Street Photography 101
a beginners guide
I’m serious. If your not out there having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Street photography is all about enjoying what you do. I love this shot. It’s nothing special, but I love it. It’s a perfect example of street photography.
I was walking with my nieces towards a small cafe. I was in my own world wondering what I wanted for breakfast. Then I hear one of the girls say, ‘O god!’ and shield her face. I looked around and spotted this guy. He got me. I just broke into the widest smile. I ripped my camera out of my bag and shot him back as fast as I could. I don’t even know this guy. We must have shot each other a dozen times. We just kept grinning and nodding our heads like we won some prize. The girls stared at me in embarrassment. I just yelled, ‘It’s a photographer thing!’
I’m not out there thinking about what I’m going to use a shot for or who might buy it. I’m not even sure if I’m thinking. It’s about the moment. Two photographers with the same passion, a young couple laughing, a cook lost in his work, a parent teaching their child. Anything so mundane and simple that it becomes beautiful. God that sounds pretentious!
Either way, I want to capture that moment forever. I enjoy it. I see something in it and maybe others will too. When I look through my shots at the end of the day I just smile. Somewhere in there is something beautiful. It might sit on my hard drive unused for eternity but I had fun getting it.
Know your gear
One of the most frustrating parts of photography is missing a shot because of your own stupidity. Maybe I forgot that I set my ISO to stun the night before. I quick draw the camera and put it to my face only to be blinded. Maybe my aperture ring twisted around all the way to f/8 instead of f/2.
In the beginning this meant I was going to miss the shot. I would have to sit down and figure out how to adjust my settings. Make sure everything else was in order too. It was a whole minute long ordeal. I didn’t know my equipment and that cost me a lot of shots I still can think about today.
The more I played around though, the faster I could do it. Obviously! Just not to me as a beginner. I wanted to get out there and shoot. Don’t be impatient. Take the time and get to know your gear. It will save you a tremendous amount of frustration. Now I can just press a few buttons and put my settings where I want them. Some even become second nature. You can feel where the dials need to be. Most days, I can still get the shot.
I’m not saying you can’t go out there and learn on the street. I’m just saying you can learn faster and save yourself some frustration if you practice a little before you go out.
Stop checking your shots
Just stop. The moment passed, you either got it or you didn’t. Keep your eye on the scene and keep shooting. Every time you look back at your shots, you risk losing a new one in front of you. I can’t tell you how many times I used to mess up shots this way. I would take some great shot and want to look at it. Then out of the corner of my eye I see an even better shot in front of me. By the time I would get the camera back up, the moment was gone. I missed it.
This is really a personal preference thing. I usually only have 30 minutes to an hour when I go out. Most days, I move. I run around like a kid hopped up on candy. There are a million things happening and I want to shoot it all. I’m lucky if I capture half of it. I’m impatient.
I love moving around. You see so much more of the area, it’s a great way to scout out cool little spots. Unfortunately, the shots are inconsistent. At least they are for me. You could have some really well framed shots and some really poorly framed shots. Some in focus and some that look like they were smeared with vaseline. It all depends on your skill level. I have a few tips about focus in another street post.
Moving is also by far the most invasive method of photography around. I’ve had people tell me they felt assaulted, going so far as to cry for help. People thought I stole the woman’s purse or something. Very dramatic older couple. I wish them an eternity in their religious torment of choice.
I’ll camp out if I have the time. I’ll find some great little scene. Maybe a cliche cafe with vespas out front. Then I wait. I play around a little and learn where my focus needs to be. When a moment finally happens, I shoot it. I like the shots I get when I camp out. They are usually sharper and more consistent. People also don’t feel assaulted, in fact they are almost comfortable. They see you in advance. It was their choice to walk into your scene.
Camping is great if you have time. Just know, sometimes nothing interesting happens. You sit there for an hour or two and have nothing to show for it. You think about leaving, but then you really did waste an hour or two. If you just get one good shot it’s all worth it. Another hour goes by with nothing and you finally admit defeat. You’ll drive by on the way home and see something crazy happening. Too bad you left.
Too long didn’t read
Headings kinda cover it. Have fun, know your gear and stop looking to see how your shots came out. Move around to scout an area and camp out to master a scene.