Street Photography Tips (5 Must-Knows)

Street photography combines culture and society through a journalistic point of view. It captures the essence of time and place within history. It depicts the markings of the human experience. As such, learning how to become a street photographer takes a little more skill than just knowing how to work your camera.

street photographers see the world different
Contrast can help create impactful street photographs

What is being a street photographer all about?

Luckily, you can learn street photography skills. Which is exactly what I’m going to prime you on in this article.

Cities, small towns, and bustling metropolises are all great places for street photography. It can be in the form of intentional portraits or from an outsider’s point of view. A powerful street photo intersects the landscapes and the people within them.

Remember, street photography is less about an individual and more about the context surrounding the subject. Street photography captures people as a means of storytelling and history. It’s to display the look of a place, the fashion, and the physical features of the society.

Interested in creating snapshots of history?

Street photography may be the perfect photographic medium for you. To get you started on this creative path, here are five essential tips for becoming a street photographer.

5 Must-Know Tips if You Wanna Be a Great Street Photographer

1. Use The Proper Equipment

Part of being a street photographer means using the proper gear to capture images.

For street photography, the most popular lenses are prime lenses with relatively short focal lengths. Most street photographers use a 50mm f1.8, or sometimes an ever shorter 40mm or 35mm.

which camera is best for street photography
Using the right gear as a street photographer is key.

In some situations, you may need to set distance between you and your subject. In these instances, a zoom may be helpful. It will allow you to capture detail without invading too much space. Though, zooms aren’t as widely used in street photography as prime lenses.

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Street photography can be also done with small compact cameras. Of course, a larger DSLR can be used, but the bigger the camera, the more you’ll tend to stand out. That’s not always the best thing for street photography. Mirrorless cameras are also becoming quite popular for street photography as well.

Though a little pricey, Leica has built a reputation among street photographers for being one of the best cameras to shoot on. But, if you’re still just learning how to be a street photographer, there are more affordable options out there as well. For example, the  FujiX100 is beloved by most who shoot with it.

The Ricoh GR II also has somewhat of a cult-like following by its many shooters. Plus, it won’t break the bank!

What’s my personal preference?

I find the smaller the camera, the easier it is to avoid drawing too much attention to yourself.

A lens with an aperture of at least 2.8 is perfect for framing your composition and achieving crisp details.

2. Find Your Perspective As A Street Photographer

street photography can be done from many perspectives
Getting a higher perspective is a common way to capture compelling street photographer.

The beauty of street photography is that it’s a truly unique photographic practice. Each street photographer sees life from a different perspective. This allows their images to fully express their personal vision.

As a beginning street photographer, test your surroundings to find your ideal perspective.

It doesn’t matter if you compose close up frames, wide angled landscapes or a bird’s eye composition…

Find your strengths to help build your style.

When you develop a unique outlook, you’ll know when to shoot based on the perspective you want to create.

“Your street photography eye can only be defined by what you decide to capture and share with the world.”

To find your perspective, test each type of composition and determine which images speak to you. Get close up to your subject or find a spot within a crowd and capture the movement around you.

You can also spend time studying the work of other street photographers and see what kinds of shots really stick out to you. There are a lot of resources online such as the Smithsonian and sites like Magnum Photos.

3. Test Your Own Limits

creative hina design 1372255 unsplash edited
Street photos often use unusual framing in a pleasing way.

It’s true what you’ve read…

Street photography is often regarded as a controversial medium. Many people feel uncomfortable when photographed in public places. With aspects of privacy and intrusion to consider, some countries actually ban the practice of photographing the community in public spaces. Do some research on the laws surrounding street photography in the places you wish to photograph.

Understand that privacy concerns are more pertinent than ever. It’s important to remember your aim as a street photographer isn’t to invade an individual’s personal space or focus on their identity. In fact, in many street photographs – the people you capture may not be completely visible.

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With techniques such as silhouettes or placing distance between you and your subject, you can mask their identity. Yet, if you’re looking to capture someone’s unique look, style, or demeanor, guess what?
You’ll have to be comfortable with testing your own limits.

Being a street photographer can feel uncomfortable if your subjects start to take notice and express discontent. You’ll have to advert the stares from people and be ready to at a moment’s notice. The reality is…

You’re just gonna have to get used to it. But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

The best way to describe testing your limits in street photography is to make yourself feel as uncomfortable as possible.

But, don’t let that scare you! After all, it’s only temporary!

You may lack the confidence at first, but once you get the hang of the process you’ll be snapping new perspectives in no time.

4. Be Open to Meeting New People

street photography happens all around us
Try to capture shots that tell the stories of how strangers live their daily lives.

The fourth tip to becoming a street photographer is to be open to meeting new people. As you photograph the streets, more and more people will start to notice your behaviors.

This can be both a positive and negative perk of creating.

In a negative sense, you’ll need to be open to speaking to people who may seem bothered by having their picture taken. They may approach you asking to see the image or, in some cases, they may ask you to delete it.

Here’s what to do if that happens:

If they inquire about the image, start by explaining your craft and why you wanted to take their picture. In some cases, people will find this flattering and feel less threatened by your actions.

If they ask you to delete it, it’s best to oblige and apologize for any discomfort you may have caused them.

In a positive sense, street photography can allow you to connect and meet new people. If you’re focusing on street portraits, feel confident enough to approach a subject to ask for permission to photograph them.

If you’re thinking of a documentary style, you may ask them to tell you a bit about themselves to the image.
In either case, being a street photographer means pulling out your extroverted side and being ready to strike up a new conversation at any moment.

5. Create a Compelling Narrative

developing an eye as a photographer
As a street photographer, do you prefer shooting in black and white or color?

The final aspect of becoming a street photographer is understanding how to create a compelling narrative.

Before you start your work in street photography, ask yourself this:

What do you intend to capture and why?

Having a definitive purpose will allow you to create stronger, more captivating stories through your images.

A compelling narrative allows the viewer to understand the moments of life you captured through your photograph.

  • Are you photographing the culture of a rural area?
  • Aiming to encapsulate the movements of a busy city?
  • Seeking to find color and texture through a country’s markets?

Whichever way you decide to photograph a society and its people, think of how each element can weave together to create a visual story.

Becoming a street photographer is showcasing the world through your eyes

Man looking at oranges on the street.

Street photography is one of the most unique forms of photographic art. By crafting and creating your own vision, you can effectively showcase how you perceive and understand life through the images you capture. Start recounting the human experience, culture, and society through your own unique imagery.

Learning how to become a street photographer is a mix of capturing an interesting perspective, testing your limits, and being open to meeting new people. But most of all, it’s about creating a compelling narrative.

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About the Author

shannon ciricillo author

Shannon Ciricillo

Shannon Ciricillo is photographer working with digital and film formats, she is currently based in New York City.

1 thought on “Street Photography Tips (5 Must-Knows)”

  1. Nicholas Wallerstein

    Thanks for the great advice. But I disagree that we should delete photos when our subjects object. In the U.S., anyway, the courts have consistently stated that, once people are out on public streets or sidewalks, they give up their “expectation of privacy.” We don’t need consent to photograph them. Our 1st Amendment rights to free expression trump any rights to privacy our subjects might claim.

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