorless camera.
- If you are a beginner and like to take pictures, a compact camera or a smartphone with a quality camera is an option.
- If you want to experiment, a film camera can give you a unique result of pictures of streets.
Which lenses are best for street photography?
The best settings for street photography are those you don't need to change. That's so you don't miss the moment.
A fast lens with a wider aperture, such as f/1.4 or f/1.8, comes in handy if you shoot in the dark or indoors. Many street photographers prefer a prime lens rather than a zoom lens: you just point and shoot. Here are some great lens options for street photography:
- Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART lens;
- Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM ART lens;
- Sony FE 50mm F/1.8 lens;
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens;
- Nikon NIKKOR Z 50mm f/1.8 S lens.
How do I adjust my camera for the best street photography?
The best settings for street photography are those that don't need to be changed during the shoot. So you don't miss the moment. Many street photographers prefer to shoot with either aperture priority or shutter priority. Decide what's more important to you:
- the type of motion (static or blurry);
- control over depth of field.
To be sure the image is blur-free, work with shutter speed priority and set the shutter speed to 1/500 or faster. For motion blur, you can try 1/60. If the depth of field is the most important factor for you:
- work with the aperture priority;
- use wide settings for shallow depth of field;
- choose narrow settings for greater depth of field.
The Street Photography Code of Ethics
Let's not kid ourselves- street photography is an intrusive form of photography. Sometimes it can be intimidating for the subjects. Photographing people on the street usually means you don't have their permission beforehand.
You have to come to terms with this to do street photography. For every image you take, there is a chance that the subject will not like your action. Some will resent it, but some won't. It is always advisable to find out if urban photography is legal in the place where you plan to take pictures.
But, in most countries, it is generally legal to take photos in public unless the law states otherwise. It includes taking pictures of passersby in the street and of people in public areas, such as parks. But not everyone is welcoming to be a model. But still, it is better to know specific rules for such a photo shoot. You can read them below.
Ask for permission to publish photos
We live in a digital age where we can share almost all images online through:
- social networks;
- online galleries.
The key word here is practical. Only some have a social networking page, and only some want to put their photo on the world wide web. Be sure to ask permission to post street photography before you take them. Especially if you take pictures of people in public places.
Don't film children with their parents
The reaction is often quite aggressive. It is due to the parental reflex, which aims to protect their child. In doing so, it is more likely that others will support aggression in your direction.
And if you misbehave, you may be collectively punished. And sometimes turn you into the hands of the approaching police patrol. In most cases, we would recommend refraining from filming other people's children.
Offer to share photos
Maybe that way, people will be more gracious to model for you. After all, many people like to get a few good Instagram shots in addition to the experience. The main thing is to do it unobtrusively. As an example, you can show your previous works.
Street Photography Tips and Ideas
Street photography is one of the most accessible genres, but also one of the most challenging. That's its difficulty, but also its pleasure. It changes the way you look at the world. You start to see, to pay attention to things you haven’t noticed before.
Every street photographer has their techniques for working in the street. Over time, you will work them out for yourself and choose the more acceptable ones.
And we are going to tell you about some of them. To make not just a "good" but a "wonderful" street picture, you need one or more elements that turn the image into something unusual or unique:
- right angle;
Also, don't forget about people's boundaries. After all, sometimes you may accidentally invade their personal space. Thus, we recommend tactfulness. Read below for more on the best tips for urban photography.
1. Shoot with a silent shutter
It's ideal if your camera has a silent mode. Passersby are more likely to notice the loud clicking of the shutter. Especially if you're using continuous shooting. That way, you might miss a moment or scene that it's essential to sneak up on so as not to frighten them.
2. Use continuous shooting
If you're watching a specific character or action or waiting for the peak of a story, go for burst mode. You're guaranteed to capture what you want at nine frames per second. And when you watch it later, you're sure to keep the best version.
3. Take your picture from the hip level
People often tense up if they notice you trying to take their picture. Hold the camera at your hip and use Live View to compose your urban photography on the camera's monitor screen discreetly. A diagonal LCD comes in handy in this situation.
It allows you to shoot the scene directly. Then turn the zoom ring on the lens. It will bring the subject closer to you. You get a close-up of it while maintaining the distance.
4. Choose lightweight equipment
Weight is a significant parameter when taking a street picture. Since you may have to walk around for a long time looking for a shot. It is best if your camera with a couple of extra lenses can fit into a backpack or purse:
- Firstly, thanks to this you, again, will not stand out from passersby.
