10 Tips for the Aspiring Street Photographer - Digital Photography School

10 Tips for the Aspiring Street Photographer

Let’s face it, starting street photography is no easy task. For the average photographer, going from shooting flowers into shooting people in the streets is like stepping into a Ferrari after driving a Toyota Prius. It is intimidating at first, but quite exhilarating once you try it out. After shooting on the streets for about four years, here are my top ten tips for somebody (with absolutely no background in street photography) to get their feet wet.

1. Ditch the zoom and use a wide-angle prime

midnight dining.jpg

Street photography is not like your 2nd grade science class. You don’t examine your subjects under a microscope. Rather, street photography is about experiencing life, up close and personal. When starting off street photography, you may be tempted to use your 70-200 zoom lens to feel less “awkward” from shooting in the streets. Rather, it will do much more harm than good.

First of all, you will look even more conspicuous in public holding a huge zoom lens. Secondly, if you use a zoom lens you have to point it directly at somebody, which makes the person you are trying to capture feel as if they have a gun pointed to their head. Rather, try using a wide-angle prime lens. This will solve two of the forementioned problems. One, prime wide-angle lenses are often quite small and look much less threatening than the typical telephoto lens. Furthermore, by using a wide-angle lens, you can still capture your subjects without necessarily pointing your camera directly at them. Which brings me on to my next point…

2. Get close

a lone dinner.jpg

When I say close, I mean GET CLOSE. Get so close so that when you are taking photos of people on the street that you can see the perspiration dripping from their forehead or the texture of their skin. By using a wide-angle prime lens (as mentioned in the before point), you will be forced to get close to your subjects. The advantage of this is that the wide-angle lens will give you a perspective which makes the viewer of your images feel as if they are a part of the scene, rather than just a voyeur looking in. Not only that, but when you are taking photos really close to people, they often think that you are taking a photo of something behind them. I recommend using either a 24, 28, or 35mm on a full-frame or crop camera.

3. Always carry your camera with you

mime at st pancras.jpg

You have heard this a million times and you know that you should, but you always seem to find excuses or reasons NOT to always carry your camera with yourself. “It’s too heavy, it’s annoying, it’s a hassle, it’s frustrating.” I’ll tell you what’s frustrating. Missing the perfect photo opportunity (the decisive moment) and regretting it for the rest of your life. I have to admit that is a bit dramatic, but it is true. If you always carry your camera with you, you will never miss those “Kodak moments” which always seem to happen at the most unexpected times. I have taken some of my best images at the most unexpected moments—images that would have been impossible to take if I did not have my camera by my side.

4. Disregard what other people think of you

stockings.jpg

One of the things that people are worried about when starting street photography is worrying about being judged by other people as being a “creeper” or just being plain weird. Disregard these thoughts. When you are shooting on the streets, you will most likely be alone. That means that anyone who may be “judging” you is people that you do not know and will most likely never see again in your life. So why let them get in your way?

We may feel constricted by these “social rules” but remember, they can always be broken. There is no law out there which doesn’t allow photography in public places (regardless of what the police may tell you).

To prime yourself better for your street photographer “role,” try doing something unusual in public. Lay on the ground for a minute and see how other people react around you, get up, and simply walk away like nothing happened. Go to a busy intersection and stand like a statue and see how people react (trust me, nobody notices. I had to do this as an experiment for one of my sociology classes). When you go into an elevator, stand the opposite way. The social world is full of false rules that constrict us. Break them, and shooting in the streets should become quite natural.

5. Smile often:

smile a little bit.jpg

It is funny how far a smile can go, especially when shooting in the streets. If you take a photo of somebody and they give you a weird look, simply tip your hat to them and show them two rows of your pearly white chompers. I would say that when smiling to strangers (even in the city of angels) I get over a 95% response rate. Even some of the most unapproachable people will smile back at you. By smiling often and to others, this will help you relax and lighten the atmosphere around yourself. People trust a street photographer who smiles, as they will simply disregard you as a hobbyist, rather than someone with malicious intent.

6. Ask for permission

shinji.jpg

Although many street photography purists say that the only true street photography is candid, I would highly disagree with them. Feel free to go up to strangers who you think look interesting, and ask to take a portrait of them. People love getting their photos taken, and as long as you act courteous and casual about it, most people will accept. Feel free to ask to take portraits of many mundane subjects of everyday life like the waitress at the diner, the bellboy of a hotel, or even a parking lot attendant.

7. Be respectful:

skating.jpg

This is one of the tricky grey lines when it comes to street photography. I personally try my best not to take photos of homeless people when they look too down on their luck. Although I do agree that there are tasteful images taken of homeless people which call people into helping these people, there are also many images that look like pure exploitation. Think of the cliché shot of a homeless person crouched over on the street, begging for money. Before you take these images, think about what message you are trying to convey. Are you shooting for the reason of building awareness of the atrocious situations that many homeless people live in? Or are you merely taking a photo of a homeless person for the sake of taking their photo? Nobody can be the judge—only you can decide.

8. Look for juxtaposition:

adopted.jpg

I feel that this is what makes street photography so unique and fascinating when compared to other genres of photography. Street photographs are able to convey the humor, irony, and the beauty of everyday life, by juxtaposing people with others and the environment. Look for signs with interesting messages that seem to be contradictory to the people standing around it. Be on the lookout for human heads that seem to be displaced by street lamps. Look for two individuals that seem to be differing in height, complexion, or even weight. Capture an array of emotions from people, whether it be happiness, sadness, or curiosity.

9. Tell a story:

thirst.jpg

Imagine that you are a film director and that you are trying to make an interesting play. Who would you decide to play as your actors? What is your backdrop going to be. How are the actors going to be interacting with one another and the environment? What kind of emotion are you trying to convey—whimsical, curious, or gloomy? If a viewer looks at one of your photos, will they simply move on or will they take a minute or two and study your image, trying to figure out the intrinsic story? Does your image captivate the viewer and make them feel that they are a part of the scene? Ask yourself these questions the next time you are taking photos on the street.

