Shooting From the Hip Photography

Hip shooting, which was named after gun fighting, is a photographic style described as shooting photographs from waist level without using the viewfinder of the camera to centralize the subject. This is a learned technique and can be very hit or miss while you are learning it. However, once you have the skill mastered, you will usually have some amazing photographs. This method of photography is preferred by many photographers for the unique and varied artwork that can be constructed from the photographs.

tips for shooting from the hip with camera

Photo by mrmayat; ISO 200, f5.6, 1/180-second exposure.

There are several advantages to using this style of photography. Photographers that have learned how to do hip shooting have an advantage over other photographers because they are able to capture the natural side of their subject instead of having them posed. When the subject is a person, they may be very relaxed and natural when they think the photographer is not aiming the camera at them, and they become rigid, tense, and unnatural when the camera is raised to the photographer’s eye. Hip shooting allows the capture of a natural, relaxed moment.

Another advantage of this style of photography is the speed at which you can take the photographs. Without taking the time to bring the camera up to the eye and focus, many more pictures can be taken in a shorter amount of time. This can be especially helpful when you are taking photographs at a sporting event or theatrical event where people are moving continually.

street photography shot from the hip

Photo by mrmayat; ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1500-second exposure.

If you want to try hip shooting with your camera, you will first want to make sure that your camera is on auto focus. By having the camera on auto focus, it will make it easier for you to get a quality shot while using this method. You will also want to get as close as possible to your subject so that you are able to get the photograph that you are hoping for. A good way to practice hip shooting is to have your camera on and ready to go and go for a walk. While you are on your walk, snap as many photographs as you can without editing them, you will do that step when you return home.

Remember that shooting from the hip is a learned skill. It will take time to perfect it, but once you do, you will have some amazing photographs. This technique is very popular among street photographers as their subjects often do not know they are being photographed. Have fun with it and remember to take as many shots as you can because for every fifty shots that you take, you may only get one or two usable shots.

About the Author:
One advertising photographer in Richmond, VA, has mastered hip-shooting. He not only creates incredible portraits that are posed or well-setup, but he has a knack for capturing people at their best, most-relaxed.

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12 responses to “Shooting From the Hip Photography”

  1. The two photos here could have easily been shot from normal eye level.

    Next step is, use a remote, just leave your camera hanging down and press the remote shutter until the card is full.

    You should rename this blog: “Trick for amateurs without any skills”.

  2. Jake says:

    I disagree entirely. These are brilliant photos and not just “anyone” could’ve shot them. They really capture real life settings, yet have an artistic edge to them. I know, from experience, that these couldn’t have been taken by just using a remote. It takes talent to capture pictures such as these.

  3. sith1970 says:

    Yves, you commentary is completely ignorant. Shooting from the hip is an art in itself and a very valid style of photography. I’m a big fan of urban photography and i can tell you from fact that it’s not as simple and as haphazard an effort as you imply. It takes work and the results from the effort are as valid as anything shot in a studio or from a tripod. Your point of view is really narrow. Pity for you….

  4. Gudni says:

    Interesting I did not know that this is common practice. I was in Amsterdam last summer and decided to shoot from the hip simply because I am shy to point the camera at people on the street and also it seemed to me that Amsterdamians are tired of people with cameras and being photographed. Specially on this age of the internet. This is the results:

    This article inspired me to try this in my own city, Reykjavik.

  5. I’ve been doing some experiments with my new GRD4 camera and it looks like quite a good method although a lot of “purists” look down on the method as “not real photography”.

    I think manual focus works best as you will mainly be shooting close, like 3 metres or less. I have been using a focus distance of 2.5m which seems to work OK.

  6. Jillian says:

    I tried this 2 days ago and WOW… much fun! I did get a few strange looks as I’m sure I looked a bit awkward with the camera at my HIP. Thanks for the post!!

  7. Marty O. says:

    Wow! I thought I was the only one shooting like this. My fellow club members would all look at me like I was an amateur. (Well, I am an amateur but with a knack for ‘shooting from the hip’). Lots of my pics from Guatemala were shot this way since the local Mayans were too shy to have their pics taken. I also shoot dogs running towards my camera as I hold my camera at their eye-level. (See pets gallery at ). I also shot this from holding my camera lower than my hip: I find this form of shooting to be fun and surprising. Shoot auto-continuous and for shooting things that move shoot ‘closest focus’, something I found on my old D70s that was real useful when shooting dogs from the hip or ground such as this: It’s the wildest way to shoot and you’ll get strange looks but the results are very surprising. Happy shooting! – Marty

  8. Stephen Rabjohn says:

    What about getting permission from the people for you to use the images? Do you ask them after the fact? Also, have you ever had a problem with someone not wanting their photo taken if they do find out after the fact?

  9. larry says:

    I have spent many years working at this. I have planned to publish some of my work from the various cities, events and places I’ve been.

    I never knew anyone else did it.


    it’s not as easy as one would think. knowing which lens and settings to get what you are looking for.

  10. Mark says:

    Doesn’t the auto-focus lights give you away?

  11. Judy says:

    Stephen Rabjohn – I have read that if you are on public property, you can take pics of visitors without having to have them give you permission. Could be different in other parts of the world tho.

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