How to Become a Street Photographer

Street photography is probably one of the most difficult genres of photography, as it is based on the unknown. You can select a frame, but you can’t necessarily select the characters in it or how they will behave to make your picture look good. In modern terms, you could call street photography an art snapshot. It is a snapshot, after all.

street photography

“Dublin” captured by PictureSocial member Zdravka Zlateva

 Shoot from the hip.

There are street photographers who are like ghosts. You don’t notice them and you certainly don’t notice them photographing you. They carry small cameras and they have learned the trick of focusing the lens by judging the distance between the subject and the camera, and adjusting the focus ring based on that distance. Basically, they shoot from the hip, with wide lenses to compensate for framing defects. They don’t actually see the frame; they can only guess it. With such a behavior, it is normal not to see them. People tend to control themselves when a person aims a camera at them. By shooting without their knowledge, you can capture genuine expressions, which are the heart of street photography.

color street photography

“Random Kid in Thailand” captured by PictureSocial member Jet Rabe

 Stalk people.

See a person you like, walk with them, follow them until you can get a shot of them. Go for public places so you won’t get the police on your head. Try to follow facial expressions and move like lightning when one that you like comes up. It’s all in the expression, and that’s what you’re supposed to be hunting. Never take close shots. Make the subject and the surroundings a part of your composition. Some blend in, some stand out, but that’s the diversity and the fun of it. A suit and tie in an abandoned factory looks interesting. Contrast is the key.

black and white street photography

“Untitled” captured by PictureSocial member Ferhat Celik

 Carry small equipment.

Do not go street photographing with big, heavy cameras and lenses that look like bazookas; people will notice you right away. Use small cameras–the smallest possible–because quality is not an issue. The best street photography in the world has some of the worst image quality as well.

urban street photography

“Chicago” captured by PictureSocial member Gary Gutierrez

 Always ask for permission.

Take your shots, then talk to your subjects. It is extremely unfair and annoying to them to find out they were photographed later on, when your work becomes public. Respect them and, if required, respect their privacy.

About the Author:
Oana is a member of Lacartes, an an online community where people can meet new people and stay connected to friends, families and share photos, updates, reviews and more.When it comes to street photography, there is a set of rules that you must follow in order to be successful, rules that don’t usually apply to other forms of photography. In most cases, you don’t have control over the environment or the subjects that appear on your frame.

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  1. Pedro M says:

    I would say, never shoot from the hip. I always frame with meaning and purpose. Shooting from the hip is sloppy. Get close; use a wide angle. Also street photographers receive enough hate already, so stalking is probably not good for our rep. Of course there are always exceptions to any rules. And if you wanna start out shooting from way to far, (like the examples) then start out that way; more power to you. Just don’t expect anyone to be impressed.

  2. Claude B. says:

    Very good tips. Thanks.
    But whats about publishing? In Canada and probably in US, we need a writing permission before publishing those pictures (on Internet, books, etc…). That is a big bug!

  3. Martin says:

    If I had to shoot from the hip, stalk people and ask for permission, I’d throw my camera into a river and read a book on what street photography really is.

  4. Tripkit says:

    Yes, shoot from the hip, literally, stalk people – questionable, permission – almost never. A good street photographer documents daily life and culture. Like the “Five Blind Men who went to see the Elephant”, a tourist with a camera represents one blind man; whereas a street photographer represents two or more blind men. As such, each photo shows a facet of daily life and many photos leads to understanding culture.

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