The streets are packed full of emotion. From the embrace of two lovers to the excitement of the performers, there’s always something to capture. That said, most people are either too afraid to get great street photos, or they’re too weighed down by their equipment to capture the moment before it’s gone. With the following secrets, you won’t belong to either category. I’ll show you why.
Warning! Before You Start Street Photography, Know Your Laws!
It differs from place to place. Some cities allow street photography while others don’t. The law can even differ from one district to the next. As long as you check up on your local street photography laws, you’ll be okay. The last thing I want is for you to get in trouble with the police.
Also be aware that people will catch you taking photos every now and again. Some of them are completely okay with it while others will confront you. If people start to ask questions, tell them you’re a professional photographer, and then offer to delete any pictures you just took. Oftentimes this gesture is enough to win their respect. If they make any other threats, don’t be a hero. Apologize and casually walk away.
I’m not going to tell you how much risk to take. Only you can make that call. I will tell you, however, that the best images happen when we throw our chips down and go for it. Expect the unexpected.
Walk Slowly And Carry A Versatile Lens
When you’re out on the streets, candid moments can come and go in a flash. That’s why you’ll have to bring the simplest possible camera setup. If you own a digital SLR, carry it over your shoulder, and try to pick a lens that covers a little bit of the telephoto and wideangle ranges. I think one of the best lenses for street photography is a 35mm to 100mm. This is just enough range to give you a little bit of both.
If you’re using a point-and-shoot, you really don’t have anything to worry about. Just keep the camera out of its case, somewhere near your hip. As soon as you anticipate something is going to happen, turn on your camera and keep it ready for the action.
The same goes for those of you who own digital SLRs. Remove the lens cap and keep the camera on. You don’t want any extra steps getting in between you and the moment you want to capture. As soon as something happens, you should be able to quickly lift up your camera, frame the shot, and snap the photo.
Learn To Shoot From The Hip
If you have your lens zoomed out as much as possible, you can capture some pretty candid moments right from your hip. Just keep your camera at the ready, use autofocus, and point it slightly upwards when you see something interesting. Most people won’t even know you’re taking their picture, so they’ll continue on as if nothing is happening.
Don’t worry about being a perfectionist with this technique. You can always go back and crop your images in Photoshop. The point of this exercise is to at least capture the moment. You can work your magic from your computer later on.
Shoot From Far Away
This is another reason why I like to carry the most versatile lens possible. It means I can get faraway from my subjects and still get a good shot. When you get to a certain distance, nobody will even notice you’re there unless they’re looking for you. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t get caught. It just means it’s much less likely to happen. Don’t keep holding your camera in front of your face. Take the shot and put it right back down.
Don’t Forget About The Other Elements In The Scene
Street photography is all about the emotions, that’s true, but you still need to pay attention to backgrounds, lighting, and composition. Something interesting might be happening, but if the shot is cluttered with a bunch unintended “extra’s,” the image will suffer. Always try to isolate your subjects and place them in front an interesting background.
A lot of photographers have different techniques for doing this. One of my favorites involves finding a place you find interesting, waiting for a bit, and then taking pictures once people enter the scene. This ensures that you’ve always got a visually interesting background. The people are the icing on the cake.
Street photograph combines some of my favorite elements. It’s got emotion, risk, and a level of candidness that you just can’t get from any other style. If you’ve got the guts and the eyes for it, you’ll love the images you capture.
Do you have a story of street photography success? Have you ever gotten caught? What did you do, and did you get any good pictures before it was too late? I’d love to see them. Upload them to our gallery.
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