One can consider capturing candid moments in a public setting as the core of street photography. It is a genre of photography that calls for taking unposed and real moments.
Therefore, street photography can be considered presenting the most common things in the world in a way that makes them stand.
Understanding street photography by definition would limit your vision especially if you are getting started.
Since it needs to be candid, it does not matter what it is about, you only need to capture the essence of humanity. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on the street because the key is to get shots that express everyday life from an artistic perspective.
Beginner’s Guide to Get you Started on Street Photography
Street photography is not as easy as it seems. By definition, it may seem that all you need is a camera to capture random pictures of strangers but there is more to it. The most important thing is to respect and understand this genre of photography especially if you are just starting. From requiring the right gear to respecting people’s privacy, here are a few steps that will get you started on street photography.
Carry Small and Light Equipment:
You don’t want to be heavy laden when it comes to street photography. In this type of photography, the less is better and the more invisible you are the better the candid shots.
Therefore, as a beginner, try with a small camera that is less obtrusive. The key is to blend in and get by unnoticed. That is why keep your gear light and small. Doing photography, your mind will automatically click towards a DSLR and honestly, there is nothing wrong with it but there is always a better option.
In this case, it is the mirrorless camera. These are fairly light, small, and easy to carry around. The camera’s EVF (Electronic Viewfinder) allows you to have an accurate representation of the image’s exposure before you even click it. Hence, start out with something simple, light, and even cheap!
Find the Right Spot:
Street photography is all about capturing the human essence. Therefore, it makes sense to start off at places that are touristy and crowded. For beginners, crowded places or tourist sites are a great way to gain confidence as every other person has a camera.
Places like city centers and downtown areas are great for street photography as people are less likely to give you and your camera attention. You should start doing short photography sessions at first so that you don’t get intimidated by taking pictures of strangers. Moreover, you should shoot in a variety of places – both crowded and boring. You can understand your environment better this way.
Setting Your Camera:
You’ve got the camera and the place, now you need to take the right shot. Since you are going for candid or spontaneous shots, you should be familiar with your camera settings. You won’t have enough time to adjust the settings for every shot so you should be either quick with it or set the camera on a single mode.
Many street photographers prefer to shoot either in Manual Mode or Aperture Priority. Manual mode can be a bit tough for beginners especially in changing lighting situations. Therefore, beginners can choose to shoot in Shutter Priority.
While doing street photography, it’s best to have a fast shutter speed so that you don’t miss any movement. You can have it at 1/250th if you are constantly moving as this speed would guarantee that the motion is frozen. But when the subject is slow, you can set it up at 1/160th. Here are a few more settings you should look out for:
- Aperture: Your image will have more focus when you have a deeper depth of field. This happens when you let in less light which means that your aperture number should be big. A smaller aperture number focuses more on the subject while the other parts get blurry. It is recommended to shoot somewhere between f/5.6-11.
- Focus: You will likely have a lot of moving subjects and using manual focus can be a hassle for beginners. You can easily track your subject by setting your lens to autofocus which prevents you from refocusing constantly.
- ISO: The higher the ISO number the grainier will be your image. Since it is digital sensitivity to light, you should keep the ISO at a low.
How and What to Photograph:
You can literally capture anything on the street. From people to animals, monuments, buildings, and more. However, you will be all over the place if you don’t make up a list of a few major subjects. You can take a different approach and capture moments by choosing a medium.
You can choose to play with lighting conditions, shadows, or even camera positions. You can focus more on your setting and medium rather than the subject. Here are a few subjects and techniques you can use:
- Capturing Silhouettes or Shadows: For instance, if you want your subject to remain anonymous, you can capture silhouettes. Even if you don’t have strong backlighting for your shot, you throw your subject into the shadow by using techniques such as a spot meter on the light source or exposure compensation.
- Capturing street animals: Getting a spontaneous shot from a street animal or a pet can tell a story of its own. Animal photography is all about capturing the right movement and expressions. You can get an interesting shot when they are interacting with their owners or just minding their own business. Don’t forget to take a wide perspective and get down low for an interesting shot.
- Photography without people: It is not always necessary to have people in the frame. The point of street photography is about capturing life raw, random, and the way it is. Street photography can glorify an everyday object that you find boring. A good street photograph can make anything look interesting.
- Photographing kids: Children make for an interesting subject and candid shots. They are full of life, joy, and mischief. However, you should always be mindful of taking the guardian’s or the parent’s permission before photographing their children.
- Non-candid shots: This might be debatable but if the subject happens to look up to you, make eye contact, or get flattered enough to pose for the shot, then why not? As a beginner, you don’t need to strictly focus on the candidacy. You can start out by interacting with strangers at first and then moving on to shooting from a distance.
Street Photography Ethics:
You don’t need to be a celebrity in order to feel the discomfort of having a camera in your face. Where most people won’t mind giving a shot or two, there are many who are particular about their privacies.
Therefore, the first rule of street photography is to respect people’s right to privacy. It is important to understand the fine line between a subject’s right to privacy and a photographer’s right to freedom of expression.
When it comes to photographing strangers, it would be helpful to know how to deal with people. Here are a few things you can and should do as a beginner street photographer.
Don’t be difficult with authorities:
As someone who is just beginning to experience street photography, you should know once in a while you will get confronted by a police officer or a security guard. It’s no big deal unless you are asked to move on and you become difficult.
Be respectful and polite:
In this age of “every person has a camera”, it can be hard to distinguish the purpose of the photographer especially if you are specifically taking random photos of strangers. Therefore, if you get caught taking a shot, try giving a smile and gesture for some kind of approval. You can even offer to share the shot with them.
Delete when asked to delete:
There is no compromise on this rule because if someone asks you to delete a photo you better. You can try explaining to them that they were in the shot but if someone is being a nuisance, then it’s better to press delete and move on.
Are You Ready for Your First Street Photograph?
Photography is an art of expressing and telling a story by capturing defining moments. Street photography has been a convincing way of expressing human nature and essence.
If you feel that street photography is your calling, then grab any camera and prove your photographic skills. Remember, to capture a perfect photo, you must take into account not only the subject but your technique, surroundings, and camera settings as well.
Find the balance between freedom of expression and respecting people’s personal space. Even though street photography needs to be candid, if someone feels violated, then apologizing is the best way.
A street photographer should know when to move on and should practice good social skills.