A (not so) Brief Guide to Street Photography

street photography tips | Photographers Blog

One famous genre in photography is Street Photography or capture the real life. Everyone likes a good landscape image but, when capturing still images from the city it is something unique. You can see direct the soul of the people.

As so, in this post, we will define what is street photography, what defines it, what lenses are the best and much more….

  • What it really is.

Wikipedia defines street photography as “photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents.” Street photography is the art of taking pictures of people, places, objects or landscapes in the street. It involves spontaneous interaction between photographer and subject, it is candid photography. Street photography, sometimes also called street photography, is photography done for artistic inquiry or simply spontaneous moment encounters, which includes random occurrences and unperceived opportunities in public places. The term "street photography" is a misleading one as its primary focus is on the photographer and his/her subject. In fact, street photography is merely a subgenre of portraiture a style of photography concerned with capturing a subject in a still position rather than from an elevated perch.

The term "street photography" is not a recent invention. In fact, street photography has been around since the early days of photography itself. It is associated with the birth of the fashion photography that focused on taking shots of young models going about their day. Since then, its popularity has declined because most people associate it with photographing nudes rather than people, places and architecture.

There are many concepts that complicate street photography. As such, the very concepts of what is needed and what is wanted are themselves subject to change. What was acceptable and what was considered artistic back in the days is definitely not so today. Today's street photographer has to take into account the needs of the client in terms of the type of subjects he/she wants to photograph, the lighting conditions and the composition, the angles and the timeliness of the shot.

Street photographers have two basic options. They can work on their own and/or as members of photo or studio clubs. Although some photographers practice independently, most photographers find working in a group or studio a better option as it allows them to keep close contact with other photographers and share ideas and thoughts on how to advance the project.

  • Selecting the appropriate lens is an easy task….

When it comes to selecting the perfect lens for street photography, generally there are two primary categories. You have standard zoom lenses, that allow the change of lens focal lengths. Then there are standard prime lenses, which always have a constant focal length no matter what you are doing. There are strong arguments for using all three of these types of lenses when taking street photos. Then you also have options such as manual focus lenses and they can be used on many cameras regardless of what type of camera it is.

If you are going to be using standard zoom lenses for street photography then you will need to compose your shot in a way that will make the most of the lens. The first thing you want to do is to stop down the camera so that everything is focused at the same time. This means you need to get in the habit of keeping the camera still until you have the moment that you want to photograph. Once you have the focus set then you can move on to the longer focal lengths. These are great for anything from pictures of people to portraits and everything in between.

If you are going to be using shorter focal lengths then you need to compose the shot so that everything is in focus. You should always be careful not to let your subject escape the focus or they may appear blurry. Remember that even with the shortest focal lengths you will be able to create a much more intense photograph with a bit of practice. Your goal is to create a picture that looks like it was taken at a very short distance.

The next thing that you should consider is the use of a lower F-number aperture. The aperture refers to the diameter of the lens and it is measured in f-stop. Using a smaller aperture will allow your pictures to have a sharper image. In street photography this is especially important because of the low-light situations that you will usually find in. Since your camera will probably only have a relatively small range of light available to it then the need for a smaller aperture is very important. As a general rule of thumb you will want the aperture to be f/3.5 or lower.

There are two different types of standard focal lengths for street photography and these are called standard and super long lenses. The standard focal length is typically what most people think of when they hear about street photography and these are generally the most common lenses that you will find. However there are now many options for using ultra long lenses and one of them is the bokeh.

The bokeh effect is when a lens will make your photo appear as if it is being photographed from the side or from the front. This is normally done by increasing the depth of field so that everything is in focus and nothing is out of place. Ultra long lenses are also sometimes used for street photography in that they have a high maximum aperture which enables more of the light from the scene to be captured in the camera. Lenses like the ef 50mm f1.8 site are considered to be some of the best available on the market today and many professional photographers use them.

When taking photos of groups of people you will generally use a shorter focal length with a wider angle. This is because it creates a much more intimate atmosphere. Some examples of this type of photography are with small children or a couple walking hand in hand. The advantage to the longer lens is that you can make very large prints with a small amount of loss of quality.