10. Just do it:

together in the rain.jpg

This is the last but most quintessential point of all of becoming a street photographer. Reading all of these tips aren’t going to do you any good to become a street photographer. Photography is not done behind the computer screen, but on the streets with a camera in hand. Honestly when it comes down to it, all this obsession over cameras, lenses, and gear doesn’t matter. Grab your DSLR, point-and-shoot, iPhone, or whatever and hit the streets. The beauty of the world awaits you—don’t miss your chance.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Eric Kim an international street photographer, educator, and blogger. His passion is teaching street photography workshops and building communities all around the globe. You can connect over on his blog Eric Kim Street Photography or see his portfolio on his website.

  • af

    Great photos. Well thought-out tips. Well written. Thanks.
    Wondering: how do you handle releases?

  • Chandy

    I have been shooting photography for many years, but find myself leaning into the mode of “street photographer” more and more. I enjoyed your tips, and I’m sure I’ll find them useful as I explore this genre to a deeper level. It’s a wonderful thing to receive inspiration and tips from the ones who are out there “doing it”!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/acierman/ Paul

    well . i saw that you wrote …you can take pictures in public and there is no law against it ….my friend/////you should make sure you know your facts …Quebec Canada is the only place in nrth america that have laws saying the opposite ….but i still do it here …just have to be careful ….thats why we have major stars buying condos here all the time ….you see them often in the street ect ….but dont even think about taking there pic without asking ….the only way you can take pics in the street here is if its news worthy ….if you dont see the faces of the people …or if you ask permission http://www.flickr.com/photos/acierman/5586389750/in/photostream/

  • http://www.flickr.com/gipukan gipukan

    Good article! I’m in the process of selling my Canon ef 50 F/1.8 mk II to replace it with a Canon EF 28 F/1.8 to do just this what the story is. I’m with a XSI and a 7D. the 50’s field of view was limiting me on this because of the 1.6x crop factor.

  • http://andrewetchen.blogspot.com andrew

    Hi there, thanks for this, I was looking for this exact information and I really really like the last TIP – its the one that I really need to do :)
    Question though, do all the shots have to be in Black & White???

  • http://miguev.net/ miguev

    Not necessarily. Whether one photo in particular is best in B&W or color is a whole new discussion, and a very interesting one, or many! Just shoot raw so that you have the choice later on, then experiment with your shots until you find your preference.

  • http://aa-chan.net Alex

    Thanks for these tips. I’m trying my hand at street photography and these have gone a long way to helping :)

  • Philip Cabeza

    You have inspired me to take street pictures and scape from the safty to the country side enty sea side.

  • Tim Lawson

    Having just read Thomas Leuthers 2 on-line books I find your advice most reassuring. I have joined ASP and look forward to your book.

    Tim Lawson
    (Flickr – timthe doc)

  • andy miller

    Re Tip Number 8;
    Be VERY careful with shots like that one. It’s depicting the plight of the deportees during World War II. There’s a similar one at Friedrichstrasse Station in Berlin where I live. It’s not something you photograph. It’s a very touchy subject here in Europe. These monuments have security cameras. Many are guarded. I’ve taken “street moments” photographs at the holocaust memorial and other sites here and been kindly requested to stay away.

    Andy Miller,
    Street photographer,
    Berlin

  • Jerry

    I will admit that I’m a novice at this, but having read many postings on street photography, with subjects dramatically depicted as “victims” of the photographer, I truely believe that street photography documents the lives of the life and times that we live in. Let’s keep going with a respect for our subjects.

  • http://www.saneesh.com Saneesh

    Stunning images … “Shine & shadow” is one of my favorite. Really a piece of Art. Thanks for sharing. Love to share with friend & family.

  • http://facebook.com/kishore.halder Kishore Halder

    Respected. Thought

  • shirin

    Great article mate. Well done, you’ve certainly raised some questions for reflection. And thank you for sharing your view on number 7. I absolutely agree.

  • Pavla Králová

    The last pic is just awesome!

  • http://www.cottoncashmereandwool.com Deanna

    Great tips! Thanks for posting!

  • Gul Jung

    Great tips, as always.

  • Fil Deacosta

    Thanks for sharing

  • Rubee Lu

    Thanks for the sharing!

Some older comments

  • Kishore Halder

    July 2, 2013 01:02 am

    Respected. Thought

  • Saneesh

    May 31, 2013 03:21 am

    Stunning images … “Shine & shadow” is one of my favorite. Really a piece of Art. Thanks for sharing. Love to share with friend & family.

  • Jerry

    May 5, 2013 11:29 am

    I will admit that I'm a novice at this, but having read many postings on street photography, with subjects dramatically depicted as "victims" of the photographer, I truely believe that street photography documents the lives of the life and times that we live in. Let's keep going with a respect for our subjects.

  • andy miller

    May 28, 2012 02:52 pm

    Re Tip Number 8;
    Be VERY careful with shots like that one. It's depicting the plight of the deportees during World War II. There's a similar one at Friedrichstrasse Station in Berlin where I live. It's not something you photograph. It's a very touchy subject here in Europe. These monuments have security cameras. Many are guarded. I've taken "street moments" photographs at the holocaust memorial and other sites here and been kindly requested to stay away.

    Andy Miller,
    Street photographer,
    Berlin

  • Tim Lawson

    September 27, 2011 05:42 pm

    Having just read Thomas Leuthers 2 on-line books I find your advice most reassuring. I have joined ASP and look forward to your book.

    Tim Lawson
    (Flickr - timthe doc)

  • Philip Cabeza

    August 5, 2011 03:18 am

    You have inspired me to take street pictures and scape from the safty to the country side enty sea side.

