Street Photography is something I’ve only just began starting to really get into, as I used to primarily focus on landscape and adventure photography. Anymore I like to dabble in every form of photography that I can try, and this includes the delicate art form known as Street.
At first glance street photography seems easy as pie, and about as straight forward of a photography style as you can attempt. Simple go out, wait for some interesting moments to happen, and click that shutter. But, as I’ve been finding out more and more overtime there is a lot that goes into it. When you realize it’s not just sheer luck of the moment to get solid street shots then you’ll be well on your way to learning how to make the most the moments when they do happen. Practice makes perfect with photography much like anything else, so the more you understand the techniques that go into street photography the more you can take advantage of the moments when they do happen.
The following are my easy to follow recommendations for capturing the moment in street photography to help you really make the most of it and attempt to get “the shot”.
No not your best Hollywood acting impressions or on the spot improv, more like “acting” like you’re not taking a picture of someone is the best way that i’ve found to truly capture the emotion of a moment with the click of my camera.
Often times when someone finds out that you’re taking a picture of them they will not act naturally, thus the real moment is gone. So, to avoid this and capture it for what it is you will have to be a little sneaky and act like you’re doing just about anything else.
My personal favorite move, acting like I’m taking a picture of something totally different than what is going on that I want to take a picture of. If there’s someone doing something interesting in front of me, I’ll act like I’m taking a picture of the building behind or to the side of them and maybe actually take a few pictures of it and then slowly (or even quickly) turn to the REAL frame and snap it as quickly as you can with high shutter speed set. It’s all a matter of tricking the person into thinking that you’re taking a picture of something else, to act per say.
2. raise that iso
ISO seems to stay around 100 (or the lowest you can) for about 80% of photography I’ve found, but for capturing a moment quickly before it disappears you sometimes have to break that rule and crank it up a few notches.
What raising your ISO will do is to trick your camera into thinking it needs a faster shutter speed when using Manual or AV mode (my go to’s). If you raise your ISO in these modes then in AV mode it will automatically adjust the shutter speed accordingly. The most important factor for capturing a moment quickly and without much blur would be the shutter speed. So if you can trick your camera into thinking it needs the highest possible shutter speed by raising ISO, then that’s what we’re going for here.
3. keep a small aperture (f/stop)
If you’re familiar with your camera at all you’ll know what the f/stop or aperture is used for. This is what you’re “focusing on”, so in street photography and portraits especially you want to have as high of resolution and clear of a picture as possible for what you’re trying to focus on in the frame. Keeping a small aperture (f/2.2-3.5 generally is perfect for keeping the subject as the front and center focus of the picture) will also create the infamous bokeh effect that is always so sought after. Bokeh is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image, essentially it’s the background of what you’re shooting in the frame. So if you keep your aperture small your picture of the subject will be clear and crisp while the background will be blurred. How blurred the background will be will have to do with 1) how small of aperture you’re using and 2) the distance between you and your subject AND the distance between the subject and the background itself.
4. slow down
Street photography is not a race, yet I’ve seen a lot of people race around to try to find the perfect street shot. From everything I’ve learned from photographers much more established than me they have this piece of information typically; slow down and let the action come to you! You can’t make the moments happen for most situations in street photography, so if you let them come to you and slow it all down you will be better able to take in your environment and truly understand your shot more.
By picking out an area and letting things come to you, you will be more perceptive, you won’t waste your energy walking around instead you’ll use it looking around. This should go without saying but be sure to scout out a good spot where lots of things seem to happen or at least a lot of people go first before squatting there for awhile, don’t want to choose a boring zone!
While you’re standing still you also will become less noticeable and that will make it even easier for you to capture the real emotion of the scene.So not only will you be in better position and be more perceptive to it, you’ll be more natural yourself in the situation!
5. try a fixed prime lens
I’m truly only beginning to learn how to use my nifty 50mm Canon lens right now, but it’s entirely too much fun to learn how to use. The 50mm and 35mm fixed lens are widely known as the “street” lens, as they are small and compact while also offering the small aperture option down to 1.8 typically. I don’t usually shoot in 1.8 personally, I find 2.2 and 2.5 with the prime lens allows me to get the full scene that I’m going for in focus while the 1.8 tends to leave parts of it a little blurry. With such a small aperture like mentioned previously you will be able to really focus in on your subject and create that bokeh effect.
It takes a long time to get used to a lens that is fixed and therefore cannot zoom in or out, but again with anything practice makes perfect! With the 50mm I find you have to get ridiculously close to the subject, which takes awhile to get used to but again once you do it will open up a whole world of possibilities in the street photography world for you! With being so close to the action it better enables you to really capture it like the person looking at the photo is close to the action, like they are a part of the moment. A random tactic that I find works for street portraits would be getting in very close with the 50mm lens to a person and then getting their attention and having them look at me, the look they give you should say it all (be it happy, angry, sad, etc) and that’s what I’m going for with street portraits at least.
**If you found this post helpful for your photography please let me know in the comments so that I will do more like this in the future! As usual as well please like/share/comment on all social media formats as well as on here, a little goes a long way! Thanks for reading everyone now go get some damn good street shots!