The Ultimate Starter's Guide: Street Photography
Where to start? It’s ultimately a very tricky situation. You want to take good street photos but have no idea what camera to use, what settings, how to approach strangers, the constant question, what am I looking for? And most of all the fear of shooting in the streets.
So if you’re a beginner to street photography, you may be in need of a small helping guide. So here it goes.
Remember there is no “Right” or “Wrong” way to do it. If you find a better way or a way that suits you more, do it.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is street photography?
A very legitimate question right, what is street photography and simply put, street photography is about documenting everyday life and society. It doesn’t necessarily need to be photographed on the street. Any public place will do, think: the beach, the supermarket, or even a concert.
It’s up to you if you want to have the candid approach (without permission of the subject) or if you’d prefer to ask permission from the stranger before taking their photograph. The most important thing in street photography is to capture emotion, humanity, and soul.
Don’t worry so much about what “street photography” is and isn’t. The most important thing is creating powerful, compelling, and emotional images.
So...What exactly am I looking for…?
Among many others, these are the ones that I believe are the most important.
1. “The decisive moment”
“The decisive moment” was a phrase coined by Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of the earliest practitioners of street photographers. “The decisive moment” is the same as the “Kodak moment” where everything comes together in a perfect moment, and you hit the shutter. So essentially it is capturing the photo with the perfect timing.
I know “The decisive moment” is a bit misleading. There can be many “decisive moments” when you’re out shooting on the streets So the trick is: don’t just take one photograph. Take a ton of shots, 10 or 30, capture it from all sides. Then afterwards in the editing process choose which image you feel was the best.
Juxtaposition is essentially a nice word for contrast. But to be more specific, juxtaposition is when you put two different elements in a frame that directly contradict one another (while having a relationship). Black and white photography really shows how a juxtaposition really works. Here you can see it in Edgaras’ work where there is a clear cut line in the middle of the photograph.
You can look for happy/sad moments, light dark moments, etc all over the place. Look to your surrounding and try to get a person/object that is the complete opposite. Job done.
Artist: We Shoot People
What do you think is on his mind?
Happiness, pain, sadness, loneliness, humor, anxiety, youth, and love. Bring it all out in your photos. It may be the hardest of all the categories to capture, but it speaks a 1000 words in a single photo.
Make use of their body language or facial expressions, you’ll have to be quick enough to take a photo of someone without them noticing or changing. If you manage that then your home free. A beautiful piece of photography.
4. Graphical/visual elements
Some photographers like Sallie prefer no emotion, just purely visual (and geometric) happiness. They appeal to our inner selves with beautiful lighting, nice shadows, strong lines, curves and shapes of interest. I am totally in love.
5. Focusing on details
Sometimes just focusing on the detail of a car’s light can bring out some great street photography. Take Denis’ work for example. Simple, with beautiful lines, and contrasting yet matching colours. Stunning.
Some of the best street photographs focus on the details, not the whole picture. When you are shooting on the streets, you can focus on small details. This means rather than taking a full-body shot of someone on the streets, focus on their hands, their face, their earrings, their hands, their feet, or anything else they are holding.
By showing less of what is going on in the photograph, you create more mystery in your image. Less is more.
6. Urban landscapes
Note the juxtaposition between the ice and the water and the buildings in the background.
It’s not really necessary or a must that you HAVE to include people in it. You can also create the most stunning photography just by using compelling landscapes that show a refelection of the society that surrounds it.
A landscape needs to evoke a sense of nostalgia, emotion or critique of society. For example, photographing a run-down building can make a strong societal statement.
When taking a photograph of an urban landscapes, it is also extremely important to have a nice composition, sense of symmetry, and balance.
7. Everyday scenes
A simple photo of someone walking through the street can tell a million stories.
Now... What camera settings to use?
I can recommend Tech Radar's article showing you in depth what to do.
Any more, please feel free to put them in the comments. I'd love to hear from you.
Peace and Print,