  • Alex

    July 13, 2011 12:00 am

    Thanks for these tips. I'm trying my hand at street photography and these have gone a long way to helping :)

  • miguev

    April 20, 2011 03:05 pm

    Not necessarily. Whether one photo in particular is best in B&W or color is a whole new discussion, and a very interesting one, or many! Just shoot raw so that you have the choice later on, then experiment with your shots until you find your preference.

  • andrew

    April 19, 2011 12:49 pm

    Hi there, thanks for this, I was looking for this exact information and I really really like the last TIP - its the one that I really need to do :)
    Question though, do all the shots have to be in Black & White???

  • gipukan

    April 11, 2011 03:36 am

    Good article! I'm in the process of selling my Canon ef 50 F/1.8 mk II to replace it with a Canon EF 28 F/1.8 to do just this what the story is. I'm with a XSI and a 7D. the 50's field of view was limiting me on this because of the 1.6x crop factor.

  • Paul

    April 9, 2011 10:09 pm

    well . i saw that you wrote ...you can take pictures in public and there is no law against it ....my friend/////you should make sure you know your facts ...Quebec Canada is the only place in nrth america that have laws saying the opposite ....but i still do it here ...just have to be careful ....thats why we have major stars buying condos here all the time ....you see them often in the street ect ....but dont even think about taking there pic without asking ....the only way you can take pics in the street here is if its news worthy ....if you dont see the faces of the people ...or if you ask permission http://www.flickr.com/photos/acierman/5586389750/in/photostream/

  • Chandy

    March 11, 2011 10:40 pm

    I have been shooting photography for many years, but find myself leaning into the mode of "street photographer" more and more. I enjoyed your tips, and I'm sure I'll find them useful as I explore this genre to a deeper level. It's a wonderful thing to receive inspiration and tips from the ones who are out there "doing it"!

  • af

    March 3, 2011 04:47 pm

    Great photos. Well thought-out tips. Well written. Thanks.
    Wondering: how do you handle releases?

  • Natalie Gabrielle

    February 3, 2011 01:53 am

    You did an awesome job with this post! I feel like it is already helping, just by reading it. THANKS A MILLION! This is exactly what I was looking for.

  • violetta

    January 3, 2011 09:13 am

    Thank you for these awesome tips!

    And in the comments, yeah, I do feel that we live in a pretty paranoid society...hmm...:(

  • Danny M Long

    October 17, 2010 10:24 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/alabamanightowl/5088025328/' title='Old Cowboy' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4110/5088025328_8c3e83f4b7.jpg']

  • Danny M Long

    October 17, 2010 10:23 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/alabamanightowl/5087425039/' title='Street Artist' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4147/5087425039_5184697a8c.jpg']

  • Mark Johnson

    October 1, 2010 08:16 am

    Thanks for writing a great article. You have inspired me to go out and take some street photos this weekend.

  • Pigon

    September 30, 2010 07:27 pm

    Great post! In my opinion the best street shots are born when the photographer is as close to the subject as possible and becomes not noticed by the people he photographs. Your work is fabulous Eric, I can't wait for the PDF!

    And here's one of my street photography examples. Believe me - these guys stared at me while I was taking the photograph, but they didn't know they were photographed and because of that they facial expressions remained unchanged.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/piotr_golebiowski/4714066299/' title='Father & Son' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4070/4714066299_a909812f68.jpg']

  • CJaM

    September 20, 2010 02:03 am

    You have some super shots to illustrate the article..........

  • Marco Secchi

    September 18, 2010 04:50 am

    Really nice article, agree with most points. Beautiful and inspiring images.

  • Ali S.

    September 13, 2010 03:18 pm

    I'm just getting started in doing more street photography and I live in Canada. The only site I know so far that gives any details about Canadian and Ontario photography laws is

    http://ambientlight.ca/laws.php

    But I would really like to see what the most recent information is regarding photography laws...I ask only because, well, honestly I'd like to be more educated by folks who perhaps live in Ontario and know more about this.

    I've seen the "gray cards" but those seem like just general rules not legal laws on what is allowed to photograph and what isn't especially in our day and age where folks with cameras are and being targeted by police, security, and governments all over the World for our hobby - and for some of us our livelihood!

  • Andrew

    September 12, 2010 09:01 am

    nice! very nice. . . .

  • Josie

    September 12, 2010 02:31 am

    Great article. As a rather shy person wanting to get into street photography, I found this article very helpful. I hope it gives me a bit more confidence in future.

  • edd

    September 10, 2010 02:40 pm

    thanks.......streets are full of subjects....

  • DanFig

    September 10, 2010 05:29 am

    Great article "Guest Contributor".
    I think the title should be changed to:
    10 tip for all photographers.
    :)
    Keep up the good work and next time make sure to get a proper by line...

    -DanFig

  • Anne

    September 9, 2010 07:43 pm

    The first one and last one were extraordinary! Fantastic mood. Makes you feel like you're actually there. Terrific stuff. Liked the article too. Many thanks for inspiring us all.

  • Rohn Engh

    September 9, 2010 02:51 am

    Nice work! Too bad that so many photographers are misinformed about what is legal and what is not about taking pictures in public. (Street photography)
    The short answer is the publisher, not the photographer is hit with a suit, and you'll be happy to hear that over the last century (yes, 100 years) there have been very few publishers hit with any fine(s).
    Why? Because they know their First Amendment Rights. (Freedom of the Press). They continually protect it with their bevy of attornys.
    Also, the reality is people who "sue" go after people with deep pockets, not street photographers.
    I hope this has opened a window and let some fresh air in on this subject and helped you re- gain, if you’re from the USA, your (American) First Amendment Rights.
    You can learn more on this subject at www.photostocknotes.com/psn -Rohn Engh

  • Deirdre

    September 6, 2010 05:16 am

    Wonderful article! I absolutely love every single one of the example photos, and I like the tips. I live in a rural area and don't expect to be doing much street photography in the near future, but I am considering the 100 Strangers project, and some of these ideas will help me with that.

