Street photography is so exciting because it is so unpredictable. It is not just about pointing the camera at a scene and taking a photograph. With street photography, you have no idea what your image will be.
Street Photography Techniques
Definition of Photographing the Streets
What is street photography? We have looked to find a definition, by searching through quotes from some of the photography masters who make their living from shooting the streets.
Quick Tips for Street Photographers
If you have your camera at the ready and just want to get out there now. Then here are some quick tips. These tips will be especially useful for street photo beginners.
It takes nerve to photograph strangers. That is why it is the most challenging medium in all photography. However, learning by doing is still the best way to build your street experience. Enrolling on a course is also a good idea because then you get to try it out with others.
A dilemma that will likely bug you from the start is how to shoot candid images. Is walking the streets the most productive way of spending valuable shooting time or should you wait in one spot and let the picture come to you.
I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heat of the known awaits just around the corner. –Alex Webb
However if for example, you were in London’s East End where there is painted street art and graffiti, then shooting standing still and letting the picture come to you is a great option.
The Law on the Street
This article from Amateur Photographer sums up the law for photography on the street. However basically the law in the UK is:
Taking photos in a public place is not illegal. The only time an offence is committed is if the photographs being taken are considered to be indecent. There is no law stating that you cannot take photographs in public.
However, not everybody knows the law and members of the public can be quite upset having a camera thrust in their face. We discuss just how close is close, but often it is best to be open about why you are taking photographs and deleting images if asked to. Carrying a business card gives you an air of legitimacy, but always offer to send copies of the image to those who complain.
Occasionally I have been threatened that they will call the police. If you are on public property then you should have nothing to worry about. Pick up your phone and offer to give them a call.
Street Photography Cameras
What is the best street camera? The Leica is synonymous with urban photography because it is compact and has a wide fixed lens. Our analysis of the best fixed lens compact cameras that are available in 2022 are explored here.
As we explain a useful accessory is a flippy screen. Discreetly looking down, as if looking at a phone is often a good ruse for getting close to a subject.
An alternative to an expensive Leica is your smartphone. In our opinion it is likely that smartphones will gradually replace traditional cameras for candid photography. Think of it. As soon as a big DSLR camera is spotted that candid moment is gone. We spend all our time on our smartphones now and no one notices.
Street Camera Setup
Experts suggest using aperture priority but this advice is a little outdated. Modern cameras have very advanced autofocus systems, so it is unlikely that older techniques like zone focussing are ever going to be required.
Our advice is set your camera to shutter priority. Use a high ISO to enable a fast shutter speed. Your subject will likely move, and a blurred image is a lost image.
Street Photo Lens
A fixed wide angle lens, a 28mm. 35mm or even 24mm is recommended to get in close to your subject to allow your audience to feel that they are there. Zoom lenses suffice but the additional time taken to frame the shot may miss that decisive moment.
“The photograph itself doesn’t interest me. I want only to capture a minute part of reality”. –Henri Cartier-Bresson
Documentary Street Projects
Documentary photography is an adjunct to street photography. So often when developing a street theme it can morph into a documentary project.
So much of our life is documented by film, television, podcasts, videos etc, that any more would seem to be unnecessary. However, when we report on the world from our unique point of view, that is just as valuable as a segment on national news.
Personal projects have included:
Famous Street Photographers
Included in our notes we have profiles and conversations with:
British photography legend who is renowned for his photo projects: Martin Parr.
Street portrait photographer: Dougie Wallace.
Famous New York streets photographer: Joel Meyerowitz.
Joshua K Jackson, who works in vivid colour on the streets of London
Pioneer American candid photographer: Bruce Davidson
Documentary photographer: Ruddy Roye
Street Photography Locations
Famous street photographers like Vivian Maier made the streets of Chicago famous. Joel Meyerowitz the streets of New York and Henri Cartier Bresson the streets of Paris.
However, my own small home town has proved a rich source of street photos and it is guaranteed that wherever people thrive, street photography will be there as well.