6 Tips For Better Street Photography

Street photography is a broad category in photography, but in essence street photographers attempt to capture in an artistic, documentary fashion everyday sort of things in a candid manner as the photographer saw them with little or no manipulation to the image. The category is somewhat of a misnomer in that it is not restricted to streets–one could do such shooting at parks, malls, restaurants, stores, markets, and any other place where people gather  and interact.

I find this sort of photography to both fun and challenging because the sorts of shots taken are generally ad hoc  and otherwise unplanned. But the diversity does not mean one cannot apply some principles that will help one’s results better. So here are my tips:

1.) Shoot, Shoot, Shoot

You have quality…why not lots of quality? When I’m out on the town with my camera in hand, I shoot all sorts of stuff. I don’t like to waste shots, but nor am I afraid to take a picture of something I think might make an interesting photo. I remember when I got my first digital camera, I had to be selective, but now storage is cheap so I do not have to be as selective.

2.) Learn to aim the camera without looking through the view finder.

This for me was one of the hardest techniques to master, and I’m not really sure I’ve got it, but learning to point the camera towards a subject without looking through the viewfinder takes practice. I shoot from my chest and hip a lot, therefore I’ve practiced from these two points. Some times I like to get down low, but this is not always possible (as in this shot because the ground was soaked!), so I will stoop down and hold the camera close to the ground as this gives an interesting perspective.

3.) Learn to shoot from the hip….literally

After learning to aim the camera without looking through the viewfinder, another trick is to learn to position the camera on your body to help steady shots. I found that by positioning my camera on my hip, the shot seems to be more stable than holding it up to my eye. Camera shake seems to be more exaggerated if you hold the camera away from your body rather than close.

4.) Take advantage of your surroundings

Toting a tripod is not always possible, and when low light or long exposure come into play, you wish you had one. But with streets,  there are an abundance of items to use: tables, benches, chairs, posts, rails, window seals, rocks, stumps, or even the ground can help stable your shot. Also shooting from these heights can make an otherwise uninteresting shot interesting because of the perspective. If I’m out doing this sort of photography, I usually only take a body with one lens, an extra battery, and extra memory and I leave the rest of the gear at home. Sometimes, I may carry a mini tripod or a bean bag to help support the camera, but now always.

5.) Don’t Delete Anything

I found that some of the most interesting shots I’ve taken aren’t interesting until I look at them on my computer and can process them a little.  Some nasty looking shots can actually turn out to be some pretty interesting stuff during post processing. Nowadays with cheap memory, you can be less discretionary about what you shoot!

6.) Don’t expect to shoot anything in particular

Rather than imagining what a particular shot should look like imagine shots of things around you. Experiment with a couple different things if the subject is stationary, but also be ready to grab something on a whim too.

There they are. If you want some inspiration, check out my gallery, Street Photography.

6 comments on “6 Tips For Better Street PhotographyAdd yours →

  1. great tips, thank you! I wonder how you think about publishing street photos of people on the internet? I have photos of people I didn’t ask permission of but held my camera up front so they clearly could see what I was doing and also some when I just “had to” and asking would have made them pose or something. I always feel a bit hesitant when I put them on the internet…how do you feel about that? (have looked for discussions about this, but haven’t found any. yet)

    1. I duno….I’m not really sure what the precedent on this is. I’m sure there are arguments for and against it, but I really haven’t put much thought into it I suppose…

    2. I did some cursory searching on the internet, and I think it is largely contingent upon your local jurisdiction. One guy noted that paparazzi take photos all the time without permission and sell them. I suppose I’m a paparazzi… When modeling, models usually sign a release form for the photographer…this releases them photographer from any liability….After reading, I’m just more confused.

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