The internet is full of tips for street photography and I cannot tell you how many dozens of tips I have read over the years. I decided to put a list together of those that have helped me and hopefully will add some value to your visit to this humble little site. So without further ado fellow street shooter - Here are 10 of my favourite tips for the street photographer.
Keep settings simple
Street photography is all about capturing the moment and to that end I feel it is important to be in the moment and not be fiddling with your gear. Here are some mini tips based on this idea:
- Let Auto ISO do its thing.
- Set it and forget it - Worry less about your image quality and more about the quality of your images.
- Auto focus is a gift from the camera gods. Use it or it's slightly more involved and traditional yet beloved brother, zone focus to reduce the fiddle when its time to make the shot.
- Use shutter priority if you are in a scene where you know there will be moving subjects you want to be sharp in your images.
- When walking through changing light, Aperture priority is your friend, change it according to how much available light in your scenes to maintain a useable shutter speed and freeze the action.
In all cases keep it simple and appropriate for what you want to do or are doing.
Know your camera
Keeping it simple also means being able to make adjustments to our camera as needed to focus on the shot. But you might run into a situation when you need to change setup and change fast. Know how to change from aperture to shutter priority quickly. Understand how to spot meter and how to get there to capture that backlit scene. Practice counting the notches on your dials for commonly used settings and know how to adjust as you walk between different scenes and into changing lighting. I blindfold myself and sit in the dark whilst changing settings on my camera or swap out lenses…no I don’t!!…But you get the picture!
Use focus lock
Use focus points and focus locking to allow you to shift your attention to your composition. Modern cameras let you set a dedicated button to do this, and on my little Fuji’s I set the d-pad to move the focus point around.
Leverage manual exposure
I know this may seem like it contradicts my previous tip of keeping it simple but manual exposure really can be a way to simplify your shooting. The advantage that manual exposure settings have over the auto and semi auto settings are that they stay constant regardless of how the scene changes. So if you have more time to digest a scene you can choose to tone an image using your exposure settings and this tone or mood stays with you as you move or change angles or framing. Try manual exposure settings tuned just the way you like but then leave them alone and concentrate on the moments. It took a while for the penny to drop for me on this one and I never really got it until I watched Zack Arias and his One Light videos. In the right circumstances manual exposure settings can be like a supercharged point and shoot mode!
Don't edit yourself on the street. Take the shot and don't fret if it may not be quite right. You can always delete back in the Lightroom. Don't stop yourself from making images that resonate with you and try and avoid chimping the lcd screen…every second counts and you may be missing the next shot whilst you are deciding if you should delete an image there and then. Speaking of which…
Follow your instinct
I picked this tip up from the very excellent David duChemin. Make the image if you have any sense that it might be an interesting moment. I'm not talking spray and pray here I am saying if you have an instinct to make an image then you should follow it. If nothing else it sharpens your eye as you work the scene.
Take your camera with you everywhere
Be that person in your neighbourhood who always has the camera by their side. Take it with you preferably without a bag. Have it out and “wear your camera” as the kids say. Learn to deal with any self consciousness if you are that way inclined. And make images. It's not jewellery.
Communicate and smile
We have all been there. You see a interesting person or scene and are about to click the shutter when you get that look glare or response. Don't be shy or run for the nearest bus. Break a smile. Use a (friendly) hand gesture. Let them know you are a fellow human being. Explain what you are doing and show them your work. Have a chat and forget the camera. Making connections in my opinion is one of the most rewarding parts of street photography.
I first read this on Eric Kim's blog. Let your pictures marinate he says. In other words don't be so quick to judge and reject the picture you shot that moment or day or even week. Eric says try and leave some time before you edit your work (I find staying about three months behind on my photo editing works for me) so that you can detach yourself from the emotion and look at images more objectively. If there is a response after that period of time you may just have something. I am as guilty as the next person though of posting something I love immediately…but it really does put things into perspective.
Show your work. print and give
Don't ferret our work inside your computers hard drive, neatly organised but never seen or enjoyed by anyone. Give a print. Share a slide show. Make a blog post. You never know you might reach someone somewhere.