Without question, this is my favorite type of photography. I love the grittiness, the bald truth of street shots, the unexpectedness. You never know what you’ll happen upon, so keep your camera ready to fire off a shot at a moment’s notice.
Just know, though, that street photography is a different animal. It’s about composition and an interesting subject, so anything that looks like a camera function will harm the authenticity of the shot. The distortions of extreme wide-angle or telephoto lenses, flashes, filters, and “effects” detract from the photojournalistic style you’re trying to create. Here are some great ideas for using discipline to capture the beautiful unpredictability:
1. Choose the right lens. Street photography is where you want to use a lens between 35mm and 50mm. It’ll help you capture the “look” that’s closest to what your eyes are seeing.
2. Think small and plan a manageable photography route. Don’t try to cover and photograph a whole city; it’s too overwhelming. Instead, concentrate on a small section of a street, or a corner, because that’s where street pictures happen.
3. Put yourself in a place where there are plenty of people about, and you should be able to take a good street picture at pretty much any moment. You’ll soon develop a sense of whether a particular place is going to deliver or not. It’s a bit like getting a few bites when you’re fishing. So, if there’s a buzz, then hang around. If not, move on.
4. You don’t want to be a distraction for your subjects, so wear dark clothes, as bright colors make you stand out. Keep your elbows in when shooting and have the camera preset.
5. Don’t play around with exposures too much; be ready to shoot and go.
6. If you wear the camera around your neck, keep the strap high so there’s less movement bringing the camera up to your face.
7. Stand close to people and shoot with a small, slightly wide angle. Curiously, you look more conspicuous when you’re standing across the street. Remain unobtrusive as opposed to unseen. People become more suspicious if you try to take pictures sneakily or if you look nervous, whereas if you act as though you’re doing your job and you project a more positive demeanor, you’re less likely to encounter problems.
8. Morning and evening are particularly nice times to shoot, especially in the summer months, as the light is more flattering.
9. When people spot you taking a picture of them, smile. It works!
Want more travel photography and writing tips from Planett Traveler? We’ve got a whole book of them, compiled from a lifetime of traveling and capturing my experiences. Take a look at http://www.planett-traveler.com.