Street photography is often revered as a journalistic, observation of culture and society. Whether you are capturing images within a cityscape or in a small town – street photography is the essence of photographing life in its most raw and natural element. The early years of photography were marked by some of the best street photographers who shaped our visual understanding and display of history. Street photography is still as important and popular today with our ever-changing landscape of humanity. In order to create better street photography, these are a few elements you should infuse into your work.
Create a Mixture of Street Composition
Although it may appear that the majority of street imagery is shot at a distance, with a wide frame and angle of composition, a talented street photographer will change their viewpoint often. Be sure to not solely focus on full streetscape frames, but instead create a mixture of far away shots as well as closer frames of reference. With street photography, full frame images are just as important as portraits, so you will need to adjust your aperture based on the image you want to capture. Creating closer and more intimate images will be difficult at first, but once you feel more comfortable you will feel inclined to break some boundaries in order to capture the perfect shot. My advice is to start off shooting with either a 50mm prime lens or a 24-70mm zoom lens – this way you can achieve a narrowed in and focused look without having to become too close to your subject.
Shoot Images Throughout the Day
If you are capturing the movement of the streets, you need to consider shooting at different periods throughout the day. Let’s say you are photographing the streets of New York. If you were to shoot in the morning, afternoon and later in the evening/night – the images you capture during each time of day would be vastly different. Consider this: the streets in the morning are bustling with people on their way to work, school busses of children and shop owners setting up for the day. In the afternoon, there are the dogwalkers, people on their lunch break and sunbathers in the park. At night, the city lights up in the dark sky, streets filled with taxis and eager patrons headed out to relax after work. Each scenario is unique and visually appealing in its own way. By shooting from sun up to sun down, you will accumulate a body of work that tells a riveting story for your viewer.
Capture as Many Photographs as You Can
One of the most important aspects to remember when shooting street imagery is to take as many images as you can. Capturing a handful of pictures will allow you to have a series of frames to choose from when culling through your work at the end of the day. You may even find a shot within the batch that you did not realize you captured. With constantly photographing your scene, it is important to not review the images during your shooting. If you shoot film, then you will have to wait until development, but for digital photographers this means waiting until you place the images on your computer to decide which ones you favor. If you delete during the process, you run the risk of omitting an image that may be a solid capture after a second look. Remember to shoot in a constant matter, but with intentional and deliberate framing and composition.
The Best Images are in Plain Sight
The final element to note while capturing street photography is that the best images often lie in plain sight. Too often, photographers will look for situations out of the ordinary in order to justify their street images. Instead, focus on what is visible to you and be creative with the way in which you capture your subject. Not every setting will have an extraordinary element because that’s not the point of street photography. As we previously mentioned, street photography is to visually document society and the human experience. Frame your work to capture children walking down the street, the man scaling up a skyscraper or the baker firing up his ovens through the shop window – cultivate inspiring and stimulating images through the ordinary and simplicity of daily life.
As you can see, street photography is less about the technical aspects of photography and more about using your visual eye to create a strong vision, intention and composition. Whether you are a beginner or advanced street photographer, these techniques will help you envision and imagine the work you aim to create. Do you have any tips for better street photography or some examples of your images you would like to share? Leave us a note in the comments below.
Interested in learning more about Street Photography? Check out these courses on Udemy and CreativeLive.
Gain more confidence to photograph on the street.Develop a mindset to extract beauty from the streets. Anticipate a shot and the moments before a shot. Learn how to time the right shot and frame properly.
This course will teach you the fundamentals, approach, and execution of street photography. View Course
Street photography requires a unique blend of gumption and skill. Find out how it is done in Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers with VII Photo’s, Ashley Gilbertson available on CreativeLive. View Course