Tag Archives: tips

6 Things I’ve Learned About Street Photography (So Far)

Sidewalk Circulation

Here are 6 things I’ve learned about street photography (so far). I present them to you, the aspiring street photographer.

  1. Stand Still — As you walk the streets, its easy to become overwhelmed by all the potential photography subjects. When you start to experience sensory overload, find an interesting background, or simply a street corner, and then stand and wait. Your subjects will come to you.
  2. Click the Shutter Anyway — There will be that voice in your head telling you that getting this shot might be awkward and uncomfortable. Push yourself to raise the camera to your eye and click the shutter anyway. Passing up these moments makes capturing the “decisive moment” all the more elusive.
  3. Shoot Wide — Don’t be afraid to shoot with a wider lens. It might be tempting to use your long telephoto lens so that you can stay far away from your subject, and possibly go unnoticed. While there’s nothing wrong with using a long lens if you are going for that specific aesthetic, the experience might be less than fulfilling if you are a fan of classic street photography from the likes of Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand, or the master himself, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Ideal street photography focal lengths are 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm. If you are still apprehensive, start with 50mm, which will allow you to stay the furthest away from your subjects, then graduate to 35mm. But all rules are meant to be broken, that is, assuming you have a good reason to break them. Just don’t let fear be one of those reasons.
  4. Avoid Eye Contact — Okay, this one will be controversial, and there will be some who will give you the exact opposite advice. I’m not saying you need to avoid eye contact or socializing in all situations, but if you are after true candid photography, it requires you to take photos without permission. Most people aren’t going to confront you, but that possibility will always exist with street photography. To help ease the process of capturing candids and avoiding confrontations, try to make it appear that you are looking past your subject. One thing you can do is keep your camera raised to your eye after taking the photo, pretending to shoot something that is just past your main subject. This works best if you are using a camera with a viewfinder (especially DSLRs), but it can also be accomplished even if you are composing your shots with a LCD screen (you just can’t hide behind the camera).
  5. Look For Conversations — I find some of the more interesting street photography photos (see above) in my collection are street conversations. Look for two, three, or more people congregating and conversing, particularly if they are oblivious to their surroundings, and then move in to get your photo. It might be helpful in this situation to have your camera in continuous mode so that you can snap off two or three captures.
  6. Use A Prime Lens — Related to #3, I highly recommend you use a prime (fixed focal length) lens, or alternatively, set your zoom lens to a focal length and leave it there. I can’t tell you how helpful this has been for my street photography. It really helps you to see your shot before you lift your camera when you know exactly what your field of view will be. In this case, using a prime lens is less about optics, and more about simplicity, and that’s why a zoom lens is fine, as long as you can discipline yourself not to actually use the zoom capability. Pick 35mm or 50mm and stay there. If you are out for a couple of hours, maybe shoot 35mm for one hour, then shoot 50mm for the second hour.
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26 Photography Guidelines To Build From

DO NOT read this list if you are looking for camera setting tips, or gear recommendations, or lighting techniques, or composition tricks. DO read this list if you are looking to formulate your own thought processes and mental framework to improve your art and your relationship with photography. I am not a professional photographer. I created this list for myself, that’s why its written in the first person, but I thought maybe it could be of use to others. Use it as a starting point for your own photographic guidelines, and maybe to create your own list.

Figurine sculpture sitting on a box, dangling legs.

Figurine sculpture sitting on a box, dangling legs.

26 PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDELINES

  1. I will miss every shot I don’t take.
  2. Today everyone is a photographer, so I’ll make it a goal to find my photographic voice, my unique take on the world, my personal visual style.
  3. Better gear does not make me a better photographer.
  4. Repeat guideline #3 at least 20 times before clicking that buy button.
  5. Always shoot raw.
  6. Purchase more storage space if necessary to facilitate #5.
  7. Always backup my photos, and in addition to a local backup, make sure I have at least one off-site (cloud) backup as well.
  8. When I’m searching for an interesting photographic subject, I must remember that some of the best photos in history are of the most commonplace, day-to-day subjects.
  9. If the shot is not working, get closer to the subject.
  10. If the shot is not working, get further away from the subject.
  11. If the shot is not working, walk around the subject and shoot it from a different angle.
  12. If the only camera I have with me is my smart phone, don’t stop looking for interesting things to shoot, and don’t hesitate to use the camera at my disposal.
  13. Spend less time browsing photography forums, blogs, and books, spend more time making art.
  14. But when the artistic muse is AWOL, recharge by searching for new inspiration by browsing photography forums, blogs, and books.
  15. Take less gear with me on photography outings.
  16. Follow #15, keeping in mind that some of the best photos were taken with a 35mm or 50mm fast prime lens.
  17. Be less timid, and more self-confident, particularly when shooting people. I must not be a voyeur. I either need to fade into the background for candids, or when that’s not possible, I must do the opposite and own it, and become an active part of the scene. Great photographers overcame their fear in service of finding the next great shot.
  18. Since everyone is a photographer, I need to find a different perspective. I need to get down low, because every shot I’ve taken in the past from a low angle has revealed a whole new world.
  19. I should only put my very best photos online. I must resist the temptation to increase quantity which ultimately serves to dilute quality.
  20. Before I click the shutter button, I must stop and take in the scene. There’s no prize for taking the most photographs.
  21. Building on #20, figure out the subject, the thing that anchors the entire scene, and then look for light and dark spaces that create flow and visual interest, and then look for lines that flow towards and away from the main subject.
  22. When working in the digital darkroom (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) I need to walk away, come back later with a fresh pair of eyes, and see if I still like the changes I’ve made to a photo.
  23. Good photos can be taken anywhere. While going to a specific location to take photos is perfectly fine, I need to remember that good photos are all about light, lines and composition, and those things can be found (and framed) everywhere.
  24. A good photograph tells a story or it makes people wonder and use their imagination.
  25. I need to take more photos in the rain and/or when the ground is wet, particularly at night. The wet ground and reflections of light from buildings, cars, and street lights creates a magical canvas just waiting to be photographed.
  26. I need to refine and grow this list of personal guidelines.
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