There are also some compact, lightweight reflexive lenses available but these are generally not as sharp as their optical counterparts. They also tend to give out a lot of blurring at the edges. For the most professional-looking results, I always shoot with the highest optical zoom lenses. If you are only going to be taking pictures of very close up subjects I would stay away from the telephoto lenses and keep your shots closer to the ground.

  • Code of Conduct.

Explorative. All genres of photography are (or at least can be) exploitive. This is true not just of street photography but of most other genres as well. However, since street photography is relatively new, many photographers don't yet understand the inherent dangers of exploiting images for monetary gain. Since the practice of capturing images for sale has only recently become widespread in the world of fine art, many people don't understand what it means to 'respect and smile.'

Often times, the images that we take of our friends and relatives on the streets (and in more ordinary circumstances, our homes) tend to be too casual and have no aesthetic value. It is only when a photograph is displayed or exhibited that its true value and meaning are revealed. Exploitative street photography tends to be born out of this need to make money by using other people's life for the photographer's benefit. While this may be a noble cause in some circles (particularly in poorer countries where most of the population relies on the revenue obtained from selling goods and services to finance their daily lives), there is a clear problem here: the selling of photographs without conscience or regard for the subjects of these images.

There are a handful of reputable and established street photographers that display a serious commitment to photographing their subjects with a real sense of emotion and who have established themselves as authorities in their respective field. These photographers have established themselves not only as authorities in their respective areas of specialty but also as respected members of the photography community. The kind of professionalism displayed by these photographers is quite rare amongst the photography community and is something that the average street photographer needs to work towards developing if they want to carry out commercial work with a degree of respect and integrity

  • Street photos need people?

Many people who are new to street photography ask themselves "Why do street photos need people?" After all, they seem so easy. They get a nice shot of the streets, and that's it. The person doesn't have to run around taking pictures, the camera doesn't need much help, and the background is usually plain as well. Why, then, do street photos need people?

Street photography needs people because, unlike photojournalism or fine art photography, it is necessary to interview people while they are in the field, to learn more about them and their personalities. It is not possible to conduct research on each and every person you meet on the streets. Interviewing people is what defines street photography. It is possible to get information out of a single photograph, but if you don't know anyone personally, how will you be able to draw the same conclusions and arguments that you would draw when meeting with two or three individuals?

Street photography is not all about capturing the moments. The moment is secondary, right? Yes, but if you're going to stick with a single photograph, sticklers for detail and a clear understanding of composition are necessary. A lot of good street photography is captured with composition, but it's impossible to do without interview subjects. If you can stick with one subject for a long time, you'll be able to capture good shots that are simple, but meaningful.

  • Some Ideas for trying out there.

Take pictures of Street Musicians !!! You can now start taking picture of street musicians while roaming around your neighborhood without having to pay hundreds of dollars to do so.

Capture Silhouettes. Silhouette photography is all about capturing photographs that stand out and make a real impact. It is the kind of photography that makes you feel like you are part of an art work. When I say 'art work,' what I mean is the product, the final product, that stands up on its own, all by itself, separate from the photographer and/or artist who made it. This type of photography can be done with backgrounds, but it is most commonly done with objects. You can capture silhouettes using a number of different techniques, including, but not limited to: moving backgrounds, anti-aliased backgrounds, light refraction, backdrops, and fog banks.

Approach the Strangers. If you want to learn the right way to approach strangers, then you have to understand that people are a lot different than photos that you see in magazines and other types of photography. You see images in magazines of models walking down the street and there is some human element to it. This is because for the models, they are just that models; but for someone that is walking down the street, they may be dealing with all sorts of different emotions. There are anxiety, nervousness, and fear that they are going to meet someone that they do not know. For this reason, learning how to approach strangers while you are taking photographs becomes very important.

So what’s in for the next step? First you have to try our presets to transform your street images quickly and efficiently. Afterwards you have to read the blog posts regarding over-editing your pictures which is another common mistake that we do and then read about the SD Cards we all have and how to treat them efficiently. I hope you find useful these landscape photography editing tips.

Thank you !

Harris Kiakotos

I am a Captain on Oil Tanker vessels and a photo enthusiast. I follow my photography passion and I will reply to any inquiry you may have. As so, do not hesitate to contact me.


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