Street Photography tips (part 1)
I think you’ll agree with me when I say that the hardest thing about street photography is getting close to the subject without any serious confrontation.
Here’s the deal
Over time I have aquired quite a few useful street photography tips which have helped me avoid any serious trouble.
I guarantee You will increase your hit rate by using some or all of the ideas shown below in your photography!
Over time you will naturally merge some of these ideas with your own photographic style and your confidence and hit rate will naturally increase.
Learning the particular skills needed for Street photography is like anything else. The more you do it the better you’ll get.
Confidence and a smile will go a long way toward getting you what you want. If at first it doesn’t don’t be disheartened just keep calm and move on. Over time I promise you it gets a lot easier.
That’s not all
Always carry your camera with you. That way you (hopefully) will never miss a shot.
Use prime lenses if possible and try to get close! You may feel less vulnerable with a zoom but you’ll be a lot more intimidating and you won’t blend in as much.
I have listed a few methods below in the hope that they may help or inspire you to try something new.
You will find part 2 with further ideas here – part 2
Which particular one’s you find helpful will of course depend on the position you find yourself in. When a particular situation arises it’s usually pretty obvious which one might be the most useful.
Pick a background
To be honest this method is a bit old school these days but it’s a good place to start and gain confidence.
Find an interesting background like an advert, colourful wall or shop front. Get yourself nice and comfortable set your focal length etc… Then just wait until someone or something interesting walks, flies or crawls past. They will assume that your taking pictures of what’s behind them as you aren’t moving. After all if they walk into your shot it’s hardly your fault is it?
It can take some time so be patient. Remember also that that if you are there for a while the light may change so keep checking your settings and re-adjust if necessary.
Shoot from the waist (hip)
You get some amazing shots using this method and of course you capture people naturally and not staring into your camera. Which is the main objective of my preferred method of street photography.
I use my camera bag and swing it round the front when using this method. This gives me a nice platform just above my waist on which to rest the camera.
Getting the framing right can be tricky but after a while you develop a sixth sense as to where to point the camera. After a while you don’t even have to look at them as you walk past.
I employ zone focusing while using this method. Therefore the more wide angle the lens the greater the depth of field. For that reason I wouldnt advise this method with any lens greater than 35mm because the D.O.F would be too shallow. It can be done with 50mm+ but it gets an awful lot harder.
I am currently using a Voigtlander ultra wide 20mm, which gives a very large depth of field when used around F11 – f16.
Turn and shoot
The shot above of a young girl and her mum leaning out of a train window in Thailand. I had tried unsuccessfully to get similar shots many times. Every time I lifted my camera the subjects would recoil back into the gloom with looks of pure terror on their faces. This time I stood on the platform level with the window (pre-focused) but pointed my camera down the platform rather that directly at the window. At the last moment I swung round and took the shot.
This method was successful every time I subsequently used it. Which was quite a lot.
Look above their heads
I don’t really use this one much anymore but it’s worth mentioning. Find your shot then pretend to take a picture over their heads. Lower the camera and look at the back as if checking your last picture. You are in fact lining up your intended shot in the rear screen for the actual picture to be taken.
You can get scarily close using this method!
This is of course a lot easier if you use a quiet mirror-less camera. For obvious reasons.
Of course street photography needn’t all be clandestine. You could just simply ask if they wouldn’t mind having their picture taken. Most people seem flattered that they have been asked and also a bit baffled. I usually explain what i’m about and give them my card so they can have a look later.
If they agree I then try and gauge how far I can push it. Sometimes I lean in and shoot a couple say thanks and move on. If they seem relaxed and interested I may suggest a pose. Oh and don’t forget to smile.
This one can be the hardest for some people to master, but as I said at the beginning is that it gets easier with time and practice.
Why does all this matter?
It matters because unless your dodging bullets in a war zone photography is supposed to be enjoyable and fun. The less danger or stress you put yourself under the more you will continue to enjoy the art of Candid street photography.