101 Things I Have Learned about Street Photography

In lieu of the popularity of my last post about the “100 Things I Have Learned about Photography,” I decided to make a new list that pertains to street photography specifically. Also if you don’t know, I am currently writing a book titled: “Street Photography 101,” and the excerpts are being posted here. This new list is a homage to the Street Photography 101 book that I am writing.

Note that there is some overlap of some of these points with the previous list that I wrote, but I thought it may be essential for new-readers to note. Also, feel free to critique, comment, and share this list with anybody you want. I would love to hear your feedback.

1x1.trans 101 Things I Have Learned about Street Photography

1. Don’t worry about the camera so much, just take the damn photo.
2. Ditch the zoom lens and screw on some primes
3. Carry your camera gear in a messenger bag  (it makes your camera & lenses easier to access).
4. Go for the candid look.
5. Go for the shock factor.
6. Smile often.
7. When shooting from the hip, your first 1000 shots will be terrible.
8. Don’t make eye contact with your subjects when trying to be discrete.
9. Imagine that the world is your stage and people are your actors.
10.  Feel free to ask people to take their portraits.
11.  Try to refrain from taking photos of the homeless (as most shots can be considered as merely exploitation).
12.  Crouch when taking your shots, it often makes for more interesting photos.
13.  Get close. Now take two steps closer.
14.  Shoot with an all-black camera with your logos taped up with black tape (to make your camera look more discrete).
15.  Go explore—serendipity is key.
16.  The less planning, the better.
17.  Ideal exposure for a bright sunny day: f/16, ISO 400, 320th/second.
18.  Pretend like you’re taking a photo of something else.
19.  Be respectful.
20.  Change your lenses to re-inspire.

1x1.trans 101 Things I Have Learned about Street Photography

"The Conductor" - Downtown Los Angeles

21.  Follow your own style, not trends.
22.  Don’t worry about the fear of shooting in public. It will go away over time.
23.  In my 4 years of street photography, I have only had two people to ask me not to take a photo of them. (Your experiences will most-likely be similar)
24.  Most people like getting their photo taken.
25.  If a policeman asks you to delete a photo, tell him that you know your rights and refuse to do so. (edit 9-29-10)
26.  There are no rules in street photography.
27.  Always bring your camera with you everywhere you go. EVERYWHERE.
28.  Don’t take photos, tell stories.
29.  Limit the number of street photographs you see from the internet. The more you see, the less you will value your own.
30.  You will be called by others as “weird” for your street photography. Ignore them.
31.  Look for the beauty in the mundane.
32.  Take photos that make people laugh.
33.  Street photography is best experienced alone.
34.  Constantly experiment and innovate.
35.  Street photography doesn’t always have to be in black and white (although sometimes it does look better).
36.  Grain is beautiful.
37.  Hold your camera with your hand, not your neck.
38.  Don’t be afraid of offending people. Most likely you won’t.
39.  “The night is often more vivid than the day” – Van Gogh
40.  Some of the meanest looking people can be the nicest.

1x1.trans 101 Things I Have Learned about Street Photography

"The Faces" - Paris, France

41.  Don’t make excuses. Make photos.
42.  Never delete any of your photos. Some of the technically-off images make the best street photos (think blurry, grainy, or dark images).
43.  Always keep your eyes open for the “Decisive Moment”.
44.  If you think your photos are boring, they most likely are.
45.  Street photography summed up in one sentence: “I could have taken that photo but I didn’t”
46.  The quieter your camera, the better.
47.  Don’t be sneaky.
48.  Wide Angle > Telephoto for street photography
49.  Everybody in the streets has a story to tell.
50.  Street photography is not just about the photos, but the experiences.
51.  You don’t need to be in Paris to take great street photographs. Your backyard is equally as good.
52.  See life through the eyes of your subjects.
53.  A well-cropped image can often tell a better story.
54.  Juxtapose.
55.  Look for the light.
56.  Go off the beaten path.
57.  Have the mind of a child and wander. This is how you will find your best photographs.
58.  Only show your best photographs. This will strengthen your images.
59.  If someone says that you are “really lucky,” slap them.
60.  The more photos you take, the better.

