How to be a great street photographer? Street photography is the art of capturing life, culture, and humanity candidly. A street photographer will take photographs in a public space with or without the inclusion of people.
The reality is, street photography means different things to different people. For me, it’s about capturing the unexpected and how I use my photography skills to portray my captured story to others.
The art of street photography makes it often difficult to measure expertise. Every minute, and every situation is different. Locations and compositions change. What happens in front of your lens is often out of your control and can change in an instant.
Here are a few tips I’ve found have helped me take better shots on the streets.
Let the photo tell the story
A street photographer’s role is to take the viewer on an exciting visual journey. Your photos should always tell the story.
New technology allow you to take great candid pics while drawing as little attention to yourself as possible.
Street photography is one of the most difficult forms of photography, because it is impossible to plan.
If you haven’t done it before, street photography can be very intimidating when you start but it really is great fun and can be very rewarding.
Develop your own visual language. Identify interesting subjects, colours, textures or shapes and then figure out how to capture them all in a quick, spontaneous instant.
Find your style, perfect it and let your photographs speak for themselves.Find your style, perfect it and let your Street Photography speak for itself. Click To Tweet
Get up close and personal
There is an old expression in photojournalism that ‘if your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough’. I was always taught to fill the shot so I do tend to get in close to my subject.
Some photographers try to minimise their contact with their subject and take photos from a distance. Others share what they are doing and why they are taking photos. It’s about perfecting your style and finding your comfort zone.
Take photos you enjoy
Capture an image that you love, first and foremost. Don’t worry if other people don’t get see what you see. Street photography is still a new form of photography and is yet to unfold in it’s entirety. It will grow.
Be adventurous – take strange images, shoot personal images, explore different perspectives and take risks. Be creative and have a good time. Enjoy your photography.
The more you explore with your photography, the more your images will become the real you and the better your work will become.
Choose your location
Street photography can, and should, take place anywhere and everywhere. Look for a busy street corner? A crowded street market? A dark deserted lane-way? Choose your location for it’s appeal. Textures, colours, aromas – how can you convey the smell of a cosy little cafe? Or, portray the remoteness of a lonely country road or contrasting busy city streets?
Street photography is about life – with or without images of people. Capture images during your daily life. Allow your images to be more personal and unique.
Tip: Consider a smaller camera such as a Sony A6000, or even a mobile phone camera as a portable option to have on you at all times.
Find a location and stay there. People watch. When the opportunity presents, you will ready with your camera to capture the most opportune moment.
Use the same locations at different times of the day, and in different light. Get to know your location and become more comfortable with your surroundings. As a photographer, you will start to blend into your surrounds, and people will start to get used to seeing you there.
Chase the Light
Nothing can ruin a composed photo more than poor lighting. Catch the golden hour – go out just after sunrise or about an hour before sunset. The light will be softer and add a lovely warm glow to your photographs.
Cloudy days create soft diffused light. Autumn and winter are also great times to shoot as the sun is lower on the horizon creating long shadows adding drama and mood to your photographs.
Smile and carry a business card
Master street photographers who’ve been photographing for a long time, almost look invisible and blend in with the crowd because they feel comfortable doing what they do. The more confident you act, the less people will notice you.
If someone stops me and asks if I took their photo, I smile and say yes. I’m happy to tell them that I’m writing a piece for my blog and show them the photo that you’ve taken. Most have been more than happy to be a part of my feature.
I carry business cards to show them that I am genuine and suggest if they email me, I will send them the photo. If someone is still very uncomfortable, I will offer to delete the photo.
Capture the mood of the scene
When people talk about street photography, it is often about an interesting looking person, walking down the street. The reality is, street photography is so much more!
Broaden your message. Make sure your image portrays the people and the environment that the photo was taken in. Tell the story by filling in the detail, capture the mood and share the feeling that the image portrays. Try to find your originality – your point of difference.
One of the skills that all the great photographers have regardless of the genre of photography, is the ability to capture expressions.
Seek to capture people’s emotions. I always look for their eyes to give me that clue. Are they happy, sad, angry or annoyed? Perhaps they are irritated or there is an air of urgency about them. Look for the cues and capture the emotion.
Famous Street Photographers
Street photographers use their own time to pursue their passion. By getting involved in the community they actively photograph the urban landscape. Below are some of my favourite street photographers.
Rui Palha – Based in Lisbon, Rui Palha shoots his images in the style of classic street photographers. Stolen stolen moments on the streets of Portugal, he shots a portrait of the capital city. He actively shares his work on Facebook, via his Street Photography, page.
Eric Kim – Eric Kim is one of the most influential street photographers due to his candid photographs and his interaction with fans. Kim’s informative blog is a resource for budding street photographers. Eric’s YouTube channel provides street photography tutorials and on-location shoots.
Lee Jefferies – UK photographer captured a stunning portrait series of the homeless entitling it ‘Lost Angels’. Lee Jeffries although not a street photographer in the sense of shooting candid moments, Jeffries engages with his subjects, connecting personally to produce these soul-sharing portraits.
In the words of David Gibson of GibsonStreet; ‘Be obsessed by the photography of others,’ he says, ‘then maybe some of that influence will seep into your own photography. There’s a steep learning curve when you first start, a period where you just soak up and become obsessed by the great photographers, and that’s how people get going.’
Inspired? Why not pin this …
Have fun and experiment.