How Can I Master Street Photography?
Street photography has been around for a very long time. When you look at the work of the great street photographers of all time such as Henry Cartier-Bresson and Whittner Fabrice, you will notice that they all have certain things in common. The principles of art that they use to make photographs are very similar but used in unique ways. There are some important street photography lessons that we can learn from the masters of photography if we study their work. I will talk about some of these elements that can help you make you improve your street photography over time.
At the end of the article, I will also list some equipment that you need as a street photographer. I will make sure to include equipment in varying price ranges.
How to build courage as a photographer?
‘How do you get close to all these people in your photographs?’ This is probably the most common question I get from many photographers starting out. My response is always the same,’people are much nicer than you think.’ Do not hesitate to capture any moment you think is worthy of being frozen in time. Once you see something, take the photo and then move closer and keep shooting until you get to a distance where you feel close enough.
Practice will make you perfect.
This is by far the most important of any piece of advice I can give about street photography. When I was starting out as a street photographer, I would leave the house at 7am and walk all day photographing anything I came across. Thankfully I didn’t own the camera so every time I got my hands on it, I shot like a madman. The more you go out and shoot, the more you refine your style.
How to set realistic goals as a photographer?
As a photographer, you can set yourself small goals that amount to much over a period of time. The only goal that I set for myself was that every time I went out on my daily photo walk, I had to come home with just one masterpiece. One perfectly captured moment that had a ‘wow’ effect. One photograph that could cause any viewer to to ask questions like, ‘how did you do that?’ The goal was to get one great photograph. As I practiced and shot more, I came home with more than one great photo. If you’re as bad at math as I am then your guess is as good as mine. At the end of the year, that is a whole lot of great photos.
Use elements of art in photography
These are visual components of color, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value. They apply in photography the same way they do in painting or drawing. These elements will make your work esthetically more appealing to the eye. They can be found anywhere in the environment and when you go out to photograph, it is important to try and intentionally seek them out.
I will write an entire blog on how to use these elements of art to capture stronger photographs.
How do I photograph the moment?
The idea behind street photography is that the street is your canvas. With every second that passes, there are thousands of moments happening that need to be frozen. Think of everything that is happening in time as a moment and practice freezing them. Freezing a moment at its height of interest has a lot to do with anticipation, a skill you can develop by trying and failing many times. When I see a person stopping to say hello to a friend, I will start shooting while I compose the shot, which means I shoot as I get closer.
I always try to shoot before they notice me. A wrist strap is a great thing to have because you can hold your camera below your waist without being too obvious. I recommend this wrist strap here sold by these very good friends of mine at Eizee. I love their other straps which I use myself. Everything that seems ordinary can be a great moment to capture; someone trying to start his motorbike, a waiter/waitress taking a smoke break outside the restaurant, etc If you love to photograph people in particular, then there is no better place than the street to capture people going about their business. Places like public parks where people love to wind down from work are always great.
How to use light as a street photographer?
Whether you are a portrait photographer or a street photographer, the way you use light is pretty much the same. You have hard light that gives off hard shadows and diffused light that gives off softer shadows. Light also has color temperature that changes all throughout the day. Morning and evening light has a warmer color temperature, which makes skin tones look warmer. Mid day light is blue light which makes things appear cooler. I specially love to shoot in the evening and morning times because the light makes everything warmer. Cloudy days are great for a diffused kind of light. The Blue Hour, after the sun sets and the city lights come on is also quite interesting to work with.
How to compose a photograph?
I have an entire tutorial on how to improve composition as a photographer here. There are certain rules of composition which don’t have to be followed all the time. I like to call them guidelines.
- Understand the rule of thirds
- Fill the frame as much as you can
- Look for symmetry and patterns
- Don’t cut off limbs, especially in the joints, ouch!!
- Use leading lines to enhance perspective
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different style of composition for your street photography. Practice using objects in the environment such as arch ways and windows to frame your shots. Experiment with low and high camera angles to get a different perspective to your shots. It is ok to put the camera on the ground by the way.
If you are not afraid that you are too close, you probably aren’t close enough. The general rule here is to always zoom with your feet, unless you must use our zoom lens. I have found that when photographing people, the best photos are taken at such a close range that it almost felt like I was invading my subject’s personal space. You can be close enough without being threatening. Whether you are taking portraits at home, outside, with a DSLR or an iPhone 7 you always want to be as close to your subject as you can. Take some time to practice your portrait photography at home if you have someone to model.
How to ask strangers for a photograph?
When interacting with people on the street, it is absolutely fine to ask for a photograph if you see anything about them that would make a good photograph. When I see people with interesting outfits, tattoos, sunglasses or hats, I always stop them and ask for a photograph. They mostly decline but a few of them accept. Always remember that people are more receptive when you start by complimenting their outfit before you ask.
Whatever DSLR, Film SLR, camera you have will do just fine. You will capture great moments with it if you focus on capturing the moment itself. I will not go into what camera I think you should buy as a street photographer because that is a personal preference. I don’t mind walking around all day with a big camera so I use a Canon 5D mark iii. Some people like to bring smaller cameras like the Sony Alpha series or the Fuji XT1 and XT2.
For street photography, you iphone 7, iphone X, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or S7 are your best friends. A lot of my photos on instagram are shot on the iphone.
35mm film cameras is great too. I use the Pentax K1000 which is one of the cheapest 35mm film cameras out there.
For those that love medium format film cameras, the Fuji GW690iii is great. Great quality and easy handling since it is shaped like many DSLR cameras.
I really love Wrist Straps. You should buy one from these good friends at EizeeNow.
I hope that you can take some of these tips and apply them to your own street photography in your own unique way. You are welcome to share with me any thoughts.
Until next time.