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20 Quick Street Photography Tips

I was going through an old ‘Digital Photographer’ magazine this afternoon and came across a good Top 20 list of tips for those wanting to get into Street Photography.

stree-photography-1.jpg

Photography by Carlo Nicora

Here’s their headings an a few thoughts on each one from me:

  1. stree-photography.jpgPhotography by Carlo Nicora

    Less is More – don’t take too much equipment and travel light. It’ll make you less obtrusive and you will be able to move around for the best shot quickly.

  2. Off the Beaten Track – don’t just go to all the touristy shots – try to get ‘behind the scenes’ and ‘real life’ scenes.
  3. Stolen Moments – anticipate moments between people before they happen.
  4. True Colours – black and white is often where it’s at with street photography but at times colourful situations arise and can really make a shot – be on the look out for these.
  5. In the Background – what’s goign on behind your subject can actually ‘make’ the shot. Billboards, signs, graffiti and other visual elements can really make a statement in a shot.
  6. Dare to Go Diagonal – don’t just hold your camera horizontally – experiment with angles. Street photography is a less formal medium – make the most of it.
  7. Opposites Attract – shots which challenge the ‘norm’ in terms of composition and story/subject matter can be powerful. Look out for ‘surprising’ subject matter and composition.
  8. What a Performance – street performers, parades and other street entertainment can be great subject matter on the street.
  9. Off the Streets – other places where people gather in number can lead to great shots in this genre – zoos, fairs, shows, parks, sporting events etc all can be worth trying.
  10. New Angle – find ways to get up high or down low – these new perspectives on subjects that are familiar can lead to eye catching shots.
  11. Practice makes Perfect – over time and with practice your photography will improve. You’ll not only get better at technique but also spotting the things to focus upon on the street.
  12. Fortune Favors the Brave – sometimes the best thing you can do is to get close to your subject – this can be a little confronting but will produce powerful images
  13. Fun in the Sun – often we try to avoid shooting into the sun and the shadows that direct sunlight can produce – in street photography breaking these ‘rules’ can lead to great shots.
  14. Ready to Pounce – have your camera out and ready to shoot at all times. Things can move quickly on the street so if you’re not ready you’ll miss lots of opportunities.
  15. Revise the Revisit – street photography is not all about spontaneity – if you see a scene with potential don’t be afraid to keep coming back to it until you get the shot.
  16. Frozen Motion – the street is a place of movement – to capture it and still get sharp shots make sure your shutter speed is fast enough. 1/125 or more with an ISO of 400 is what this article recommended as a base. I also think it can be fun to experiment with slower shutter speeds on the street – capture the movement as blur.
  17. Street Wallpaper – blend in with the scene – shoot unobtrusively and unnoticed.
  18. Life Through a Lens – ‘exaggerating perspective will help set your subject in context and provide a more forgiving depth of field’ – use a wide angle lens (or even a fisheye).
  19. Expect the Expected – people can be suspicious of street photographers so shoot in places where people expect to see people doing photography. Smile, be polite and be willing to delete images if people protest.
  20. Location, Location, Location – really this is what it is all about. Choose places where people interact with one another and times when they are present.

What would you add (or subtract) from this list of Street Photography Tips?

stree-photography-3.jpg

Photogrpahy by Gabba Gabba Hey!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some older comments

  • Rob

    December 29, 2012 10:20 pm

    Good tips, thanks. Best camera for street photography - The camera you have on you!

  • Adrian

    March 16, 2012 12:58 am

    Only just found this post. Good stuff.
    I love shooting from the hip/belly because:
    1. People's expressions are natural,
    2. It gives a child's eye-level view,
    3. I get some unusual and dynamic compositions that I probably wouldn't have tried if I had total control.

