How to Be a Street Photographer

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The idea behind street photography is to take a candid shots of interesting people, places, or moments in time. The best street photographers work with minimal equipment, usually just a camera–no speedlights, no light meters, no other gadgets that were designed to make our jobs as photographers easier. A good street photographer must posess certain skills that are unique to their trade, as explained in this clip:

In this video, Kai uses the Nikon D700 and 50 mm lens although he prefers his Leica M, presumably for it’s stealthiness and superior image quality when used in such situations. He prefers the 50mm lens because it allows you to get up close and personal with your subjects. Anything larger and the image begins to feel disconnected. Kai brings up many good points as he wanders through a bustling Chinese marketplace. Here are some key points he mentions:

Do’s:

  • Dress for the occasion. The key is to blend in with everyone else as to go unnoticed. If you’re shooting in a farmers market, don’t go dressed in a suit and tie.
  • Carry minimal equipment. Choose a camera and lens and leave it at that. Leave the camera bags, backpacks, and vests at home. Remember, you’re trying NOT to look like a photographer!
  • Turn off your flash and set your camera settings accordingly before you go out. Nothing draws attention to a photographer more than a bright flash.
  • Use aperture priority mode and center focus. It’s better to get the shot than miss out on it because you were fumbling with the settings.
  • Be patient! Look for settings that are busy and naturally interesting. Wait for the right shot. You don’t want to miss on out the real action because you were wasting time photographing a mediocre one.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t use a camera that makes loud beeps or sounds that cannot be turned off. You are trying to avoid drawing attention to your photography.
  • Don’t look like a photographer. Ideally, you will appear to be just another pedestrian taking an occasional snapshot.
  • Don’t follow people around or act like a creep. Even if you are especially sneaky, no one likes to be followed. If you get caught stalking someone you could get into trouble.
  • Don’t rush at people and shove your camera in their face. Not only will you offend some people, but your photographs will lack that candid look. In some instances, it’s okay for your subject to acknowledge that you are photographing them. However, this doesn’t mean to go at them paparazzi style.
street photographer

Street photographer on location

Many of these pointers will seem like common sense to most of us and for the most part, they are. Of course, these are just the basics of street photography. In addition to knowing how to act and what equipment to bring along, a street photographer must also have an eye that can quickly recognize when and what to take a photograph of. In some cases, you almost have to predict what is going to happen next. The key to taking great street photographs is to be quick and noninvasive. Discretion and the ability to shoot from the hip is what sets outstanding street photographers apart from the rest.

In order to be a great street photographer, it helps to be proficient in all things black and white. For further improvement we recommend this training collection on black and white photography.

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6 Comments

  1. David says:

    If you are going to follow his guidance maybe you should also not walk around with the camera at head level like a threatening club.

  2. bycostello says:

    good tips.. sound advice

  3. Nuwan says:

    Excellent video clip

  4. tintbum says:

    If I walked around waving my camera around like that where I live, (Dandenong Australia) it would be snatched and gone mate.

  5. SRT says:

    In other words, to be a good ‘street photographer’, all you need is to be a good news photographer. Or a tourist. Or an amateur. Or someone with a camera.
    Interesting concept- I like it!

  6. iriane-costa@hotmail.com says:

    Such a great article ! I love it, congrats !

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