Street Photography Tips for Urban Explorers

On every street, in every city, there are stories just waiting to be told. Street photography is about going out and taking shots of people (and pets) interacting with the city. It’s great for two things: to learn and to take pictures that tell a story.

This is one of the most exciting types of photography because it involves speed and quality. Just like weddings, street photography is usually progressive. This means you can’t shoot a frame more than once.

This helps you learn how to deal with such quick situations. Most of the time you need to be careful: to get an authentic, candid photograph – people cannot realize you are shooting them. And while you are being discreet, you must get a great frame. Speak about learning the hard way!

Street photography focuses more on the composition of the frame than in the actual settings of the camera. This means you have more time to create the frame and take a perfect shot. If you want to learn how to build a good composition in a matter of seconds, street photography is a great place to start.

art of street photography

Mastering it is not easy, but here are some tips for getting the best out of your camera on a trip to the city.

WARNING: Before going out with your camera, try to carefully read the laws in your country about photographing strangers without their consent. Some locations, as well as some countries, are stricter than others. We don’t want to get in trouble when taking pictures!

Here are 6 street photography tips to help you capture every incredible moment.

1. Forget about the Settings

Most of the time, it’s better to control every single aspect of your camera. However, in street photography you will barely have time to look at the monitor while you shoot. The idea of street is about learning how to improvise. The art of taking beautiful pictures in a second is what we need to master.

Therefore, you can freely use the automatic mode to shoot. Or at least a semi-manual setting; like the shutter speed priority mode, which will allow you to control the time the shutter remains open.

Since you will be in a hurry, most of the time you’ll need to set the camera to be fast. Use a fast shutter speed and let the device handle the rest. This way you will avoid blurry pictures.

While you are out there, try to approach urban landscapes. In this case, you won’t need your camera to be so quick, hence you’ll have time to set it right.

Camera settings

2. Don’t Shoot in Monochrome

It’s very common to do street photography and set the picture in black and white. Probably because this makes the picture a little less “daily”. It can be appealing to take the photo with the monochrome setting, but don’t do it!

Shoot in Monochrome

Most black and white photographs are not taken like that, rather they get transformed. Best practice is to shoot the photo with original colors, and then transform it in software such as Lightroom or Photoshop.

This process will allow you to keep the black and white picture and the original one, in case you change your mind.

But beyond that, it will allow you to modify the picture in a customized way: using different tones of gray, for instance. Never sacrifice possibilities with the Monochrome feature!

3. Shoot From The Hip

At first it may be tough to master, but shooting from the hip is a common technique in street photography. It’s basically shooting the camera without looking at the monitor (unless you have a tilting screen), and placing it at the height of your hip.

shooting from the hip

Why would we shoot without looking at the frame? Sometimes you get the best pictures when nobody sees you shooting. Think about it – how spontaneous can strangers be with a camera pointing at them? With this method, you’ll be able to get a great angle and capture authentic moments.

Don’t worry if you don’t get it right at first. It’s completely normal if it takes you a few tries to get the hang of it.

4. Sit and Wait

Another great way to take pictures without being noticed is waiting.

It can get pretty obvious if you go around chasing people with the camera. However, if you just place the camera and wait for the perfect frame, not only you will get more dynamic pictures, but you’ll also have stability.

Sit and wait for photography

How to do this? You can sit at a café and place your camera on the table. Make sure you have spotted the frame first. Once you have decided the picture’s composition, monitor through the Live View feature and wait for the right subjects to come in.

People will not be aware of the situation because the camera was already there when they came. So they won’t suspect a thing!

5. Don’t set the Aperture too Wide

A wide aperture provides a shallow depth of field. In many cases, you have probably used this to get a blurry background and a well-focused locked on subject.

In street photography, this is not the best move. The idea of urban photography is to shoot people while they interact with an urban background. So why would you want to blur that out?

You can tell much greater stories from this interaction. Plus, there is a big chance you will lose your frame before you manually adjust the focus of the picture.

6. Observation is key

Street photography is all about the story unfolding in front of you. Once we find a good frame, we have to shoot it and shoot it fast! For this, you have to learn how to observe your surroundings. Take account of people’s faces, of people kissing, arguing or just waiting for the lights to cross.

Street photography observation

It all depends on your goals. There are so many interesting stories going on around us, and so many that are worth shooting. But to observe, you must learn how to anticipate moments as well.

Street photography can enrich your portfolio. It can also teach you about framing and composing. Be sure to practice it!

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