- Secondly, you won't get tired with a light, compact set of photographic equipment. And you will be able to walk much longer.
5. Pay attention to reflective surfaces
Anything reflective can make your street picture interesting and unusual:
- bus stops;
- car hoods;
- even the wall tiles of new subway stations.
Using a flip-up camera, you can easily shoot from the ground or glass walls.
6. Emphasis on the gaze:
You can hide emotion and fake it, but the eyes will tell the whole truth. Humans feel what the other person is feeling through their facial expressions. When you take the best street photography, the first thing you should do is pay attention to:
- people's eyes;
- the expressions they show.
Likewise, you can see subtle signals from a person's body. So watch how they might express themselves through their body, hands, feet, and legs.
7. Experiment with slow shutter speeds
The street is an environment where traffic doesn't stop for a second. Taking urban photography with slow shutter speeds allows you to capture the dynamics. You can also emphasize a still object. It gives the shot multiple meanings. For such shots, you can choose:
- a majestic temple in the background;
- the silhouette of a still stranger talking on the phone.
8. Use different lenses
This tip is relevant for beginner street photographers who just try on lenses with different focal lengths and look for "their" one, but also for professionals wishing to bring something new to their urban photography.
Bruce Guilden shoots only 20mm, and Cartier-Bresson was faithful to 35mm. Using different optics will train your eye and broaden your vision.
9. Dress so that your appearance does not cause unnecessary attention
If you don't want to draw the attention of the whole street, don't dress too brightly. It is better if you blend in with the crowd. It will help you to fully concentrate on shooting a street picture.
10. Don't neglect the non-touristy parts of the city
You don't have to visit your favorite city center to catch a curious story and emotion. Sometimes it's enough just to go beyond the threshold of the apartment.
Children swinging with laughter or a grandmother feeding pigeons in the backlight of a setting day are perfect subjects for photographs that capture ordinary and sincere moments in the city's life.
How to push through your fear of street photography?
Fear is one of the most difficult obstacles for the beginner. And these moral challenges can make them even tougher. The basic idea to keep in mind is that it is not necessarily that scary to be caught. If you do it right, you'll usually stop feeling a lot of stress. Follow a few of our tips:
- If someone catches you, acknowledge it. Don't be belligerent. Even if it is within your legal rights, you don't need to use it as an argument. Remember to keep a smile on your face no matter what.
- Stealth is good for urban photography because if everyone noticed you were taking their picture, it would make it very time-consuming and challenging to take the picture. However, keep in mind that the trickier you try to act, the weirder you may look.
- Finally, consider starting somewhere, such as a fair or a market. It's a great way to get over the initial fear. And you can maneuver into completely different places as you improve.
The most famous authors of street pictures
Many famous masters worked in this genre. Their works are now stored in many museums worldwide. Here are a few photographers considered classic street photography:
- Henri Cartier-Bresson. This man is called the father and main ideologist of black-and-white street photography. His famous work is "Rue Mouffetard in Paris." It demonstrates the principle of the "decisive moment."
- Alfred Eisenstaedt. He is the author of one of the most famous street photographs, The Kiss in Times Square.
- Joel Meyerowitz. One of the most respected photographers of the second half of the 20th century. He did much to bring the color film into fine art photography.
- William Eggleston. This photographer saw complexity and beauty in the most ordinary things. He photographed old houses and ordinary streets that looked extraordinary and important.
Create Your Online Photography Portfolio Website
Not every walk leads to a masterpiece. It depends not only on luck. It also depends on your mood at the time of the shooting and some other external circumstances of city life. Keep it simple: you're not trying to get the best street photography.
It's more important to learn to feel the life around you. You can read more of our Portfoliobox articles on similar topics. Now get out there, take pictures as often as you can, and have fun doing it. Also, feel free to contact us. Our Portfoliobox team would love to help you showcase your masterpieces to the world.
What is the number one rule of street photography?
The essential rule is to ask people for permission and be generally polite. Remember that you invade their space. It is a pretty simple tip that will help you communicate well.
Why is street photography difficult?
You may find this type of photography difficult because of the need to communicate with strangers. It may also be difficult because you do not have the trained eye of a photographer. You may become confused and not see interesting details.
Do you need permission to do street photography?
Generally, if a photographer takes pictures in a public place, he has the right to take pictures without asking permission, as part of the right to freedom of expression. But it is better to ask. In most cases, this applies to pictures of buildings, objects, and people.
Can you make money with street photography?
Yes, it is quite realistic. It's an outdoor photo shoot with no room for posing or staging. It is this immediacy that fascinates many people.