  • alan

    April 13, 2011 06:51 pm

    Thanks. More great tips, I got this shot during a demonstration in Trafalgar Square on Sunday.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/keyte/5613770248/in/photostream

  • Tim

    March 27, 2011 06:15 pm

    I dig taking pics of street performers..my tip to other photographers: Before you start taking pics of them, drop a few bucks into their bucket, and make sure they notice. They will be much more patient and permissive about you taking several shots of them. It is a small price to pay for a good shot.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/zenart31/5522416676/

  • Reno C

    March 3, 2011 08:35 am

    One area in street photography that's often ignored is shooting at "litter" on the very street next to or below your feet. It could be a piece of gum, ant common ordinary items dropped on the ground, even a little oil spill from a parked car..

  • louise

    February 7, 2011 07:52 am

    This is great reading, really interesting, thank you : )

  • Motasem

    January 21, 2011 09:04 am

    Hi,

    Good tips and very helpful ... I'll reconsider my photography ...

    My flickr :

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/from_gaza/

  • Charlie M. Sianipar

    January 10, 2011 06:41 pm

    Nice tips for street photographer.

  • Bevan

    April 11, 2010 06:44 pm

    Getting close and shooting with very wide lenses and my hearts going pretty quick....shooting strangers is not easy but thats the challenge which makes street photography so good.

    I agree waiting in an area can produce good images... having the camera strap wrapped around my wrist with the shutter cocked/pre focussed for me I find is the most "ready" position to take a shot.

    Making yourself disappear when walking the streets is never easy with a bulky camera...but a thing that helps me a little is I often wear a top/jacket thats the same color as my camera {black}. I find my cameras not as visible this way. Sometimes being blatant about taking a shot works better for me than to ask for permission as usually the person freezes up when I ask if I can take their photo which can ruin the "moment".

    http://bevanyoung.com/gallery-street.php

  • Louis Dallara

    January 25, 2010 12:00 pm

    My street photography, I'm a fan of Robert Frank.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ldallara/sets/72157603791001142/

  • Merryweather

    January 13, 2010 12:13 am

    Great information on this site. I love reading your posts. Thanks a lot!

  • bobo

    December 25, 2009 08:47 pm

    nice tips... i will try that

  • Alina B

    September 22, 2009 07:39 am

    Thanks for answering my question, Damon!

  • Ron Foxx

    September 22, 2009 03:38 am

    Fortune Favors the Brave - now that's a truism. Friday past I decided I wanted to take a photowalk through the French Quarter in New Orleans and photograph people but do it up close and real "in your face" like.

    At first it took some nerve to simply walk up to people and ask to photograph them and some (maybe a third) refused my request. Of the ones who agreed some became uncomfortable with how close I got (I shot only with a 50mm f/1.8 lens) but of the ones who played along I got some neat results. I'll be doing this type of shooting again.

    By they way, approaching people got easier and easier the more I did it.

    My Flickr Set of the Photowalk in the French Quarter

  • Dave D

    June 16, 2009 01:28 pm

    Wonderful article. I'm really glad I found this site

    To alec...If you want to split hairs about spelling, your name as well as,hi, are both started by small letters vice caps. It really doesn't seem to bother anyone else.

  • Sarah

    April 25, 2009 12:30 am

    Yes, I think that's my problem also - well, and I want a 300mm so that I could stand back far enough that people I don't know well wouldn't realize that I'm taking their photo as much. But yes, since I mostly take children's photos, I worry about the parents. I've been taking photos at my son's tball practices, and so far I've only posted one of a child I don't really know - and it was him & my son from the back squatted down playing in the dirt. So I just gave them my card and told them since it didn't show his face I went ahead and put it on there. We'll see what happens though when I get a really awesome photo of someone else's, and it's a week before the next time we see them.

  • Mae

    April 24, 2009 02:56 am

    Thanks for the tips. I had the same questions as Alina and Sarah. I also have friends who frown on my "voyeur" shots. So i've been trying to get "unrecognisable" photos. But one of my favourite subjects is children.. because they do the cutest things. So I do worry when I cant get consent from the parents.

  • jamir

    January 27, 2009 11:39 am

    Great Articles!

  • Sarah

    January 21, 2009 01:20 pm

    Thanks Damon, appreciate the answer!