  • Lai Yung Sun

    September 6, 2010 05:00 am

    Hi Eric,
    Enjoyed your tips on street photography. I work in Afghanistan and always carry my Coolpix L20 and captured 100's of images on the streets. Your tips have reinforced my beliefs. Thank you for your encouragement.

  • Keith Horn

    September 4, 2010 04:50 am

    What a great article. I like doing street photography. My only failing has been the asking permission thing and the feeling guilty when aiming at people's children. I'm grabbing my camera tomorrow and I PROMISE to COMMUNICATE WITH PEOPLE AND TO ASK PERMISSION when I feel it necessary.
    There is also something else I want to do. For about a month while working with the Census we had morning meetings at a Hardee's. So did some older people happen to meet every morning and usually included us during their conversations. I'm gonna grab my camera next week and go out to Hardee's and get a shot of them, just nice people having their morning coffee before getting along with the day. I take photographs for fun and after reading this article I hoping it will only be more fun.
    I hope everyone has a great weekend.

  • miguev

    September 3, 2010 05:44 am

    Lovely article, I agree specially with points 1, 2 and 4. I'm a big fan of getting really close with a wide, wide angle (20mm or 24mm) but, until recently, had to cope with just a cheap 28mm to get a bit close. Prime lenses are best, not just wide angles, I use 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 a lot, they're the best for isolating people from the background while still staying close enough to them to feel personal.

    Anyone out there living (or visiting) Dublin, enjoy Grafton St. and their always nice and willing to be photographed buskers!

    As some people have remarked, street photography can be much trickier in some countries. I now live in Switzerland and haven't tried my luck yet, but they have a reputation of being quite privative.

    Also, if you can't afford a FX DSLR to use prime wide angles (not cheap for DX cameras!) I'd recommend giving a try to film. It gives you a color response, texture, real B&W and "pressure to think before you shoot" that can turn up much nicer than digital at times. Well, you'll notice most of my street photography is film ;)

    One last thing: regardless of focal length, be careful of shooting people from a safe distance when they can reduce that distance. Even the least expected subject can turn violent. The fisherman that makes a few pixels here, who I didn't see at the time of shooting, docked his shipped aside me on my way out of the dock and threatened me to destroy my camera on the spot had I shot him (despite the small D80 and discreet 20mm f/2.8) so I had to lie and surreptitiously run away :(

  • Dave Hodgkinson

    September 2, 2010 08:07 pm

    Tip 11: "Shoot B/W". I'm guessing Tri-X 400? :)

    I did a LOAD of street in Taipei when I was there and discovered a lot of these tips. I only had the 50m f/1.8 on the SLR but I had the Canon S90 which is very unobtrusive and goes to 24mm equivalent.

    http://www.davehodgkinson.com/blog/2010/05/shi-da-night-market-again/
    http://www.davehodgkinson.com/blog/2010/05/shi-da-night-market-photowalk/

    And the P&S pics:

    http://www.davehodgkinson.com/blog/2010/05/canon-s90-taipei-street-night/

  • Lawrence Holmes

    September 2, 2010 07:18 am

    Ten tips and all worth bearing in mind, especially number three and number ten.
    Number ten is similar to my outlook on oil painting - the hardest part of which, is making that first brushstroke on that pristine white canvas. Or put another way them as can, do and them as can't, teach!
    I want to fall into the, 'can do' category, as for permission, if someone objects - move on to the next one, but maintain your respect of their decision to object. As for the pictures shown in black and white, well most people know how to desaturate, so shoot in colour first. Personally I adore black and white and I feel that it adds to this genre. My only misgiving of this genre is that I've left it too late in life, I'm too old to run!!! lol. Great article, many thanks. Regards sherrlock

  • Phine

    September 1, 2010 11:14 pm

    Great article! Thanks for sharing these useful tips. One should overcome his/her fear first to be able to capture great shots when it comes to “Street Photography”. I love the last one “Just do it”. It simplifies it all, wherever you go just do it if you feel like doing it, it won’t harm you anyway as long as you still value the word “RESPECT”.

  • Phine

    September 1, 2010 11:12 pm

    Great article! Thanks for sharing these useful tips. One should overcome his/her fear first to be able to capture great shots when it comes to "Street Photography". I love the last one "Just do it". It simplifies it all, wherever you go just do it if you feel like doing it, it's won't harm you anyway as long as you still value the word "RESPECT".

  • Al Holliday

    September 1, 2010 09:22 am

    Number 8 is a terrible photo......Otherwise, the information is excellent.

  • Tom K.

    August 31, 2010 03:00 pm

    Eric Kim is one of the best street shooters working today. His work is consistently and outrageously compelling. Congrats on nabbing him for a guest blogger. Superb article.

  • Stephen

    August 30, 2010 07:40 pm

    Many thanks for an excellent article packed with advice and tips and great inspirtional photos too. by the way, it's nice to encounter an indivdual who wants to leave, free of charge, a book that can be used by anyone.

  • TomL

    August 30, 2010 09:08 am

    I love street photography while traveling abroad and have had great luck in places like India.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tom-vastu/sets/72157623184102855/

    There are some rules you find about as you go. I was still on the airplane before landing in India -the pilot announces no photos of the AIRPORT or PLANES while in the air - or while on the ground in the airport itself.

    The people on the streets of India, while many are poor - are the kindest I have met anywhere - and LOVED getting their pictures taken.

    Tom

  • Snappy

    August 29, 2010 01:59 pm

    A few people seem to have an outdated, possibly tabloid inspired idea about the legality of UK street photography.

    "Section 44" stop and search powers have featured in a number of incidents involving street photographers.
    A statement from the government provided guidelines for the application of "Section 44", which has also been used against peaceful protestors.

    Consequently, the legislation can no longer be applied to people who are just trying to get on with their lives, with or without a camera, although it can be applied to vehicles.

    Up-to-date, reliable coverage can be found at the British Journal of Photography and from the campaign group I'm A Photographer, Not A Terrorist.

    tl;dr : Shoot photos of UK streets all you like

  • Usman

    August 28, 2010 08:40 pm

    Interesting article, love to see the pictures in monochrome. Have take up the first point and break out to take lot of pictures.

  • Kapil

    August 28, 2010 05:34 pm

    thats truly motivating article to kick us & grab the camera to the streets

  • Shikhar Sharma

    August 28, 2010 03:40 pm

    These are some of the best tips i have read over the net.
    i am grabbing my camera and hitting the street.
    Thanks Eric.
    Thank you for helping me tame my fear over street photography.

  • GradyPhilpott

    August 28, 2010 03:16 pm

    In New Orleans, you can be arrested for blocking a sidewalk and if the officer is really cranky, blocking a sidewalk can mean standing still in the middle of the sidewalk.

    In Albuquerque, I was questioned by U. S. Marshals for taking pictures of the Federal Court House. It's a very beautiful building, so I just explained that I was on jury duty across the street at the District Court House and was on my lunch break. They went on their way and left me alone.

    Taking pictures of kids in the US will land you in a heap of trouble with parents and some can get violent in a hurry. We live in a paranoid society fueled by 24 hour news channels that are always promising to "make our blood boil," warn of predators around every corner, in the schools and churches to the point that no one who does anything except go about his own business is considered suspect.

    This is still a great article and it is one of the best I've read here in a long time. The author speaks for his own culture or those he's visited. It's possible to be a street photographer in most places in the US, if your willing to look like a typical tourist. Public events where everyone and his uncle is carrying a camera.

    In your face photography may not always be advisable, but that's what telephoto lenses are all about.

  • Paul Kowalow

    August 28, 2010 12:28 pm

    I like your style, Eric.

    Street photography in black & white makes a lot of sense, especially if one wants to retain the "classic" old-style look. I just completed an essey about the Wolsztyn Experience, the only place in Europe where real steam locomotives are still in operation. All pictures are in B&W, too.

    [eimg url='http://www.kowalow.com/img/s5/v4/p461865531-4.jpg' title='p461865531-4.jpg']

    Paul
    www.kowalow.com

  • Chris

    August 28, 2010 12:01 pm

    Always wanted to try this but my Fears always seem to overcome the desire (Rule #4)

    Great Article. Your tips may have quashed the fears and increased my desire.

  • Marius

    August 28, 2010 02:17 am

    Get close and Tell a story are the most important things! :D

  • peter kovak

    August 28, 2010 01:11 am

    Excellent article, solves a lot of street photography aspects. Next weekend I'll try part of the tips. Thank you ! (I have to check your site also)

  • stuart

    August 28, 2010 12:00 am

    This is my first comment. I enjoy most of the articles presented by DPS but I especially like this one. Not that it's better than the rest; it's just well done. Thank you, Stuart

  • George L Smyth

    August 27, 2010 10:45 pm

    Good list - some of these things work for some people, not for others, so go with what works for you.

    I have been working on a project for quite some time and will be presenting it in my first solo show in November. I have been shooting street photography and making Bromoil prints. This is a traditional process that few people practice these days where the silver is removed from a darkroom print and replaced with lithographic ink by striking the paper with a stiff ink charged brush. I typically shoot digitally and use digital negatives in the darkroom.

    If you would like to see the results of this interesting combination of street shooting and alternative processing, you can visit the website I established for the project at GeorgeSmyth.com.

    [eimg url='http://glsmyth.com/Other/GeorgeSmyth/Images/Encounters.jpg' title='Encounters.jpg']

  • margaretha toerien

    August 27, 2010 09:01 pm

    AMEN to all 10 points. As to the monochrome issue mentioned above... my 2 cents' worth is that GOOD monochrome conversion (a la Scott Kelby) is the only way to portray the soul of street photography.... just like colour is the only way to shoot Cinque Terre or Portofino in Italy. Must just make a point about carrying your camera with you... my Nikon goes everywhere with me. I have a kickass very large, very soft leather bag with all my rubbish packed neatly into small pouches (like small travel makeup bags with zipper) so as not to drop dust/crumbs/coins onto my baby, snugly ensconced in a large bubblewrap plastic bag. When something shootable comes up, it takes but a few seconds to whip out the bubble bag and take out the Nikon (fitted with prime lens during the work week). Works for me.....

  • Marco Secchi

    August 27, 2010 08:31 pm

    Brillian post and fantastic pictures!

  • Abhijnan

    August 27, 2010 07:24 pm

    Actually I had a question related to your 3rd point. I do carry my camera on most days(Specially when its sunny).Now I travel to work on a 2 wheeler.So my camera is packed in my bag.Now when you say always carry your camera do you mean when when you go out for a walk or for shopping,or something...coz I have missed quite a few opportunities because of the packed status(and I can imagine my camera hanging from my neck while I maneuver the traffic)

  • Linda Holmes

    August 27, 2010 07:04 pm

    Great article. I know for myself I am always having that "doh - wish I had my camera with me' moment. But I also feel very self conscious when walking through the street with my camera. Your tips and pointers are very helpful and I feel inspired to give it another go. Thanks for sharing - I love your photos. There is so much of a story in each one of them.
    www.lindaholmesphotography.co.nz

  • ashley

    August 27, 2010 05:15 pm

    Fantastic article. Thank you

  • nero

    August 27, 2010 04:30 pm

    this is really nice tips ! i like the set of bw photographs.

  • Pradeep

    August 27, 2010 04:22 pm

    Liked the accompanying photos. Very apt.

