Street photography has never been more popular than it is today. Here we share with you, tips for achieving great candid shots and street portraits

1. Be Daring About It

There’s no point in talking about gear and various street photography tricks unless you actually push yourself to take a picture. Now, it may not seem like such a big deal when reading this article, but once you’re out on the street, things can get a little less comfortable. Sure, every now and then people may smile at you or pay no attention to your camera at all, which is preferable. But at times, you may find yourself in less than friendly situation.

Street Dancer (1)

2. Look for suitable backgrounds and light

Now that you’ve got your willing subject in front of you, quickly assess your surroundings to choose the most suitable background and be aware of available light for the shot. It’s easy in the excitement to forget about the technical side of street photography. So if possible, consider the lighting and the background before even making the initial approach. Sometimes I might ask the subject to move into a better background or light situation, but don’t push people’s patience too far.

gavin mills old man smoking

3. Take your camera everywhere

Street photography is spontaneous and waits for no one. It’s a discipline you must practice to make perfect. Your camera is an extension of yourself — it’s your gateway to sharing your vision with the world and you don’t want to miss an amazing photo opportunity by not having your camera on you. If you’re serious about street photography, you will have your camera within reach at all times.

This is known as the ‘decisive moment,’ where you have only a split second to capture your subject before it’s gone forever. You rarely get a second chance, so be prepared.


4. Choosing the best lens

Deciding which lens to use is one of the most important factors for street photography. You may be tempted to use a telephoto lens, but that’s more than likely to result in more harm than good. You don’t want to be that creepy person standing across the road aiming a giant lens at strangers. If you want to look inconspicuous you’re going to need to get up close and among the action. Use a wide-angle lens and get lost in a busy crowd. Many street photographers choose a compact camera that’s less confronting than a large DSLR, the advantages being smaller, lightweight, and discreet.


5. Camera settings

The quickest and easiest way to set up your camera for street photography is by switching the camera to AV (aperture-priority mode) and selecting your f-stop (aperture) and ISO manually. The camera will then decide the shutter speed (exposure). On a bright sunny day a good place to start is around f/16 with an ISO between 200-400. If your camera displays a shutter speed higher than 1/200th a second you are ready to roll.

Take note of the shutter speed your camera is reading and make adjustments to aperture and ISO accordingly. If your camera is giving you a shutter speed that is below 1/80th you run the risk of a blurred shot, but that could be used for good effect too. To overcome blur simply increase your ISO and/or choose a wider aperture. If you’re new to photography you can always set camera to P mode (program or auto) and let the camera select the correct settings. You can still adjust the EV if you want to over or under expose the shot to your liking.

This is useful if you are shooting run and gun (in a hurry with no time to think), but you have little control over what the camera is doing, so this isn’t always the best option. Do not rely on Program mode in low light.

Street Photography #5_

6. Get close to your subjects

Using a wide-angle lens enables you to get nice and close to your subjects. The advantage of the wide angle gives the viewer a sense of being there in the moment. You’ll also blend in with the crowd as part of the environment, rather than standing out across the street with a long lens.


7. The “fishing” technique

The reason why it is called the “fishing technique” is because in fishing—sometimes you can cast out your rod and catch no fish for hours on end. Sometimes you catch a lot of fish. You never know—but the skill to have is patience.


This is one of the most classic techniques in street photography—identify an interesting background, and wait for your subject to enter the frame.


8. Leading lines

Leading lines can be found anywhere—from alleyways, to street poles, to parks, or even drive-ways.


An easy way to incorporate leading lines is to first identify the leading lines, and then wait for the right subjects to enter the frame. You can pair this with the “fishing” technique.

9. Timing is everything

A fraction of a second can mean the difference between a good photo and a great photo. To ensure you capture those decisive moments, keep your camera switched on and regularly check your exposure settings (especially if you shoot manual and move from dark or lighter areas). I’ve made the mistake of turning off my camera to save battery life and missing a shot, or making a mess of the exposure because I forgot to check it before shooting. Also avoid ‘chimping’ – you are potentially missing out on capturing your next great photo.

linda wisdom tunnel


10. Shoot at night

Night photography in the city is a great opportunity for unique images. It’s not as easy as shooting during the day; you will need to be mindful of low shutters speeds to avoid blur and use your ISO and aperture to compensate for low light.

Take a tripod with you if you plan on doing long exposures. Alternatively, using a fast aperture lens will enable you to shoot low-light scenes and still freeze the action. When shooting at night try finding interesting lines, shadows and compositions to give the image a bold visual statement. Silhouetted subjects are interesting and can create nice compositions with the shadow filling the foreground.


11. Subtract from the frame

An important tip, REMEMBER: what you decide not to include in the frame is more important than what you decide to include in the frame. So when you’re shooting, think to yourself, “What is superfluous in my frame? What is a distraction at the edges of my frame? What should I decide to keep, and what to ditch?”


12. Think outside the box

Powerful ideas and emotions can be portrayed through the simplest of scenes. Most people wrongly associate street photography with people or portraits on the street. You don’t always need people in frame, or capturing interesting juxtapositions or fitting as many different people or objects into frame.

It may be difficult in some busy places, but take a walk down a quiet alleyway or side street and look for different subjects that interest you. There are infinite opportunities for all kinds of images with or without people.


13. Final Words

Look for particularly interesting subjects and focus on the story. Don’t lose your head trying to photograph every stranger you meet. By doing so, you are likely to fail to notice something that’s really worth your attention. Try to separate the more interesting people. Can you see someone eating on the run? Or is someone reading a paper and not looking properly at where they’re going? Is there someone heading for a deserted alley? Try finding a good background for your images, look for interesting light to emphasize your subject, possibly separate him from the rest of the world around.

marc fairhurst lion in trafalgar square