Street Photography: 9 Tips to Follow

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street photography tips
I adore street photography and find it some of the most interesting photography to look at it. It really is so appealing to me. However, it is hard stuff. You would think taking your camera to a city you would find 1,000 things to photograph. Well this is true but finding ways to make them interesting and appealing is a challenge.

1. Pick one or two lenses.
You don’t want to be lugging around all your lenses while trying to capture the world around you. A great zoom would be fantastic for street photography but if you don’t have one you like you can use primes. My last trip to NYC I took my 20mm and my 50mm 1.4.

2. Choose a wide angle.
When it comes to street photography including your surroundings can help set the tone of your image. It helps to give context to your subject.

3. Don’t be afraid step in the street.
When I was in NYC I really wanted a street shot of the taxis. Of course, I was not crazy enough to step in front oncoming taxis in NYC, so I had some help. When the light changed for pedestrians to cross, I would walk into the middle of the street and take pictures of the taxis at the red light. It’s a good idea to have someone with you on the sidewalk to let you know when you need to stop snapping and get walking across the street.

4. Find a flat service to play with motion blur or panning.
There is so much movement in the city and it is a good idea to capture it. I have used railings as a tripod so I could capture a slow motion shot. It’s fun to play with panning as well and having a rail to lean on to keep you steady will help get that shot.

5. Capture people.
Feel free to snap a few pictures of the people living their lives on the street. However, please use good judgement. For example, I would never photograph children on the street. Check out this great post written by Sarah Wilkerson – Street Photography and the Law: 7 Things you Need to Know.

6. Don’t be afraid to convert to black and white.
Often times a black and white photo takes us back in time. It can help draw the viewer into your subject which is extremely important with street photography where there is so much in the image to see.

7. Shoot the details.
You can photograph people without photographing their faces. What are the details about them that you find interesting. Look for patterns in buildings that are interesting. There is plenty to photograph.

8. Ask someone to take their picture.
Yes, a super scary thought to walk up to a stranger and say, “May I photograph you.” But I did it and it isn’t so bad. When I was in NYC I saw this guy with this awesome mohawk! I loved it! Yes, I could have been sneaky and gotten the shot, but instead, I walked up to him and asked if I could photograph him. He kindly said yes. His friend then slyly says, “He’d like a copy of it.” So, I got his email and said I would send it to him. I was super nervous doing it and didn’t really think about my shot ahead of time. So I freaked out and snapped a photo. But you know what, I did it! Now, I won’t be as nervous and next time I will take some time prior to approaching the stranger to figure out the shot.

9. Get creative.
Use different compositions and framing to really show case your subject.

Photo credit: Laurie Flickinger - used with permission

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  • April M
    October 13, 2012 at 9:17 PM

    This post and the linked post to legal matters is so timely for me! I am going to my uncle’s wedding in Los Angeles and I am planning on walking Olvera Street and China town. Thank you for the wide variety of topics covered. I love this blog!

  • October 15, 2012 at 9:22 AM

    These are awesome! What a wonderful trip!!! Your blog has helped me so much! I recently started using BBF full time and I don’t know why, but just by doing that I now shoot manual 97% of the time!!! When I switched to BBF it all just clicked for some reason! Haha The only time I don’t use BBF is when I’m outside in chasing the kids in mixed light. Thanks so much!!!

  • October 15, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    I wanted to add, we recently took a trip to Dallas and I was shocked when people started taking pictures of our kids on the train with their iPhones. They thought it was no big deal and didn’t understand why I was turning them away from the phones. Urgh…unfortunately it sounds like the iPhone users weren’t breaking any “laws”.

  • November 9, 2012 at 1:30 PM

    Lifestyle and Street Candid are my very favorite genres, and I got started by doing exactly as you suggest here: by approaching someone with an interesting look and asking to photograph them!
    It’s usually the same two sentence spiel, but I don’t believe I’ve ever been turned down yet!
    And of course, they get a contact card which contains a link to the site where they can see the photos of that day. I am careful not to make any promises about whether their specific photo will be appearing, too.

    Something I wanted to add: when you, (as the photographer), try to snap a shot real fast without getting “caught” or do not engage your subject other than to blatantly shoot and ignore… then that gives the subject the feeling that you’re doing something shifty or on-the-sly, further raising the anxiety (and maybe even anger) level.
    By letting the person know that I am not SELLING their photos for personal gain and behaving “normally”, with a genuine interest in something uniquely interesting about a person (especially in a crowd)… I’ve found that I am better received both at that moment, and on future re-visits.

  • Susan
    December 29, 2013 at 7:06 PM

    As always, so me great advice here. Thanks so much

  • tom mewborn
    June 29, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Thanks for the tip’s.

    Pray your vacation has been restful and fun.

    I have found using a Tamron 17-55mm f2.8 has been a good all around lens for street photo’s, Grandson’ Basketball, etc. The lens is has a nice range and is reasonable fast enough with some iso crank up in the Basketball Gym’s. A very good lens that does not bust the bank account for daily use in my opinion.

    Also, love the Nikor 50mm f1.8 and my Nikon 70-200mm f2.8. I would use the 70-200mm more on outings but due to the weight, etc., at age 74 it can wear one out in a few hours. (I use it mostly for Grandson’s football at night and often take a monopoly to give me some relief. Shooting football with the Monopole does limits the flexibility on action shots)

    Excuse my rambles…Enjoy your site, learning experiences, etc.



  • August 27, 2014 at 3:46 PM

    Thanks so much for sharing! I love all of the tips that you give. I just recently found this website and I’m in love with it! Thanks again!

  • Dee
    August 27, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    I love your creativity and the black and white makes it even more interesting! I am from NYC so the pics are close to my heart although now I live in Vegas so color will be the key!! Thanks for the tips I will shoot this weekend!!!!

  • Paty
    October 2, 2014 at 1:21 AM

    Thanks for sharing I always learn something that I can put to great use.

  • M Lipsy
    November 16, 2014 at 1:08 AM

    Thanks for the great tips – and also for letting me know about traffic lights for doctors: From tip #3 “When the light changed for pediatricians to cross…” ;-)

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