  • Jen M

    August 27, 2010 12:54 pm

    Great article and great timing as I'm about to start a street photography course ~ thanks:)

  • Speedy

    August 27, 2010 12:25 pm

    "There is no law out there which doesn’t allow photography in public places (regardless of what the police may tell you)."

    That statement may well be false, depending on the country you are in, and of OF WHAT you are taking a picture, even if you are IN a public place at the time of taking the picture. Know the law. Know your rights. Be careful. All this "rules are there to be broken" stuff found on photography websites can quickly land you in jail, or worse. Want to test this? Go to the UK (a self-proclaimed exporter of democracy, freedom, human rights, private liberties, etc.), go to a very public place (away from any government building and embassies etc., that would be too easy) and take a picture of a police officer while letting her/him see you take it. Have fun smiling your way out of that one these days!

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/feb/12/photographers-anti-terror-laws

    Nice article though! Great pictures!!

  • Justin

    August 27, 2010 11:58 am

    eric...well done. keep up the good work man. wish i could be in socal to shoot with you. one day man, one day.

  • Juan

    August 27, 2010 11:43 am

    You really have a very good eye for light, you know, be it on the street or indoors. I really suck.

  • Rob

    August 27, 2010 11:37 am

    It is funny how life works. they say "open a book and what you read is what you need to hear" Today makes this point all more true. Me and a friend went out today to got take some photos. We had nothing in mind, no Ideas on subject matter, no direction, no clue.... So we decided to go Downtown to the historic section of town and just look around. We kind of started taking pictures of door ways, stepels, old buildings and such.. Then we started looking at people. The first girl had a fair amount of tattoos, We both felt self-consious about photographing people, So I did what you said in TIP: #4 ask permission.. It worked! she was very excepting , and willing of the idea of her picture being taken.. Then my friend hit on TIP:#2 Get close... and with her permission she was all to kind and ok with it all... (cant wait to see the pictures.) as for TIP:#5 Smile often.. This works very well after about 30 min. we had people coming up to us and asking questions and such it was great! This is a form of photography I think I can explore more.. You never know who you might meet. And besides they are just people and most of whom you will never see again..
    (mental note be respectful and smile often)
    Thanks Eric.
    P.S. one couple we talked to were from LA ... good people...

  • Bhimaprasad Maiti

    August 27, 2010 11:13 am

    To choose the decisive moment with clear reflex is the key as I understand.The other traits are incidental.It needs years of experience and practice.No short cut to that.What do you feel.

  • Nobody

    August 27, 2010 10:43 am

    @MeiTeng: Your reasoning fails again. I'm being judgmental because you were blatantly wrong. And no, your friends' opinions don't count; being aware of what is legal does. Your response to security asking about moving to the intersection was irrelevant to the situation, which so thoroughly explains the odd look in return.

    Blocking a sidewalk to {set up a tripod, hold up signs to advertise a car wash, protest, just stand there for a period, whatever} is simply rude to everyone else who needs to use the same sidewalk to go to their destinations. It was nothing to do with the tripod, and everything to do with the fact that you were blocking the sidewalk. And how can I assume that it is not legal wherever you are? I can't. But it is at least a courtesy, and seeing as you were already on private property, you had to abide by the rules of that property. Considering it was a mall, it's easy to assume other people (namely shoppers) wanted to move past, and by blocking the sidewalk, you were impeding them, and it's justifiable at that point to say you were negatively impacting the business of the stores in the mall. And basically, people had two choices: Wait for you to finish, or go around. Going around would mean trampling the landscaping (if there was any on one side, and not just the building's wall), or walk in the street (risking their own personal safety because you're too selfish not to set up your equipment somewhere that's not going to force them to walk in the street).

    As photographers, we must always consider our impact on our own surroundings. That's where the advice above, to smile at people, comes from; it's also the source of the comment(s) about trying to become invisible in a crowd.

    A fun rule to follow when wanting to photograph on private property: ask first. Asking whether it is OK to set up a tripod is courteous. It looks good on you. In stead, you chose to be presumptuous, and just block the sidewalk for an indeterminable amount of time. Blocking the sidewalk is what caught the attention of security. I cannot say that enough.

    I'm also not the only one who commented about your original reply.

  • MeiTeng

    August 27, 2010 10:01 am

    @Nobody,

    I think you're being judgmental here. It was my first time shooting in a public urban mall with a tripod. So hearing that reason(s) for not being able to use my tripod was surprising for me. That was also the reason I asked if he would stop me if I was to shoot from the traffic light junction. I have asked other people about this and they too were surprised to hear of such an encounter over here.

    I was in no way gloating over that fact that he couldn't stop me then. Also, I was in no way self righteously implying that I was wronged.

    Just sharing my personal experience as an amateur hobbyist.

  • Julia

    August 27, 2010 09:43 am

    @graeme: Was about to point out what you just mentioned!

    In some countries such as the UK, it is practically impossible to take someone's photo without their permission, even more publish it online, without feeling like you're violating human dignity. I'm not sure whether it's actually law or not (though you can bet I'm going to research it now!), but with the way people talk and all the things you hear about "Data Protection" and "Child Protection", you're led to think it is. I've always been nervous about doing street photography here.

  • Sahil Mehta

    August 27, 2010 09:34 am

    Why are all pictures black and white? Don't you like any colour on the streets?

  • Elise

    August 27, 2010 08:39 am

    I love street photography and loved your article. I have one question. When publishing, what do you do about model releases? I was always under the impression that you couldn't publish with out one.

  • Michaela

    August 27, 2010 08:07 am

    Hi guys. Maybe we have a different culture here in NZ, but I would be too chicken to try street photography here. NZ's can be quite aggressive. And, in my personal experience, aside from those who have actually asked me to photograph them, most people I want to photograph don't like it (and I'm a very smiley, happy person).

  • Amy Cham

    August 27, 2010 07:36 am

    I would note that just because a place is public-accessible doesn't mean that it is legally public. The mall incident, for example--the mall and it's parking lot are private property, even though they are open to the public. This allows the mall to set its own policies regarding photography.

  • Graeme

    August 27, 2010 07:29 am

    "9. Tell a story" three kids at a drinking fountain.
    DON'T try that in the UK -- you WILL get attacked by passers-by caught up in the paedophile panic stirred up by popular newspapers like the Daily Mail :-(

  • Jimmy D

    August 27, 2010 07:12 am

    Excellent, Kim!
    I think tip no 10 is the most important one. If you just start shooting the streets you will either get hooked or realize it´s not your bag of tea. Once hooked, the rest will follow. :)

    On the subject of getting close (pardon my bad english)
    http://gatufoto.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/on-getting-to-close/

  • Rob Gipman

    August 27, 2010 06:33 am

    Nice line up indeed. I do a lot of street shots as you can see on my flickr pages between the animals. I always use my ef 28-135is and I often do zoom in and i'm often pointing the lens to the person i want in the picture. I always try to not exactly get the persons face in the shot as i'm more interested in what that person is doing to show to other ppl..

  • alex

    August 27, 2010 06:32 am

    what lens did you use at FARBAR downtown LA spot?

  • Zozizo

    August 27, 2010 06:21 am

    Street photography equalled the 70-200 mm lens for me. So in daily practice, I did not take it along: the hassle of the weight and here in Saudi Arabia photography in public still is a very sensitive issue. (Till only five years ago even forbidden I was told, and still you can get in trouble for it).

    Anyways, with the big lens you draw unwanted attention. Would not have thought about the possibilities of the wide angle, so will have a go with that tip & the rest of your tips.

    THANKS!

  • Martin Soler HDR Photos

    August 27, 2010 06:08 am

    Thanks a lot. I just started some street photos. It's not that easy, but here is my first one. Not color but not black and white either...
    http://martinsoler.com/2010/07/27/jazz-photo-by-notre-dame-paris/

  • Emerald

    August 27, 2010 05:36 am

    wow! great photography tips this one..its inspiring me..

  • David Florida-James

    August 27, 2010 05:01 am

    In many parts of the UK and Ireland while it is not illegal to take photographs in public places i.e. streets, shopping malls etc. there is a genuine fear in many peoples minds about exploitation. This is particularly so with parents of children of all ages from very young babies to teenagers. The fear appears to arise from the idea that any images may be used for pornographic purpose. I have been both verbally and physically attacked on a number of occasions when people believed that I was taking photographs of them or their children when In reality all I was doing was taking a street scene. This state of mind is greatly encouraged by 'wild stories' in much of the popular media. This did not seem to be the case on a recent visit to the USA (in fact on a number of occasions I was asked to take a photograph). Excellent photographs and some good tips especially seeking permisson.

  • Jeff

    August 27, 2010 04:57 am

    Great article, but rule #1 for me is to ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings, and not put yourself in any jeopardy. If you don't you may be an easy mark for some less scrupulous folks out there. And, if someone wants your camera gear, probably better to give it to them. Insurance will cover the replacement of your gear, but not your life...

  • Aaron Codling

    August 27, 2010 04:36 am

    Love street photography. What is more interesting than life?[eimg url='http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_oY0RheHl-os/TCAbYKi-uGI/AAAAAAAAAao/Yqo_ejDvIJI/s320/dsc_1632+150dpi.jpg' title='dsc_1632+150dpi.jpg']

  • Aaron Codling

    August 27, 2010 04:31 am

    Well put. Street Photography can be very gratifying. Capturing a mood and a moment of everyday life is also a great way to work on portrait techniques. [eimg url='http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_oY0RheHl-os/TETVyRd1rHI/AAAAAAAAAc8/qtlAygKOqmA/s400/dsc_2965+150dpi.jpg' title='dsc_2965+150dpi.jpg']

  • Denis Mikhalev

    August 27, 2010 04:07 am

    I was never that much into street photography but this inspiring article seems to have changed my mind. Can't wait to grab the cam and go outside.

  • loyce

    August 27, 2010 03:40 am

    These are great tips. I recently completed a documentary for a class. I had to get over my shyness about invading someone's privacy. It was a jazz and rib fest in Columbus, Ohio. The subjects were either into their jazz or their ribs. One little guy needed another hand to hold his rib, so he put it into his mouth while he stuffed the canvas chair into its bag.

  • Jon McGovern

    August 27, 2010 03:27 am

    A very informative and inspiring article - not only is the info great but the accompanying photos are absolutely brilliant. I wish all DPS articles could be as well written as this.

  • Scott

    August 27, 2010 03:21 am

    I do prefer a little color myself.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/4274033833/

  • Jim

    August 27, 2010 03:19 am

    What are the legalities associated with taking pictures of strangers and publishing the pic's for financial gain. Do I always need a release, What happens if the person sees themselves in one of your photos published in your work and you are selling it..

    Jim

  • John Lambert

    August 27, 2010 03:15 am

    I recently went on a tour of China and Israel where there is no shortage of street subjects. Most people hardly glanced at me because they are so used to seeing cameras and photographers at work. Most people seem to have cameras anyway, and they are always taking pictures, chiefly of each other. I have even asked people, (usually girl!), to pose for me, and they are always obliging. I give them my card, and if they want to see the shot, they can email me. Language has never been a problem

  • JJ

    August 27, 2010 03:10 am

    This is such a great post! Very inspiring! :D

  • editwizard

    August 27, 2010 03:09 am

    One of the best articles posted on this site so far! Great photography and inspiring advice. Thanks!

  • Jason Collin Photography

    August 27, 2010 03:03 am

    I like the advice of using a wide angle prime lens. I only have a 50mm f/1.8 prime, but I used it often at night in Tokyo. However, I really liked using my 80-200mm lens there for street photography as it is much more accepted in Tokyo than here in Florida's cities.

