Tips for Great Street Photography

So what is street photography? A simple answer would be, anything goes. Basically it’s to get out onto the streets of your city and shoot anything that attracts your attention. Look for things that are different, quirky or need to be shot from a fresh angle. Forget the rules and just shoot is what some people say. I wouldn’t go that far, but I would try anything and be prepared to break the rules when necessary. Let’s take a look at a few tips to get great street photographs.

1. Plan your route

If you plan, as with anything in life, the likelihood of you being more success will increase; the same goes for street photography. I would even go as far as saying that a dry run without your camera is necessary, just to observe the possibilities. This will allow you to plan for the correct light or how busy you want the streets to be. Think about what you want to achieve and then execute the plan. You’ll find that you will develop favourite routes but try to go off the beaten track and look for areas you haven’t been before.

street photo tips

Photo by Marjan Blan

2. Travel light

If you shoot with a DSLR take just the lens on your camera and no bag or extra baggage. By traveling light all you will be thinking about is the image. You won’t stand out as much which is key to street photography. You’ll be able to fit in smaller places and get up higher or lower without worrying about extra kit. Many DSLR users prefer a good compact camera for street photography, as huge zooms attract too much attention and are bulky. But, if you’re planning to shoot a lot of people a zoom may be better to help keep your distance and not bug your subjects.

3. Blend in

Key to great street photography is blending in and not standing out like a sore thumb. Wear dark clothes that won’t make you stand out like bold colours will. You want to capture street life as it happens without people seeing a camera and either posing or trying to avoid it. As with all genres of photography you want it to be as natural as possible when people are involved. With the different laws in place in many countries, standing out can often attract the attention of law enforcement officials who will create unnecessary interruptions.

4. Change your angles

Most amateur photos tend to be taken 1.5 meters above the ground and are boringly similar. Change your position or viewpoint so that you are either shooting up at an interesting subject or looking down on it. Look for interesting positions without becoming too obvious. Lying on your back in a town square will create some amazing photos but will attract unnecessary attention. Turn your camera at a 45 degree angle and look for lines in the shot that will travel diagonally across the viewfinder. These are all good for making striking images.

5. Choose interesting subjects

As with all photography, choosing an interesting subject is going to help create a better image. So, keep an eye out for anything interesting that may seem a little out of the ordinary. If you see one don’t just shoot it and move on but rather give it a little thought first and find a way to get the best possible angle or viewpoint. Look for people doing things that are different like having fun or trying on shoes or a hat on the sidewalk.

6. Shoot abstract

This is my favourite form of street photography. Getting in closer and shooting details or parts of a larger object, results in weird and wonderfully creative images. A yellow taxi now becomes a flash of yellow and chrome, while a piece of garbage becomes an object d’art fit for a gallery. Get creative and look for images within images and find parts of the whole that will make an interesting—if not dumbfounding—abstract image.

street photos

Photo by David Marcu

7. Capture activity and movement

This requires a little technical know-how if you aren’t an experienced photographer and you need to go beyond automatic. Change your shutter speed settings so that you can freeze action with a fast shutter speed or blur movement with a slow shutter speed. By doing this you add the dynamic element of activity and action to your images. Crowds start to move and vehicles are no longer static objects frozen in time. The key here is to experiment with several different shutter speeds.

Street photography is full of life and interesting images just waiting to be captured. Experiment with ideas and concepts and create photos you normally wouldn’t attempt. Some of the most interesting images have been created on a street corner amidst the hustle and bustle of city life. Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years. Passionate about photography, radio and video, he is a Radio CCFm producer and presenter in Cape Town.

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3 responses to “Tips for Great Street Photography”

  1. I don’t think that ‘shooting abstract’ really fits under the street photography niche. “Urban fragments” maybe.
    I must add – Always go and visit the ‘alleys’ – Don’t walk the main street, look at the corners.
    Here is an example – – taken in some alley in Barcelona :)

  2. Thom S says:

    Inspiring images. I can appreciate the straightforward approach to the article and the imagery used fit perfectly. Even though I’m a professional fine art landscape photographer and am busy selling to collectors, I still enjoy exploring other genres of work and expanding my personal boundaries.

  3. >>So what is street photography? A simple answer would be, anything goes. Basically it’s to get out onto the streets of your city and shoot anything that attracts your attention.

    No. I’ve seen some broad definitions of street photography, but this is too far wide of the mark. This is just a licence for pseud-ish snapshots. Bresson, Maier, Kalvar, and Stuart (to name just a few) would add words like people, candid, upclose, and doing something of interest into the mix. Street photography is NOT architectural, abstract, documentary, or contemporary nor is it merely random photos of unsuspecting strangers.

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