Street photography is getting more common in the photography world. While it is quite simple, yet there are some things that you want to keep in mind when you hunt for street photos. I would like to share you some tips to help you shoot great street photos. Well, here they are!
Crowd is your golden nugget
The key to successful street photography is people. This means that the more people you encounter in an area, the better your chances are to witness a moment and capture it. For that reason, it would be very helpful if you know your area well.
By knowing your area, you know where the crowds are, and you will know where to go to take street photos. I don’t say that you have to solely rely on the crowded places that you know already. In fact, sometimes having a walk to random places may be very rewarding too.
One thing for you to keep in mind is that hunting photos in a big area will overwhelm you. My suggestion is to focus on a small section of street or a corner for each trip. Either way, to start with, I would just plan my roaming route before I go out to take photos. This will make my quest be more focused.
If you are new to an area, I would suggest you visit the community center to gather information on where the people gather. Another alternative is just go and roam around the neighborhood and see what the town has to offer.
Risk Versus Reward
Street photography is quite different compared to other types of photography. In street photography, in case you haven’t read my previous article, all moments are captured as it is, spontaneously. Whatever you in the frame is what is really happening.
You may be encountering some ‘golden’ moments for street photography such as gang fights, drug dealer transactions, wars, etc. I would say those things are super rare for street photography. Yet are they worth it? You can make those kind of photos in a studio with the help of professional models anyway.
Another moment which you may want to think twice before capturing it is like a mother changing her baby’s diaper. It’s like, do you really want to capture the moment?
Keep in mind that street photography is also an art which has to be done for aesthetic reason.
Permission, Law and copyright
Do you really need permission from the people you are taking photos of? I don’t really tell people for their permission. Asking permission it is not necessary as long as you are not using the photos commercially.
If you are selling your photos, let’s say on microstock libraries, then you have to get the model release from the person you are taking picture of.
Using the photos for commercial purpose also requires you to get rid of any logo, brand, and symbols. Those things are copyrighted, and you’d better erase them or otherwise you have to pay royalty for using them commercially.
For a private collection or putting them on your private blog, you don’t need to sign any release. The photos are the manifestation of your own creative intelligence. You have a full right on your creation.
What to do when confronted
At some point you will be in a situation where the person you take picture of gets upset. The best response you can give is to smile. You are not doing any fraud to anyone. If he demands to know what you are doing, just explain humbly. You are an artist or a photographer, and tell the person that the photos are for your own collection.
Most of the times it’s enough to just look at anything but the person. If the person calls the police, then just explain that what you are doing is an art or street photography project. As street photography tells what happens in society as it is, you also have to explain what you are doing as it is. Just be honest and in most cases you will be just fine.
How to not attract people’s attention
Preventing is always better than curing. Here are some tips to minimize the possibility to get noticed by your street photography objects.
- Wear dark clothes. Bright colors attract attention easily.
- Keep your elbows in when taking the photos. Spreading your body makes you stand out.
- Have the camera set. Get the photos quickly.
- Keep the camera strip high, closer to your head. It minimizes the movement required to have the camera ready.
- Get use with the camera. Always carry your camera everywhere, as if it was your second skin.
Find interesting street photography subjects
Street photography is about telling a story on what is happening in the society through your camera. You can get an interesting story with a proper preparation. There are some ways to get a good story for your image.
You can find an interesting people and follow them, expecting they will encounter an interesting moment for you to capture. For example, during the autumn season last year I was planning to shoot a picture of people enjoying the foliage. So I waited in a spot where I often saw people walk by, which has autumn foliage. After a while a couple of young people walked by and I took the picture. Easy.
You can spend a good amount of time before coming to a street photography theme. For me, I don’t like to spend too much time on planning, instead I would plan a simple subject and then hunt for the photos immediately.
Get your camera ready all the time
You don’t want to lose the moment. Some moments in street photography may not happen again forever. I have to admit that I have missed some precious moments because I did not bring my camera when I needed it the most.
The bad news is that moments may occur unpredictably. The good news is that as you become more experienced in street photography, your instinct is getting better.
Train yourself to be at the right place at the right time.
Good time for street photography
Here is the thing. You would need high shutter speed to capture a precious quick moment, right? Then you have to have much light to compensate. I personally, many other photographers may argue differently, prefer more light quantity than quality.
With a bright light, you can maximize your shutter speed to freeze your frame completely.
Having said that, my favorite time for street photography is morning and evening, especially during the summer time when the sunlight is abundant.
Where to shoot from
This one could be tricky. The point here is that you want to capture the whole scene, but you don’t want to look so suspicious.
I would suggest you to stand close to your object. The first reason is that you will be able to capture the scene perfectly. Secondly, standing too far will make you look suspicious.
When you encounter a great moment, take plenty shots at it. You don’t want to leave too early and regret later.
What is the best camera setting for street photography? I would say first is maximizing your shutter speed. But remember to compensate with the light. If the light is less then you may want to reduce your shutter speed.
Most of the time I use shallow focus 1/5 so that I could emphasize the object I want to focus on. But when I want to capture the whole scene, then I go with smaller focus 1/22 or lower.
There is no exact textbook correct camera setting for street photography. It is an art. If you are happy with the photos, then you are doing perfectly fine.
Color or Black/White?
Again, street photography is all about your own preference. Nothing is better than the other.
Black/white, for my opinion, is good to give a retro impression. If you have big desire on classical-type photos, then black/white may be suitable for you.
If you feel that the color has the power to tell the story of your street photography image, then colored photos are the best.
Take action now!
Street photography totally requires you to go out and take photos. There is no other way to be a great street photographer other than going through a decent hours of practice.