How to become a street photographer

A Discussion on Street Photography

Street photography is a genre which is shot almost entirely on intuition and depends largely on the ingenuity of the photographer to adapt to the surroundings and capture that perfect shot in a split-second time frame. It is a genre that is demanding – both on your mind and your body, frustrating, intimidating and not to mention risky at times.

Related Post: Best Street Photography Lenses

Unlike fashion, sports or landscape photography, street photography it is a lot less glamorous, but it does impart a sense of self-gratification which is hard to beat.

Ofxord Street Sunrise by Dom Crossley

Ofxord Street Sunrise by Dom Crossley

Roadblocks to making images on the streets

Making images of people on the street is a tough ask no doubt, remaining inconspicuous while you point your camera to someone you don’t know is even tougher. Beginner street photographers find this aspect rather difficult to overcome. But if you want to become a great street photographer you will have to overcome this fear!

Sometimes there are social issues at pointing your camera to someone or taking someone’s picture without their permission. At other times the issues could be much more serious like invading into someone’s privacy at the pretext of making art.

The right approach

While speaking of street photography it is impossible to ignore some of the key aspects of being successful in this vocation. This is especially relevant at this time because of the growing concern with some photographers pushing the limits of decency and respect of others privacy while making images out on the streets.

I have seen street photographers blatantly disregarding individual’s privacy, adopting intrusive and even scary methods to make images. These photographers give others who do street photography in a passionate and tasteful way a bad name while making it difficult for them to do their work.

Sjoerd Lammers street photography

Sjoerd Lammers street photography

If you are intimidated to point your camera straight to your subject then start off by shooting from the waist.

This issomething I started off doing when I first got hooked on to street photography and something I still do today.

Glasgow, Scotland by Giuseppe Milo

Glasgow, Scotland by Giuseppe Milo

Another way to shoot would be to shoot from behind. Silhouettes work great when photographed as the subject of your images, especially when used in conjugation with familiar landmarks.

Inspiration – A must have to become a Street Photographer

Maintaining a low profile is necessary when approaching street photography. It allows you to make candid images of your subjects, when they are absolutely at their natural best and thereby the shot is ‘un-spoilt’.

An immediate example that comes to my mind is the “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange. I am not a big fan of posed images, though I must say that there are many instances of powerful images which have been posed.

A good example is that of the Afghan Girl shot by Steve McCurry.

Sharbat Gula.jpg
Sharbat Gula“. Via Wikipedia.

The father of photojournalism and arguably the greatest exponent of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson, had a wonderful way of shooting images. He wouldn’t go for the heaviest and the most intimidating piece of equipment that he could get his hands on.

For shooting images on the streets he picked up a small and simple piece of gear – the inconspicuous Leica. He shot most of his career with this camera paired with a 50mm prime lens. He even went the distance so as to paint the shiny metallic parts of his camera in black so that those wouldn’t give him away.

Key elements for becoming a street photographer – The right camera

Choosing the right gear does make an incredible amount of difference in how successful you can be as a street photographer. DSLR cameras are not the first choice that comes to my mind for a number of reasons.

DSLRs are big, they usually have bulky lenses mounted on them and make a lot of sound, not the ideal combination at all. Not to mention the intimidating feeling when someone points a 24-70mm lens at a subject.

Shanghai Street by Matthias Ripp

Shanghai Street by Matthias Ripp

Point & Shoot cameras on the other hand are small, which is good, but their smaller sensors isn’t the right option for shooting in low lit conditions either. Between a Point & Shoot and a DSLR, I would gladly go for a small APS-C DSLR with a 40mm or a 35mm prime lens mounted on it.

The 35 or 40mm gives close to the same angle of view as the human eye and are thus great for shooting street photos. The 35mm would be preferred for the APS-C camera because of the crop factor.

Related Posts: Review of the Canon 40 mm pancake lens

Mirrorless cameras, on the other hand, combine the best of both worlds. Mirrorless cameras or Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens cameras (MILC), the ones with a large sensor and yet a small frame, to me, makes the best sense.

Sensor size directly controls the amount of light for a given aperture and shutter speed combination. Larger the sensor size more is the light gathered. Thus, where smaller compact cameras struggle, larger full-frame DSLRs still manage to capture usable shots. MILCs being increasingly popular, major camera brands are releasing new lenses for them all the time.

Street music by Vincent Anderlucci

Street music by Vincent Anderlucci

MILCs allow you the convenience of shooting with a small-ish camera while still being able to shoot with a large sensor. These cameras are sometimes faster than DSLRs because they don’t have a mirror inside them, a mechanical contraption that allows you to compose through the optical viewfinder. It can thus save critical time to add more frames per second. The absence of a mirror also means they are quieter when you press the shutter release.

The absence of the optical viewfinder forces you to compose either with an electronic viewfinder or the back LCD screen. While that may sound like a disadvantage, actually it is not, now that incredibly good quality EVFs are coming to the market. But on the plus side you get fast continuous shooting speeds with full auto exposure and auto focus.

Mirrorless cameras such as Sony’s full-frame line up are very popular. The other option is Leica, which, however would be prohibitively expensive for even enthusiast photographers.

These cameras are meant for professional photographers who already have a pro camera. Smaller APS-C Mirrorless cameras are also very popular both with beginners as well as enthusiast photographers.

FREE eBook:


10 Photography Beginner Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

By clicking "Get Your Free eBook" you will join our weekly Photography Newsletter and get the Free eBook: 10 Common Photography Mistakes and How to Avoid them delivered to your inbox. (We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.) Powered by ConvertKit


Rajib's love for the road is second only to his love for photography.
Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly.
He has been writing for over 7 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.

Latest posts by Rajib (see all)

Related Articles

About author View all posts


Rajib’s love for the road is second only to his love for photography.
Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly.
He has been writing for over 7 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *