Street photography is one of the most special genres of photography. It is becoming more and more popular each day, but there is nothing simple about taking these photos.
Today, social networks are overwhelmed with attempts of street photos, but taking a picture in the streets alone doesn’t make you a street photographer.
Take notes while reading this article, because we will start with some basics you have to know and end up with some practical tricks to take street photos right.
Table of Contents
Definition of street photography:
Before anything else, we should explain what street photography is because it might confuse sometimes. First of all, street photography is about capturing people in their everyday life or, to be more precise, capturing life in public places.
So, it does not have to happen in the streets. You can take these photos in any public place, for example, beaches, riverbanks, public transport and so on.
Skills that street photography requires:
Taking street photos is a very demanding job, although it might look easy. It takes more skills than you would think at first sight, but if you do it right, the result will be stunning.
A well-taken street photo will get everybody’s attention, but you have to be very patient to do it right, and some luck is also welcome. Forcing something won’t get you anywhere: persistence is a crucial element of every good street picture.
You also have to be able to react at the moment because a perfect view might disappear in front of your eyes if you don’t respond quickly. So take your time and read this article before embarking on an adventure.
Telling a story:
As you probably already know – you should be an excellent storyteller if you want to be a good photographer. Your photography is your story. It has to make viewers ask questions; it has to intrigue them if you’re going to create a long-lasting impression.
It is a common debate about whether street photography must contain people or not. The most appropriate conclusion would be that it should show some suggestion that someone was there. Of course, it can have people in it.
But it also can have some silhouettes, shadows or even just broken umbrellas,
thrown bouquet and similar. Things like these are mysterious, and you’ll leave viewers wondering about the story behind your photography. And that is what photography is all about.
What kind of equipment do you need?
Once again, street photography is unique when it comes to this too. First of all, you don’t want big and bulky DSLRs, because it is not easy to carry them around.
Also, you want to be as more invisible as possible, and you can achieve that with a smaller camera. You don’t want people in the streets to be intimidated by your vast camera. On the other side, if you have a small camera, they’ll quickly get you confused with ordinary tourists.
Also, prime lenses might be the right choice. They tend to be smaller than zooms, but that is not the only advantage. In our lens guides section you can find tutorials such as Best lenses for Nikon D5300 and Canon 70D lenses for 2021. These tutorials will help you make the right choice when buying the new lens for your favorite camera.
When you use the same focal length all the time, you will know how the frame will look like even before you raise your camera. That will make things much easier because the quick reaction is critical.
Action on the street won’t wait for you to adjust your camera!
Where is the limit?
You are probably wondering are you REALLY allowed to take photos on the street. Well, that depends on the law of your country, but it is legal in most states.
You can take pictures in public places, and you can use them later. Of course, you have to have some moral and ethical limits, at least.
You shouldn’t jeopardize people’s intimacy to make a good photo. Photographing someone through their bedroom’s window is not moral and legal at all.
Anyway, you should do a little research on the law before taking these photos. The same rule applies when you want to take photos in some foreign country.
Is spontaneity mandatory?
This is one pretty often question, but there is not only one answer: opinions are different. In one opinion, street photography has to be spontaneous!
That means that people in the photo shouldn’t look straight to the camera because it will not look candid. On the other side, as a photographer, sometimes you will make eye contact with your so-called model.
That will not happen on purpose, and it does not have to mean that the photo won’t look natural. You still can catch some specific emotions: honest smile or real surprise. So basically, there are no rules. It is up to the viewer to decide if your photo is candid enough.
Are you allowed to photograph more vulnerable categories?
This is a very tricky question, but the answer mostly depends on your moral principles.
Most parents want to have a professionally taken photo of their children, but, on the other side, they are very protective. So, the best solution is to ask for their permission first.
When it comes to less fortunate people (homeless people, for example), the best option would be not to take a photo of them at all. Why?
Because you probably wouldn’t like to be photographed in a situation like that. But, at the end of the day, it is up to you.
As we already said, taking street photos is an art itself. First of all, be patient and wait for the right moment.
The point is not to take as many photos as possible, but to take the right ones. Capturing complete strangers brings some raw beauty to photos. If you don’t feel comfortable enough, keep the safe distance, for example, take photos from across the street.
Also, find a striking background and wait for the right person to show up. Street musicians are great subjects too; they are familiar with street photographers and won’t make a problem out of it. If you want to make a good street portrait, you should approach to that person first.
Make some introduction, explain what you find unique about them, be kind, and respect their decision in each case. After all, you don’t want to confront your potential subjects!
In conclusion, the key to this job is to be invisible. Of course, that is not always possible, so skip to plan B. BE KIND!
Very few people will reject you if you approach them with a smile, explain to them what you are doing, and ask for permission.
If they still don’t want to be your model, get over it! There are so many people and moments out there waiting to be captured. Just open your mind for new options!
Make sure to check out other guides on lensespro blog, such as Nikon D3200 lenses, to improve your photography skills.