  • Luis A. De Jesus

    January 20, 2009 11:13 am

    Thanks for the article. Very informative and educational. I've used a 30mm f/1.4 and my sigma 10-20mm and I can only add how I wish I had something small, inconspicuous, and fast for street. Also, one should be very wise and prudent about where one pulls out a camera. Here in Mexico City there is plenty of paranoia because of the crime rate and consequential mistrust. People with cameras can be mistaken for kidnappers looking for potential victims.

  • Damon

    January 19, 2009 04:25 am

    @Alina: I think it depends on the commercial use of that photo. If you are actually shooting for advertisements or other such commercial work (where you are using the photo to make money on something else), then yes, you should get a model release. If you are shooting purely for art's sake, even if you want to sell the photos, you don't need a model release. Of course this doesn't apply absolutely everywhere, but it does in the US and most countries.

    @Sarah: If you post photos to your blog, it's possible (though not likely) that people will find out or be annoyed. If that thought bothers you, then don't do it. But personally, I do it all the time.

  • alec

    January 18, 2009 01:50 am

    hi.
    You have some wonderful articles including this one. However I wish to make two points. One there are people who make great street photos but might be upset if you take their pic. Your tips didn't go into how to be less conspicuous when taking photos. And second as I scroll through your articles I see numerous spelling errors.

  • R Trobaugh

    January 4, 2009 04:36 am

    I've had success using the Sony Mavica CD400 digital camera. The mini cd it produces is great for taking group pictures for our school yearbook pictures. Are there any new digital cameras under $1000 in cost that are student friendly that use mini CDs out there?

  • Sarah

    December 31, 2008 01:47 pm

    Ok, I have a question - what do you do with these street photos? I would love to go out and do this, but then if you got a really awesome shot, would you add it to your blog/website without knowing if that person will ever find out or care??? Thanks! And thanks for the tips also, they're all great!!!!

  • Alina Bradford

    December 20, 2008 02:59 pm

    I have a question- How many of you get a model release after taking a street shot? I really never want to do it, but what if I want to use the image commercially down the road? Won't I be stuck with a useless image?

  • Bryan

    December 16, 2008 05:11 am

    These are great tips! Here are a few more on street photography.

  • Millard

    December 15, 2008 08:45 am

    Excellent idea John P!! It's amazing how creative photographers can be. A friend of mine used to mount cameras on the wall of his studio and then during festivities, fire them remotely.

  • John P

    December 15, 2008 08:20 am

    A tip if you may be in a situation where you either don't want your subject to be aware you are taking their photograph, either because you want a candid shot or it may be a confronting situation,is to use a long telephoto lens, place a friend or partner in front of the camera as if you are taking their photo and zoom past them to the actual subject. You can get some interesting street scenes with curious people casually looking your way but not actually posing for the camera.

  • KT

    December 14, 2008 08:02 am

    Try see life in 1/125 sec too. A good technique for shooting strangers in a busy street scene and getting in close, is to use your eyes very carefully, so as to not stare at the subject so as not to attract their attention. That way you don't give them the creeps and they will think, he/she isn't taking a picture of me...so they carry on as they were. And you nab them the way you saw them at "1/125".

  • Bob H

    December 14, 2008 08:00 am

    I love street photography. But my favorite argument is between the people who say that if you don't use a wide angle lens (therefore getting very close to your subject - interacting with them) you are not a true street photographer. The other camp says you can't get true moments (unaffected by the presence of the photographer - no modeling or camping for the camera) unless you use a long lens.

    Me, I use whatever lens is on my camera. So does Jay Maisel. No, I'm not comparing myself with Jay. He is in a league of his own. BUt he advocates leaving the house with just one lens - the one on your camera. And its always the wrong one.

    Go look what he does with the wrong lens...

    http://jaymaisel.com/

    The best way to get pictures and experience is to USE YOUR CAMERA.

