Street Style

What Are The Street Style Photography Tips?

Let’s face it, starting street photography is no easy task. For the average photographer, going from shooting flowers into shooting people in the streets is like stepping into a Ferrari after driving a Toyota Prius. It is intimidating at first but quite exhilarating once you try it out after shooting on the streets for about four years.

What is street photography?

Street photography is one of the most complicated but simultaneously one of the most exciting genres of photography. It’s not as time-consuming as urban photography, but it requires skill.

Taking snaps of people in their everyday lives is challenging. You need to be patient, work hard, and sometimes be brave to photograph strangers! This article takes a peek at what street photography is and how it differs from other photography styles. We also give you some helpful street photography tips to get started.

Challenges of street photography

Street Style

Depending on your purposes, street photography can be either easy or challenging to come to grips with. On the one hand, you have plenty of fascinating subjects to record. There’s no need to plan a photoshoot or buy special gear to get fantastic shots, especially if you live or work in a city. Great subjects for street photography are right in front of your eyes.

On the other hand, street photography involves ethical challenges that different types of photography don’t. Questions of privacy and respect are often debated, as not everyone likes being photographed without consent.

Street photography can be breathtaking and even crucial for photojournalism. But it can also be unpleasant and disrespectful, causing anger and resentment. In some countries, you can even get into trouble for taking street photos. In many areas, though, photographers are given a lot of freedom. They can legitimately take photos without receiving consent as long as they’re on public property where privacy limitations can’t be required.

Tips for the Aspiring Street Photographer

Ditch the Zoom and Use a Wide-Angle Prime

Street photography is not like your 2nd-grade science class. You don’t examine your subjects under a microscope. Instead, street photography is about experiencing life, up close and personal. When starting street photography, you may be tempted to use your 70-200 zoom lens to feel less “awkward” from shooting in the streets. Instead, it will do much more harm than good.

First of all, you will look even more conspicuous in public holding a considerable zoom lens. Secondly, if you use a zoom lens, you have to point it directly at somebody, which makes the person you are trying to capture feel like they have a gun pointed to their head. Instead, try using a prime wide-angle lens. This will solve two of the problems above. One prime wide-angle lens is often relatively small and looks much less threatening than the typical telephoto lens. Furthermore, by using a wide-angle lens, you can still capture your subjects without necessarily pointing your camera directly at them, which brings me on to my next point.

Get Close

When I say close, I mean GET CLOSE. Get so tight that when you are taking photos of people on the street, you can see the sweat dripping from their forehead or the texture of their skin. Using a prime wide-angle lens (as mentioned in the before point), you will be forced to get close to your subjects. The advantage of this is that the wide-angle lens will give you a perspective that makes the viewer of your images feel like they are a part of the scene rather than just a voyeur looking in. Not only that, but when you are taking photos close to people, they often think that you are taking a picture of something behind them. I recommend using either a 24, 28 or 35mm on a full-frame or crop camera.

Social Skills Are More Important Than Photographic Skills

Your social skills are more critical than your photographic skills.

Meaning, as a street photographer— you need to have the right social communication tools. It would help if you had the confidence to approach a stranger to approach them with (or without) permission. You need to interact with your subjects to calm them down (if they get upset, are confused, or need an explanation). 

If you shoot street photography and you feel bad, guilty, or dirty — you’re doing something wrong, you should feel an affirmation for life. You should feel more connected with people on the street. You should feel more empathy for people on the streets and feel connected with them on a deeper emotional level.

Some often photograph strangers without permission, and then once they stare at me and give me a sceptic look — I will wave at them, say hello, sit down and have a chat with them. I then end up making a new friend rather than just snapping a photo and running away.

A lot of aspiring street photographers I meet are very socially shy and awkward. If you don’t feel comfortable in social situations as a human being, focus on building your social skills before your street photography skills.

Always Carry Your Camera With You

You have heard this a million times, and you know that you should, but you always seem to find excuses or reasons NOT to always carry your camera with yourself. “It’s too heavy, it’s annoying, it’s a hassle, it’s frustrating.” I’ll tell you what’s frustrating—missing the perfect photo opportunity (the decisive moment) and regretting it for the rest of your life. I have to admit that is a bit dramatic, but it is true. If you always carry your camera with you, you will never miss those “Kodak moments”, which always seem to happen at the most unexpected times. I have taken some of my best images at the most unexpected moments—ideas that would have been impossible to take if I did not have my camera by my side.

Disregard What Other People Think of You

People are worried about when starting street photography is worrying about being judged by other people as being a “creeper” or just being plain weird. Disregard these thoughts. When you are shooting on the streets, you will most likely be alone. That means that anyone who may be “judging” you is people that you do not know and will most likely never see again in your life. So why let them get in your way?

We may feel constricted by these “social rules”, but remember, they can always be broken. There is no law out there that doesn’t allow photography in public places.

To prime yourself better for your street photographer “role,” try doing something unusual in public. Lay on the ground for a minute and see how other people react around you, get up, and walk away as nothing happened. Go to a busy intersection and stand like a statue and see how people react (trust me, nobody notices). When you go into an elevator, stand the opposite way. The social world is full of false rules that constrict us. Break them, and shooting in the streets should become quite natural.

