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Street Photography Tips
Take Your Travel Photography to the Next Level!
Wherever in the world you choose to travel, there are always some interesting street photographs of the city. Think of it as snapping shots of whatever it is that piques your interest; food, people, shadows, objects – be confident and keep your camera ready. If travelling with expensive equipment, remember to cover it under your travel insurance and take lots of back up memory and extra battery packs with you.
Zoom in for Details
Look for things that are unusual or different, and you will create interesting street photographs, for example the local food markets offer many great opportunities. Many countries have markets that display their traditional fruits, vegetables, spices and fish. Use a standard lens or a macro lens to take a handheld image of around f/16 (provided it’s a bright day). Look for bright colors and interesting items that you don’t have at home. Don’t forget to ask for permission first!
Look for Shadows
As the end of the day draws near, look for interesting shadows and shapes to capture a dramatic street photograph. Make sure that the light source is behind your subject, in our case the bike riders, this way they will appear as black silhouettes. Remember to turn off the flash and use either spot or multi-zone metering mode. Take a reading of just the bright area and then point your camera at your subject and shoot!
Busy cities provide great opportunities to capture movement. If you can shoot from an elevated spot such as a building where you get a clear street view, use a standard or wide-angle lens and choose a slow shutter speed of 1/30 - 1 sec. Use a tripod or monopod, or you can use a wall to rest your camera on. Remember to use lines as a point of interest – markings on the roads or even traffic lights.
Objects could be anything from statues or fountains to other people’s belongings such as an interesting car or an old bicycle. Look for an interesting shape and color; where the baby blue contrasts with the red wall. Although the shot itself is standard, it’s the colors that create a ‘holiday in Havana’ feel. Alternatively use a wide-angle lens with a small depth of field and move closer to the vehicle, to create a sense of a larger than life car.
There are always interesting characters on the street. Remember first to ask permission, even if it is a street performer. It’s probably polite to give some coins! Photograph them doing whatever it is they do. If it’s an interesting looking person, try to capture their image looking natural and inattentive. However, try not to get people into silly poses. Keep the background as uncluttered as possible, although a shot with the subject’s belongings can be interesting.
Capture the Atmosphere
Look out for crowds of people and action! Street performers and street parades are quite common in cities that have a lot of tourists. Use a standard lens and get close to the action, if possible try to get in front of the crowds. Turn the mode dial to TV or S (Shutter Priority) mode so you can control how you freeze the action. Use a fast shutter speed of around 1/500th of a second. Set the focus mode to continuous focusing (AI Servo AF Canon/AF-C Nikon) so that the lens can constantly maintain its focus on the street performers. Experiment with angles and get low on the ground and make sure you get as much of the performer into the scene as possible.
If you are photographing people in context of the landscape, choose a standard lens and use a speed of 1/250th of a second, around f/8 on a bright day. If you are capturing fast moving action, use flash or push the shutter speed up to 1/500 – 1/1000th of a second. If you want to emphasize movement, slow the shutter to 1/30th of a second using shutter priority and pan passers by or the traffic.
You can be creative with your equipment for street photography. Use a telephoto lens for photographing people inconspicuously and a wide-angle for the landscape shots. A standard lens or a wide angle zoom is a great choice if you want to focus on various things. A monopod is useful for shooting fast moving action and it's also a lot lighter and relatively easier to carry around than a sturdy tripod. Carry all your equipment in a padded photographic backpack.
Travelling is the ideal time to have your camera poised for action. Remember to be polite and ask for permission if photographing someone or their belongings. Generally you need to use a fast shutter speed in order to avoid blur. Remember to keep an eye on your belongings at all times and keep them secure in crowded areas. Tourists with expensive equipment are prime targets for theives. Remember to enjoy yourself and capture the essence of the place you are visiting.