  • Tom

    December 14, 2008 04:20 am

    GREAT article!
    My tip: be calm, shoot what comes to you. don't shoot the cliche. street is all about breaking out and being individual.

    also, keep this by your side: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

    my street photography:
    http://achillies875.deviantart.com
    and
    http://tomwalshphoto.wordpress.com

  • Sarosa

    December 14, 2008 12:57 am

    Thank you for the useful tips.

    I am still learning and experiment with street photography. I love it, but in my case is rather difficult. Living as a foreign woman in an islamic country gives me unfortunately too much attention where ever I am. So normally I stay somewhere for quit some time until people stop observing me, only then do I take off my camera. But the arabic-islamic culture is rather photography sensitive. So I have to be sensitive too.

    www.rosafrei.com

  • gfahey

    December 13, 2008 11:46 pm

    Great stuff. It's hard to master this type of photography and it's something I aspire to do well someday.

    But, I think the reason that great street photographers get those good shots is the unobtrusive camera's they carry. Leica's and Contax for instance. They are small and don't scream "CAMERA!" like my D300 with my 85mm f/1.4 does. I'm looking at the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 as a camera to work with for this purpose although f/2.0 is still a wee bit slower than I'd like. Forget the digital Leica's. Way too much $$. I've considered going to film just so I could get that Leica/Tri-X look that floors me but, again, even that is too expensive.

  • 5cheherazad3

    December 13, 2008 02:36 pm

    I was just in Brisbane city today doing some street photography at the No Clean Feed protest against internet censorship in Australia. The "Expect the Expected" tip came in very handy here and no one was in the least bit worried about me taking photos.

    After the protest, I went for a walk down one of the fancy arcades in the Brisbane mall. There was a string quartet playing. I waited for them to finish the piece that they were playing. Then with camera in hand, cards with my website and email addresses and a lot of fortitude (a'la the Fortune Favours the Brave tip). I went up and asked them if they minded that I take some photos while they played. They said sure. I'm glad that I asked them because I got some lovely shots that I wouldn't have been able to get without their permission and being intrusive. It takes a lot of gumption, but whenever I've asked people on the street if I can take a photo, I've never been knocked back. It sure beats try to surreptitiously take photos and risking a backlash.

  • Bill Boehm

    December 13, 2008 11:07 am

    Zulfadhil's advice is spot on! I sat down on the tall steps across from the NY Stock Exchange and boy was that fun. All kinds of interesting characters and things happening on the streets of NY. If you're looking for a great spot to sit and wait for the action, this one is highly recommended (at least when it's relatively warm).

  • zulfadhli

    December 13, 2008 09:41 am

    The best street photography advice I received is to stay at one spot for a period of time like 1 hour. Fine an interesting spot and wait with your camera until interesting things happen in that interesting spot. It works...

    http://www.photomakers.net

  • Peter Phun

    December 13, 2008 08:23 am

    Whoops. Sorry I meant to include the URL to my take on street photography

    http://peterphun.com/blog/2008/09/07/street-or-candid-photography/

  • Peter Phun

    December 13, 2008 08:20 am

    No two situations are similar. Where adults are the subjects, it may be easier to take the picture first then ask permission afterwards. No sense hiding if you're spotted. It will just create more problems. Explain yourself.

    In the instances where children are the subjects, that tack may not work. There's bound to be a lot of hassle with parents, that's why I suggest asking parents first. Doing so may ruin the spontaneity of the moment, but can be the difference between having the cops called on you.

    Be a good sport about it. Respect your subject's wishes and don't push your luck.

    Here's my take on Street photography

  • Robin Ryan

    December 13, 2008 08:11 am

    I've been working on street for a while (my poverty collection here is the culmination of my efforts: http://flickr.com/photos/robinryan/sets/72157602670449922/ )

    One thing Ive noticed is important is to sit back and watch scenes and not dive right into it. Follow human interactions, scout out potential shots, preset your camera, and when that magical moment open up just raise your camera and take the shot. Also pay close attention to the background and think about how it can enhance or detract from your shot.