Smile Often

It is funny how far a smile can go, especially when shooting in the streets. If you take a photo of somebody and they give you a weird look, tip your hat to them and show them two rows of your pearly white chompers. I would say that when smiling at strangers (even in the city of angels), I get over a 95% response rate. Even some of the most unapproachable people will smile back at you. By smiling often and to others will help you relax and lighten the atmosphere around yourself. People trust a street photographer who smiles, as they will disregard you as a hobbyist rather than someone with malicious intent.

Ask for Permission

Although many street photography purists say that the only good street photography is candid, I would disagree with them. Feel free to go up to strangers who you think look attractive and ask to take a portrait of them. People love getting their photos taken, and as long as you act courteous and casual about it, most people will accept. Feel free to ask to take portraits of many mundane subjects of everyday life like the waitress at the diner, the hotel's bellboy, or even a parking lot attendant.

There Is No Such Thing as the Decisive Moment

A decisive moment might be the moment when your subject makes eye contact with you. A decisive moment might be the moment when your issue throws back his head in frustration. A decisive moment might be the moment your case jumps on the train before it speeds off.

Photographers used to think the “decisive moment” was universal. However, if you sit and observe a person or a situation, be patient. 5, 10, or even 100 “decisive moments” might occur in a scene.

Furthermore, you never really know which moment is “decisive” or not until after the fact. By taking many different photos at different times in a scene, you have a higher likelihood of capturing the “best” decisive moment.

Be Respectful

This is one of the tricky grey lines when it comes to street photography. I try my best not to take photos of homeless people when they look too down on their luck. Although I agree that there are tasteful images taken of homeless people that call people into helping these people, there are also many images that look like pure exploitation. Think of the cliché shot of a homeless person crouched over on the street, begging for money. Before you take these images, think about what message you are trying to convey. Are you shooting to build awareness of the atrocious situations that many homeless people live in? Or are you merely taking a photo of a homeless person for the sake of taking their picture? Nobody can be the judge—only you can decide.

Look for Juxtaposition

I feel that this makes street photography so unique and fascinating compared to other genres of photography. Street photographs convey the humour, irony, and beauty of everyday life by juxtaposing people with others and the environment. Look for signs with exciting messages that seem to be contradictory to the people standing around them. Be on the lookout for human heads that seem to be displaced by street lamps. Look for two individuals that seem to be different in height, complexion, or even weight. Capture an array of emotions from people, whether it be happiness, sadness, or curiosity.

Tell a Story

Imagine that you are a film director and that you are trying to make an exciting play. Who would you decide to play as your actors? What is your backdrop going to be? How are the actors going to be interacting with one another and the environment? What kind of emotion are you trying to convey—whimsical, curious, or gloomy? If a viewer looks at one of your photos, will they move on, or will they take a minute or two and study your image, trying to figure out the intrinsic story? Does your image captivate the viewer and make them feel that they are a part of the scene? Ask yourself these questions the next time you are taking photos on the street.

Just Do It

This is the last but most quintessential point of all of becoming a street photographer. Reading all of these tips aren’t going to do you any good to become a street photographer. Photography is not done behind the computer screen, but on the streets with a camera in hand. Honestly, all this obsession over cameras, lenses, and gear doesn’t matter when it comes down to it. Grab your DSLR, point-and-shoot, iPhone, or whatever and hit the streets. The beauty of the world awaits you—don’t miss your chance.

People are worried about when starting street photography is worrying about being judged by other people as being a “creeper” or just being plain weird. Disregard these thoughts. When you are shooting on the streets, you will most likely be alone. That means that anyone who may be “judging” you is people that you do not know and will most likely never see again in your life. So why let them get in your way?

We may feel constricted by these “social rules”, but remember, they can always be broken. There is no law out there that doesn’t allow photography in public places (regardless of what the police may tell you).

To prime yourself better for your street photographer “role,” try doing something unusual in public. Lay on the ground for a minute and see how other people react around you, get up, and walk away as nothing happened. Go to a busy intersection and stand like a statue and see how people react (trust me, nobody notices. I had to do this as an experiment for one of my sociology classes). When you go into an elevator, stand the opposite way. The social world is full of false rules that constrict us. Break them, and shooting in the streets should become quite natural.

Types of street photography

There are several popular subgenres of street photography. Moreover, they’re easy to come to grips with. So take a look and choose which is to your liking.

Street Fashion Photography

Many photographers like to take street portraits of fashion, as the street is a budget runway for your photoshoot. Though it may seem an easy task, there are a few factors that you need to consider before and while doing street style photography. Think about the location, scout it in advance, use ambient light for your photos, find a proper background, get the best exposure settings, and shoot in RAW. These are the basics for taking street fashion photos.

Black and White Street Photography

Modern digital cameras offer impressive image quality, with billions of colours. And with technology, we can post-process our photos however we like. Yet, there’s still a charm in monochromatic photography. Black and white are simple, minimalist, and free of distractions. Black and white street photos allow us to focus on a scene's essence, while colours can be a distraction. Black and white is just a different way to shoot street photography. Choose what works better for you.

Conclusion

Street photography requires practice, and the more you go out there, the more your eye will develop, and your confidence will grow. What you need to work on are perception and intuition. A dramatic street photo is the result of a powerful idea and emotions captured simplistically. So travel a lot, communicate with strangers, make new friends, be friendly, and practice.

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