How to Prepare for Street Photography

Hong Kong Market Portrait

Preparation is key to getting good shots when shooting Street Photography. If you go out well equipped, camera ready and loaded, ready with ideas for shots, this is half the battle won for shooting fantastic Street Photography. This article gives you some of the key things to check and prepare before you go out shooting…

Wear comfortable and discrete clothing

People are less likely to notice you and act more naturally

Discretion is the name of the game here. To shoot candid street photography and capture natural moments you want to blend in to the crowd. If you are wearing bright/loud clothing you are likely to catch the persons eye when you are taking a picture and you will just end up with pictures of people posing or stern faces.

With this in mind you don’t want to attract too much attention to yourself. To help you do this wear clothes that help you disappear into the background. In turn you will be less noticeable to the people you are trying to photograph and they will behave more naturally around you. I would recommend nothing too bright or extravagant. Plain clothes, as well as greys, blacks, and dark blues are a pretty safe bet when it comes to not getting noticed.

It is important to mention comfort also. I usually cover at least 5KM walking when I’m doing street photography. It’s usually very hot where I live so I dress to keep myself cool. A good pair of walking shoes are essential for your feet. Imagine you are going hiking – you would take the appropriate clothing. Generally, dress discretely with the appropriate clothing for your environment.

Take a GorillaPod and Remote Shutter

Personally I’m all about light weight so I prefer using a GorillaPod rather than a Tripod. I did wonder if it would be sufficient and able to do the job when I first got it. All I can say is I haven’t yet been in a situation where the GorillaPod has let me down. Sometimes it requires a bit of improvisation like finding a useful bar to wrap around or tree to perch on. Street photography is supposed to be enjoyable and I enjoy myself more with a lighter bag.
Many camera’s now have the remote camera application and in that case you will not need a remote shutter. However, if your camera does not then you should also take a remote shutter with you. Again, these are very small and lightweight so your back will be in good condition as you are shooting.
It is the combination of the GorillaPod and remote shutter that you will use for long exposure shots. So for just a small amount of extra weight you can now do light trail, night time city skyline , and motion blur photography.

Long exposure night
Long Exposure is posible with a GorillaPod

Decide on your Street Photography Camera Settings

Decide on your baseline settings before you go out

There are a few different factors to consider when deciding on your street photography camera settings. Firstly, what types of shots are you mainly going for? Are you hoping to freeze motion? If so you will need a fast shutter speed. How is the light? You will need a wider aperture if its low light.

Usually for street photography I will go with aperture priority mode. I prefer this as it gives me less to think about which means I can react faster when I see a good shot. Let’s remember street photography is about capturing the decisive moment. This means you will often only have a split second to capture it before the opportunity has passed. So the last thing you want to be doing in that moment is trying to adjust your street photography camera settings.

As I often want to capture the movement of people I will usually set the camera up for a fast shutter speed. Depending on the light I will go with an aperture between F1.8 – F4, and an ISO 400 or above. The less ISO the better but sometimes a higher ISO is necessary to obtain a high shutter speed.

Look at the light outside and decide on your baseline settings to capture the movement of people. Then when you go outside take a test shot and adjust accordingly.

Check the camera is ready and take a test shot

Yes, there have been times when I’ve arrived at my destination to do some street photos and I have realised that my camera doesn’t have the battery or card in it! This is obviously the worst thing that can happen. Luckily as you are reading this you don’t have to learn the hard way like me and can fire off a test shot before leaving the house.

Load it up wit a clean card and full battery. You can also take spares of both just in case you run out, they’re fairly lightweight to carry. Attach your lens of choice and fire a test shot off just for good measure. This way you can guard against the embarrassingly stupid situation of arriving on scene and turning straight back around and going home because you didn’t prepare!

Decide what type of shots you want to take

On this day I decided that I wanted to do abstract images
Pictures of Strong Characters are a nice option

I find this helps as it gives me a point of focus. For example, if I’m going to a well lit area at night I might think that I would like a shot of a well lit building. Or I may think that today I want one cool street portrait. Even if you don’t get that shot or the shot isn’t that good it still gives you a point of focus which helps with the overall experience.

If you have a shot in mind and you really nail it then it is a great feeling. Also, if I have one particular shot I want I try to get that first. You can then try to get other shots that work with that image and build a set of images that carry an overall narrative. For example, I might get a rainy day shot of a lady with an umbrella. I can then look for a water drops on window shot and other shots that fit in with the rainy day story. I find it nicer to do things this way rather than randomly taking pictures.

Take a bottle of water

Of course you can buy one but I like to take one with me. As well as quenching your thirst you can also use it to pour out on the street and take a nice reflection of some lights if there is no water around. This technique works particularly well at night when there are some street lights around.

Be in a good mood and want to go and take street photos

I’m not sure if this is only applicable to me or everyone. I do find that when I force street photography upon myself, i.e. I go out and do it because I feel I should, then my images are usually bad or average.

If I compare my images that I take when I feel good there is a clear difference. Maybe I watched something to inspire me such as one of my favorite photographers on YouTube. There can be plenty of reasons for inspiration and feeling good and there tends to be a big difference in my pictures when I feel this way. As mentioned I am not sure if this the same for everyone. Some people might take better pictures when they feel bad. I take better images when I’m happy and enthusiastic about going to do street photography.

Travel Light

The things I have mentioned in this post are about everything you need for some street photography. You may think of a few others such as overalls if it is forecast for rain.

Generally I would warn against carrying a heavy bag primarily because you will be walking around a lot. It is more than likely that you will cover quite a few miles when doing street photography. You want this to be an enjoyable experience and it is not going to be if you have two days worth of stuff on your back. Just take what you strictly need and enjoy the experience.

Street Photography Essentials: Comfortable Trainers, GorrillaPod, Water, Small Camera, Phone, Waterproof jacket

Summary

So now you have a good idea how to prepare for street photography. Hopefully you will be ready and good to go once you get out on the street. Practice and expirment with different ideas, see what works and what doesn’t. Remember, street photography should be fun so go out and enjoy yourself!

Has this article helped you? Did I miss anything? What do you take with you when you go out shooting? Leave me a comment at the bottom of the page…

Recent Street Photography Articles

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *