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Street Photography Tips and Tricks

Learn how to capture ordinary moments wherever you are and make them look extraordinary.

street photography tips

Street photography tells the story of a time and place. It showcases the people that live there, and the everyday moments that make up their days.

Today I am sharing with you some street photography tips and tricks to get you started on how to visually tell the stories of your adventures out in the cities, towns and communities that you roam. 

Know the Rules 

First things first, make sure you know the street photography rules of the country that you are in. In the United States, street photography is permitted for artistic purposes. You can sell prints and showcase your images online. You can not use your images for commercial purposes. Most countries have somewhat similar laws, but its best to research a country’s street photography laws before you start taking pictures.

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Some people are not going to be too keen on having their picture taken. It never hurts to ask someone’s permission. You can always get their email address and email their images to them in exchange for letting you take their picture. 

street photography tips

Street Photography Tips: Cameras and Gear

Camera

Really any camera works for street photography. However, if you are trying to fly under the radar, the smaller the camera the better. Mirrorless cameras are the smallest in size and weight. I personally recommend Sony mirrorless cameras; they are the leaders in technology for these types of cameras.

Need more help choosing a camera? Check out this camera buying guide

Lenses

I recommend a fixed focal length lens of either 24mm, 35mm or 50mm. Fixed lenses are smaller in size compared to a zoom lens, which often intimidates people. 

street photography tips

Best Camera Settings for Street Photography

An aperture of f/11 or greater will deliver images that have most of the scene in focus. To freeze motion you will want to have your shutter speed above 1/250th of a second. I recommend using a semi-automatic mode like aperture priority for street photography. Since the light varies so much by location and time of day it’s easier to set your aperture to f/11 and let your camera pick your shutter speed for you. If you notice your shutter speed is too slow, you need to raise your ISO. For portraits, I would switch the aperture to a shallower depth of field like f/2.8. 

If all these camera terms sound like a different language to you, use our camera settings cheat sheet as a guide.

street photography tips

Where to Photograph 

Just because the term “street photography” has the word street in it doesn’t mean you necessarily need a street in your images. Look for places where there will be a lot of people, motion and visual interest. My favorite places to do street photography are big cities, carnivals, car shows, vendor markets, parades, peaceful protests, the beach and county fairs. 

street photography tips

What to Photograph

While street photography is open to creative interpretation, here is a list of things to look for to get you started.  

    • Peoples everyday actions like going to work, buying a paper, eating lunch, playing at a playground, having coffee, etc.
    • The architecture of the buildings in the city that you’re photographing.
    • Sights, sounds and smells that make up the location you are photographing. Think monuments, street art, food carts, traffic lights, birds, signage, etc.
    • Culture. Look for signs of religion, dress, and foods.
    • Juxtapositions. Look for things that don’t belong. For example, a flower growing in a sidewalk crack. 

street photography tips

Get Creative

street photography tips

Slow it Down

Slow your shutter speed down to show the hustle and bustle of the city. A slow shutter will make the people and cars in your images be blurred and will show them in motion. In the image above, my shutter speed was 1/25 second. Rest your camera on something to get a steady shot or use a tripod

Look for Light

Use light and shadows in creative ways. Look for shadows from buildings, fences, people and trees and interject them into your images. 

Create a starburst with light. For this, you will want your cameras aperture to be at its smallest. In the image above my aperture was set to f/22.

Edit in Black and White

Use Photoshop or Lightroom to convert your color image to a black and white image. When you take the color out from a photo it forces the viewer to focus more on the subject. Plus there is a certain nostalgia tied to black and white imagery.

Shoot From the Hip

If photographing people makes you a little nervous, you can try the shoot from the hip method. To do this, wear your camera around your neck and take pictures while your camera hangs there. For the best results, make sure you have a small aperture selected anything above f/11 would work. Vary how you tilt your camera for a wide variety of images. While this technique is a little bit of a gamble, it is a great way to get comfortable shooting people.

Now that you are armed with street photography knowledge, hit the streets and see what you come up with! Happy Snapping!

What do you think of these street photography tips? Will you be trying them on your next vacation or daytrip? Tell us in the comments. 

Beth Mancuso is a professional photographer. All photos are hers. 
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