    Also, don't be afraid of confrontation. This guy was pretty far off the deep-end, and alternated between telling me his life story and yelling at me while I took his portrait: http://flickr.com/photos/robinryan/3098664693/

    Takes practice becoming comfortable, but the results are some of the most true to life, imo.

  • Marcy

    December 13, 2008 06:22 am

    This might also help:
    http://photojojo.com/store/awesomeness/candid-photography-spy-lens/

  • The Optographer

    December 13, 2008 03:38 am

    Nice tips, another beauty of street photography is that you catch people in their natural behavior. To get the main essence of the scene, using a zoom lens will help in not make your scene subjects uncomfortable and you can get a nice photograph.

    Another interesting thing is that when you print or view these photos, you can see many actions and things which had remained unnoticed at that time of taking a shot.

    The Optographer

  • Millard

    December 13, 2008 03:27 am

    I like Ryan's suggestion. I have always been a little shy about shooting people on the street, so if you can do it without their knowing, it is easier. I used to hide in a phone booth with a long lens and shoot across the street. Now I can't find any phone booths!!

  • Rosh

    December 13, 2008 03:12 am

    Below is a link to an image I shot in China a few years ago. Half my images in China where shot from the hip. The results where great. You just have to know your equipment and take lots of shots.

    http://www.roshsillars.com/love.png

    Rosh
    http://www.newmediaphotographer.com

  • Nick

    December 13, 2008 03:11 am

    Nice article, thanks for getting it online for us.
    I've been trying lately on my days off spending chunks of the day in the same place and recording the day's events- it's a good exercise to try and keep one object or view in the frame over the course of the day, yet take differently composed shots. Thought I'd share.
    Nick

  • Lander

    December 13, 2008 02:44 am

    Useful article!

    In my opinion one of the best pieces of advise I got is: be patient. I like the nr 15. Revise the Revisit. Wait and be ready.

    I got this photo this way:
    http://flickr.com/photos/larbelaitz/2826371902/in/set-72157605450944854/

    or

    http://flickr.com/photos/larbelaitz/2826364840/in/set-72157605450944854/

    Thanx!

  • Clif Noland

    December 13, 2008 02:23 am

    I agree with these tips, in addition, if I know I'm being intrusive I'll smile and point to my camera to indicate that I would like to photograph the subject. A smile or nod will let you know its OK, a frown or black eye says back off. Kidding, I've never gotten the black eye. I use a Nikkor 18-200mm lens, so I can become somewhat a voyuer. I think the trick, as stated, it to try and anticipate the next move of a potential subject and "capture a moment in time, my favorite kind of photography!

  • Carlos

    December 13, 2008 01:47 am

    Actually, i just had taken some shots before i came to my work.

    I had no suggestions 'cause i need a lot of practice, it would be great if someone could give tips of how to shoot with the sun in front of you

    I mean... i wanted to take some shadows against the sun but my pictures got so much brightness

  • Yazan

    December 13, 2008 01:26 am

    Expect the Expected ... Yes very important, especially if you are in a foreign country and might risk photographing some high security areas guarded by civilian bodyguards ....

  • Simon SC

    December 13, 2008 12:51 am

    I have a question. For this style of photography, I often have to crank up the sensitivity to around ISO 3200.

    I've heard from a couple of people that the noise can add to the gritty feel of the picture - especially if it's not chromatic (my Nikon nearly exclusively produces luminance noise).

    However I often find myself reducing the noise anyway and getting a cleaner result. But the problem with this is many a time I lose something from the original shot. I'm beginning to think that the noise/grain really *does* lend some feeling to a shot.

    So what should I do? Forsake image noise for a grittier, but noisier picture? Or clean it up to get closer to technical perfection?

  • Ryan

    December 13, 2008 12:47 am

    Learn to shoot from the hip, also I do the act like I'm aiming at something else, but watch my actual subject out of my left eye and when they have relaxed or are acting naturally very quickly recompose and shoot.

    Ryan

    www.ryanhollowayphotography.com

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