5 Street Photography Tips to Improve Your Street Photos

Dafen Art District artist

This article gives you a list of street photography tips and explains them one by one. By learning to look out for certain opportunities you will develop more variation in your street photography. Composition is the most important skill for any photographer to learn. For some classic and new composition rules in photography follow this link – 25 Photography Composition Tips for 2020 and Beyond. This article however focuses more on some quick and relatively easy street photography tips to help you improve. So as promised here are the quick adjustments you can make to add to your arsenal as a street photographer…

Hoahai, Shenzhen, China

1. high and low angles

A mistake that many beginners will make at first is to always shoot standing from eye level. It is easy to understand why. You see something that will make for an interesting street photo so you simply take the shot. The problem here is that this is the viewpoint from which we see everything in our day-to-day lives. With this in mind it isn’t an interesting viewpoint. Try mixing things up a little by getting down as low as possible and shooting. You could also find a bridge or balcony to stand on and take a few shots of the people below. Start mixing it up with high and low angle shots.

When I think about good street photography tips that I have received they are all about giving you more options. By having more ideas about how to create something it will lead to more variation in your street photos. Over time this will give you to a street photography portfolio which full of creativity and interesting for your viewers. One of the advantages of digital photography is you can fire off more shots without thinking about cost. When film was the main medium for taking photos people would think about the cost of film. Therefore you can afford to experiment a bit more in order to find the perfect shot. Next time you see an interesting subject think about the different angles. Particularly think about high and low angles which you can shoot from.

Ladies playing cards from a high angle
Man riding a delivery bike from a low angle

2. add colors to your street photos

I have a screenshot of a color wheel on my phone to remind myself of what colors work well together. Shooting colors gives you a nice alternative option on an overcast day. When the light isn’t doing much to help out your street photography it is good to have other options. Look at for colorful buildings and backgrounds and wait for an interesting character to walk by. When the moment is right you can incorporate the two elements into your image. Notice colorful lights at night, a red or yellow car, someone wearing bright clothing. Once you start looking for this you will see plenty of options.

This might seem like it is too obvious to be a good street photography tip. What I would say is that there are not many photographers who would claim to have truly mastered color in their work. However, it is worth spending the time studying and practicing this skill. In the long run it will show in your portfolio and give you another option when creating.

In terms of locations big cities are usually a good starting place. If there is a beach town near you then they often have bright buildings. I’m lucky because there is an artistic neighbourhood in my city which gives me plenty of opportunities. If you know of a bohemian or cosmopolitan area around you that will offer you up some chances. Also if your city has an area inhabited by a particular countries people it can be good. For example, an Italian or Chinese neighbourhood is a likely spot to find some great color.

Classic Hong Kong taxi parked outside a local shop
Different shades of green come together nicely in this image

3. Work with early morning and late afternoon light

In any form of photography light can add so much to a shot. It’s true to say it can really take your image to the next level. It can turn an average shot into a good one and make a good photograph great. The subject of light within photography is a wide ranging one. It deserves many hours of hard study and practice for anyone who takes their photography seriously. Read through The Importance of light in photography for a more in-depth look into the subject of light in Photography.

In street photography I prefer to use the a strong low light. You get this from the sun in the early morning or late afternoon as it hovers around tall buildings and the light comes in from the side. This will add many things to your images including; warm tones, long shadows, areas of high contrast, shapes and lines as objects around you interact with the suns rays. There are many things to play with when you have this kind of light. It will give you an another option and add richness and depth to your street photos.

In terms of camera settings it can be a little tricky as there is less light than midday. It is important to remember that you usually want to freeze movement in when shooting people. Normally I will go with aperture priority, set somewhere between F2.8 and F4 depending on the day. I will then set the lowest ISO possible (usually around 800) to give me a minimum shutter speed of 1/125th of a second. Also, to emphasize the contrast I usually put my exposure compensation down a stop or two. This again makes it easier to achieve high shutter speeds and protects the highlights as well as darkening the shadows.

Warm Afternoon light interacts with the darks to make this image
Bright colors and string light add interest to the image
When you see interesting light you can wait for someone to interact with it

4. Go Fishing

This one requires a bit of a trained eye and some patience. Ultimately street photography is about capturing random moments. However the fishing technique takes some of the random element away and gives you more control. Firstly look for a composition, scene, or background that looks good. Now you already have a decent photo and what most novices would do is take the photograph and move on. However as a skilled photographer you are going to wait for someone or something to interact with the scene to give it an extra layer of interest.

This is one of the more difficult ones of my street photography tips to master. What I suggest is you start with something simple like a colorful house or interesting street sign. Wait for someone to go past wearing a cool looking hat, or one of them old style bicycles, or just something to add more interest. After a while you will start to find you get better at this and start producing really creative street photos.

The final thing to bear in mind with this is that it requires patience. This is because you are relying on others and waiting for people. Just like a nature photographer has to wait for the biggest golden eagle to fly into the shot you are waiting for an interesting person to fall into your frame. Ultimately this is a trade off between the interest of the scene and foot traffic. You might have a really cool building but if it is in the middle of nowhere you probably don’t want to wait around for someone. Likewise you may have a busy street but if it’s not interesting you should move on. You are looking for a good trade off in terms of scene interest and foot traffic.

Window Cleaner falls into shot
I waited in quite an awkward position for this picture
An interesting scene emphasized by the lady with the umbrella

5. strong characters

A lot of people find this the most difficult one to do. Firstly I would recommend using a smaller camera as big DSLRs can intimidate people strangers. I use a Fujifilm X100F, but you could also use your phone or something else reasonably small.

A good starting place for street portraits would be street vendors, street performers, and market stall owners. I start by talking to them about the product and quite often make a small purchase or give a small donation. This goes a long way with breaking the ice and somehow builds up a trust. Its also good because these type of people often have strong personalities which shine through in the portrait. Finally offer to send the person the finished picture and exchange phone numbers. Once you have mastered these people you’ll have more confidence to move onto random strangers in the street.

In terms of the people I look for in varies but anyone who has strong features. It can be a, unusual hairstyle, a big hat, cool sunglasses, a sharp suit. There are many things that can make someone stand out, the key is to notice it.

Market stall owners can be interesting characters
I gave this guy a copy of this shot for free after taking this

Summary

So that’s it for my street photography tips, I hope you found them useful.

In my opinion the Street Photography game is all about practice. Learn a few things and then go and put them into practice. This will reinforce the knowledge and you will improve your technique. So now you can go out yourself and try a few of these techniques and nail those street shots!

While you are here please check out my Street Photography Portfolio! Has this article helped you to make some quick improvements? Did I miss anything? Are you just starting your photography journey? Leave me a comment at the bottom of the page….

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