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/7/14/very-old-school-tokyo-assassins.html

    Just walking out my door in Tokyo there were always street photography chances.

  • Jim

    August 27, 2010 02:22 am

    A 'Great' New York City and elsewhere named Jay Maisel, put out a video via Kelby Training and said he preferred a 70/300 VR Lens along with his D 3, He seem to want to be invisible most of the time but would approach an 'interesting' person to do street portraits, with the 70/300 he could shoot across the street but would also use the 70mm to shoot same side of the street when a suitable subject appeared, These were part of a very interesting video from a Man of long standing sucesses.

  • Subramanya Prasad

    August 27, 2010 02:09 am

    Nice.

    But is it just a coincidence that all the pics in the article are monochrome? Does the author recommend taking street pictures in monochrome?

    BTW, here are some of the pics that I took on the streets around -
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/subpra/4379002070/' title='Autum evening' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4039/4379002070_d79cd19d4f.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/subpra/4799873780/' title='IMG_6413' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4139/4799873780_a16145bc04.jpg']

  • Rocky Mountain Joe

    August 27, 2010 02:01 am

    Thank you, Eric. Great post. I usually use my 200mm prime in the streets -- after your post, I'm going to go wide for a while. Great monochrome too. Cheers

  • cat3

    August 27, 2010 01:50 am

    Great list. I have a question in regards to #6, and it's an issue that's kept me from doing as much street work as I'd like to: model releases. Can you offer some specific tips and guidelines?

  • Nobody

    August 27, 2010 01:19 am

    @MeiTeng: You give a bad example. Obviously it was NOT illegal to photograph there. You were outside, in a publicly accessible area, and security even said it was fine to photograph outside.

    The issue was your tripod. In most places, that will be considered special equipment, which takes up much more space than a person, and means you have to stop in the way of the public right of way on the sidewalk for longer.

    You were violating rules or laws, just not in the way you're self-righteously insisting you were wronged.

  • Joe

    August 27, 2010 01:14 am

    Inspirational.

    What about releases? If you hope to sell, aren't releases mandatory?

  • nobody

    August 27, 2010 01:11 am

    @MeiTeng: You weren't told you could not photograph. You're getting things severely mixed up.
    You were blocking the pavement with the tripod, which disables other people their right to also use the same.

    The laws about that are the same everywhere that I know of. It is illegal to block the sidewalk or street without a permit, and sometimes even WITH a permit, restrictions still limit the ability to block the sidewalk.

    Besides, it's a matter of courtesy. If you were trying to go somewhere, and some person had the sidewalk blocked, would you be happy about having to step into traffic to go around?

    Your exaggerated response about whether you could photograph from the traffic light junction was irrelevant to the request that you not block the sidewalk (or lane of vehicle traffic?) with your tripod. Would you like more proof? From your own story: You were told you could still photograph; just not with a tripod on the pavement.

  • Prashant Bhardwaj

    August 27, 2010 12:56 am

    Lovely perspective and a beautiful beautiful set of images!!!

  • Steve

    August 27, 2010 12:51 am

    Apparently the 11th rule is to only process in black & white ;) j/k Great pics!

  • Saud Tushar

    August 27, 2010 12:08 am

    Hey Kim,
    Great post with some really good photographs.
    :-)

  • MeiTeng

    August 26, 2010 11:59 pm

    I really like your thoughts on Be Respectful. Totally agree :)

  • Rawia Sadek

    August 26, 2010 11:53 pm

    i liked the advises and the pics, interresting.

  • MeiTeng

    August 26, 2010 11:53 pm

    Excellent photos and a very good post.

    Can't quite agree on "there is no law out there which doesn’t allow photography in public places (regardless of what the police may tell you)".

    I was stopped by security personnel for shooting alongside the pavement of a shopping mall. I was using my tripod at that time. The security guy told me I could shoot with my camera hand held but not my tripod. When I asked him whether he could stop me if I were to shoot at the traffic light junction...he just kept quiet and smiled. Guess he can't stop me if I was shooting from the traffic light junction.

  • Jay McIntyre

    August 26, 2010 11:08 pm

    great post, I try to follow these rules as often as possible, except the wide angle prime, gotta get me one of those.
    till then the 50 1.4 will have to do.
    here's one from a trip to NYC last year.
    http://jmphotographyonline.wordpress.com/portfolio/personal/tip-jar-2/

  • Erin Wilson

    August 26, 2010 10:46 pm

    Wonderful post. And the accompanying photographs are fabulous!

  • Naveen

    August 26, 2010 10:25 pm

    I love street photography but, point no #4 and #7 highly limit. I am not a person who is very comfortable with staring strangers and its especially weird to click poor people.
    I too try to be "invisible" but I guess smiling will help when caught :)

  • msiani

    August 26, 2010 10:09 pm

    Excellent!! This is one of the best articles I have read regarding this topic. Thank you!

  • Richard Taylor

    August 26, 2010 10:05 pm

    Inspirational series of pics and thanks very much for the tips.

  • Varun

    August 26, 2010 10:04 pm

    Amazing article dude.... also checked your website...its really intresting. I as a photographer never thought that Street Photography could be soo intresting. Thx for the insight.

  • Jonathan Murray

    August 26, 2010 09:45 pm

    Kudos on the article. This is some of the best and most practical photography advice I've read in a long time.

    Jonathan

  • Jo

    August 26, 2010 09:44 pm

    thank you! the tips are great and your photographs are superb. thank you for sharing.
    I'm now inspired to try my hand at it.

  • Ilan (@ilanbr)

    August 26, 2010 09:37 pm

    I actually do follow most of these rules, so the list is great!

    http://www.ilanbresler.com/2009/10/lexus.html (example)

    However I'm not sure about the "smile" part. I prefer to be 'invisible' and thus not "hurt" the scene

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed