10 street photography skills to upscale your images

Street Photography, or Candid Photography as it is also known, is defined by capturing a transient moment in a public place, and freezing that moment in time. Most street photography is opportunistic and impulsive, but it can also be planned.


Tips for good street photography:

1. Know the law-of-the-land!

Some public spaces have strict rules around photography and how the photographs can be used. Check with local police and find out what is acceptable before you start shooting.

This will help avoid potential problems later on. Also be mindful of different sensibilities and ethnicities when captioning your street photography.


2. It is often considered that human subjects are best shot at eye level, but shooting from very high or low perspectives can also make for very interesting images

Image: Pexels.


3. Shoot candidly and shoot with emotion. These ingredients are vital when pursuing great street photography.


4. If you find you are confronted by an unhappy subject, you should offer to send them a copy of the photograph. There may also be times when you are met with extreme resistance and in those cases, deletion may be the only option.


5. Choose your camera well.

Street photography is an ever changing canvas so, choose your camera wisely. Try using a zoom lens rather than primes such as 35mm full-frame lenses. 

Image: Shutterstock.


6. Expect the unexpected!

You can plan every detail but factors out of your control such as weather, can change your scenario without notice. The ability to think on your feet is a valuable asset as a street photographer. 


7. Be aware that successful street photography involves a combination of elements including quality equipment, a strong gut instinct and a lot of luck. Some of the greatest candid photography was captured because the photographer was simply in the right place at the right time. 

Image: Pexels.


8. When shooting candidly, you have little control over your setting and no control over the light but, there are numerous digital editing tools that can deliver the effect you had initially intended. As Anders Peterson said, ‘Shoot from the gut, edit with the brain’.


9. Instant reflexes and lots of patience can translate into great photos. It may take months for that magic moment to arrive but until then, enjoy the process. You are always learning! 


10. Street photographers today are standing on the shoulders of giants. When Eugene Atget began documenting the streets of Paris in 1898, he would set the benchmark for street photography as we know it. Another artist who took to the streets was painter Claude Monet who would use street photography to inspire his impressionist masterpieces.

Eugene Atget, Place du Carrousel, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel. Gift of George Rohr, 2008/ icp.org.


Best devices for street photography

With the sophistication and power of smartphone cameras, street photography now belongs to the world; all you have to do is point and shoot. By 2020, 64% of devices used for non-professional photography were smartphones and that number continues to climb.  

However, professional, dedicated street photographers remain loyal to DSLR cameras with Nikon, Canon and Fuji leading the charge. 

Image: Pexels.


Devices and accessories for candid street photography:

  • Lenses. The best street photography is captured without intrusion so you will need a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens and a standard lens in your pack. Depending on your preference, you will need to choose between a zoom lens or a standard lens. 
  • Cameras. It is best to choose a camera from a reputable brand and try to remember you will be carrying it around for long hours so a lighter and less bulky body is advised. Also check that there is a burst-shooting mode available. 
  • Carry bag. Ideally you will use a light bag that doesn’t stand out in a crowd plus, you will need easy access to your lenses.
  • Other accessories. Carry enough storage with you in the form of memory cards and extra batteries. 


Ethics of street photography

When a moment catches your eye, capturing it on camera may be impossible to resist. People are photographed in countless situations on the street and often without their knowledge or permission.

Some of the greatest candid photographs have gone on to win awards and accolades, but is it right for photographers to seize the moment without seeking permission? Will that moment pass if they stop to approach a subject? Or, should street photography remain spontaneous, transitory, fleeting?

The debate continues but, in the meantime, keep shooting and relish the results.


Read more about photography and our practical tips.


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Written by: Eduardo Rios

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