Street photography is essentially photography specializing in taking pictures on the street. Although street photography seems like a trivial matter, it has provided some of the strongest documentation work of the lifestyles and living conditions of different societies which were accomplished through this genre of photography.
Because the streets are accessible to anyone, street photos become the most common form of photography. But street photography without planning or thoughts is not likely to yield any useful results. This article will look at the simpler techniques which you can pick up to improve your street photography.
You do not require fanciful equipment for street photography, which may partly explain its popularity. The compact DSLRs which many photographers own are perfect for street photography. In fact, you can even use your fancy mobile phones to shoot unobtrusively in crowded areas/streets!
In terms of lenses, the wide variety of subjects in street photography makes it impossible to identify any ‘ideal’ focal length. Some prefer the close-up approach of using wide angles like 24mm or 28mm, moving into the crowd to capture the atmosphere. Others prefer to stand far back and use a telephoto to isolate the person or the detail in a scene. You should experiment with a variety of lenses to suit different situations or your own style.
Should you use a zoom lens or prime lens? Zooms offer the convenience and speed of having a range of focal length, but are bulkier than primes, and they are slower than the prime equivalent. Some photographers prefer the smaller and faster prime lenses to capture images in low-light. Both primes and zooms have their pros and cons — it’s ultimately your call.
Should you use the flash in street photography? There is no right answer – it depends on the situation and your intention.
For covert photography where your aim is to take candid pictures of the subject unnoticed, flash will definitely alert the subjects to your presence and give the game away. The best alternative will be to use a higher ISO setting, since flash also tends destroys the atmosphere of the scene.
However, if you recording an event such as street performance where the subject is aware and does not mind your photography, flash can help to bring out the vividness of colour and show shadow details. In addition, the elaborate costumes and colourful makeup show up best with flash.
Bags and attire
Most photographers agree that low profile and comfortable dressing is best for street photography. To successfully capture candid scenes, you should blend into the situation and not draw to much attention to yourself.
Know your equipment
It’s impossible to capture good images unless you know your equipment well. Familiarity with your cameras and lenses allow you to watch the subject, focus on the situation, and taking the pictures. Handling the camera should be second nature to you, so you don’t fiddle with the settings while your subject stands up and walk away!
Knowing your subjects
Particular subjects have particular forms of behaviour, usually due to certain factors such as age, situation or culture. For example, wedding photographers usually know the standard wedding ceremonies, and they will position themselves at the best location to capture certain shots (e.g. cake cutting or exchange of vows). Because they understand the behaviour of the subjects, they have the advantage of taking better shots.
Spending more time on the streets
First of all, spending more time on the streets will allow you to know the subjects and understand their behaviours and action better, leading to better photographs. In addition, street photography is not a scheduled performance. Photographic opportunities happen randomly at various places, so spending more time on the street will increase your chances of success.
Knowing your limits
Even as you are photographing, you should be aware of your environment and surroundings. Some places are more hostile than others, and you should always be on the alert for changes around you. For example, it is dangerous to venture around in some cities after dark.
The Decisive Moment
Henri-Cartier Bresson was probably the most famous photojournalist ever. He coined the term “”the decisive moment”” — a single defining moment that sums up the entire action of the performer. Capturing the decisive moment will convey the story to the reader with the most impact.
The decisive moment is about anticipation. It requires you to be able to anticipate the unfolding of events with reasonable accuracy. By anticipating responses, you are able to wait for the best moment to occur, and capture it when it finally happens. By actively engaging with your subjects, you are attempting to put yourself into their shoes and anticipate their behaviours. This requires some active thinking and deliberation. Anticipation, with patience and knowledge, will help you capture that decisive moment.
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