1x1.trans 101 Things I Have Learned about Street Photography

"Gloom" - Seoul, Korea

61.  Your subjects are people, not prey.
62.  Spread the love of street photography with your friends and family.
63.  Less is more.
64.  Get meaningful critique of your street photography from an online community. It will help you tremendously.
65.  Street photographs are subjective.
66.  Look at what other people aren’t looking at.
67.  Do not stress over amazing shots that you may have missed. Simply more on and strive to take a better shot.
68.  Create a series or a theme for your street photographs. They will help create a style for you.
69.  See with your eyes, not your camera.
70.  There is no such thing as the “perfect photo”.
71.  Timing is key.
72.  You don’t have to take a photo of everything. Don’t feel guilty for just enjoying the moment.
73.  If you are a beginner, don’t worry about the settings too much. Just toss your camera on auto mode and go shooting.
74.  Don’t look for photo opportunities. Have them find you.
75.  Children cannot see your camera.
76.  If you ask to take a portrait of a stranger on the street, ask them for their email so you can send them their image. (they will love it).
77.  Don’t forget to look up and down.
78.  No subject is too ordinary to shoot.
79.  Always carry a spare battery and memory card on hand. This has saved my ass half a million times.

1x1.trans 101 Things I Have Learned about Street Photography

"Dizzy" - London, UK

80.  Don’t be afraid to push your ISO higher.
81.  Learn how to shoot without using the viewfinder and make it a second-instinct. Thus also…
82.  Practice shooting from the hip.
83.  You will never encounter the same shot twice. Now swallow that fact and digest it.
84.  Street photography is a lot like swimming. You have to do it to truly learn it.
85.  Draw inspiration from other photographs, don’t steal them.
86.  Street photography is a lot like fishing. Sometimes you catch a whole bunch, sometimes you catch none.
87.  Getting one or two keeps from an entire day of shooting is a good number.
88.  If someone asks you to delete a photo of them, just do it. It isn’t worth the trouble.
89.  Be smart: ie don’t go shooting in the hood by yourself at night with hundred dollars worth of camera gear.
90.  Some street photographs just look better in color. Don’t overlook this.
91.  There are always photo opportunities regardless of where you are.
92.  Less is more.
93.  A street photograph is worth an essay.
94.  Public transportation is a gold mine for street photography. Learn how to use it.
95.  Always keep at least two backups of all your images. Technology is unreliable.
96.  Keep a journal of your shooting experiences. Track your thoughts and development as a street photographer.
97.  Get lost in your photography and lose track of time.
98.  Think before you shoot.
99.  Have fun.
100. Live life.
101. Just do it.

1x1.trans 101 Things I Have Learned about Street Photography

"Contemplation" - Paris, France

Upcoming Street Photography Workshops

If you want to conquer your fears and meet new peers, join me in Singapore, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Sydney, Melbourne, San Francisco, Stockholm, London, Portland, Chicago, Toronto, and New York City:

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  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattbharding/ Matt Harding

    Thanks for your inspiration and generosity! It is people like you that make the world go round.

    I love your work and your approach so much that I will probably be buying a wide-angle prime, hand strap and messenger bag in the next week. Looking forward to the adventure!

    Cheers,
    Matt.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Hey Matt,

      Had a quick peek at your Flickr and you are a truly amazing photographer as well. I am glad to hear that you are enjoying my articles–feel free to subscribe and stay tuned!

      Also you definitely gotta get a wide-angle prime, hand strap, and messenger bag! It shouldn’t be too expensive, and it will do a lot for your photography :)

      Take care,
      Eric

  • Christine

    “Children cannot see your camera”
    Haha I love that.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      True that :)

    • medmed

      that may be true but shooting at children is the most difficult for me in street photography.
      can’t avoid thinking it might be misinterpreted…

      • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

        Argh–it can be tough in today’s world now :/

  • Harry Stone

    Yo Eric,

    Great stuff and inspirational for sure, but you are a great craftsman as well. It’s what sets you apart from many other photographic artists who record those discreet, decisive fractions of seconds that so often pass unobserved. Your images are far less accidental or fortunate then they seem at first glance. I believe you’ve staked out your hunting ground and have observed it well. Your highlight and shadow detail, your placement of tones, your critical focus and composition are too consistantly excellent. I can’t wait to read your book. I hope you include your thought processes on the time you spend long before and long after the split-second of the capture.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Hey Harry,

      I am quite humbled by your thoughtful comment. I definitely try my best to catch the “decisive moment” while carefully composing my images. Comments like yours truly inspire me to continue to work harder in my photography, as well as continue writing my book on street photography. Please stay in touch and I will try my best to let you know once my book is out :)

  • Jen M

    Excellent post ~ keeping posting! Very much inspired!

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Thanks Jen! Glad to have you here :)

  • jini

    had been a while since i visited your blog. am very surprised to see it’s looking better than ever (and ever so popular!!)

    lookin’ good, friend. thanks for the great black and whites. im gonna link this to my mom right now. she loves black and white photos. haha.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      :) anytime! Let me know if you ever want any more photos ;)

  • http://www.85mm.ch Thomas Leuthard (85mm)

    Dear Eric

    You bring it to the point. I love streets and I will always do. Thanks for the 101 things, I fully agree. Maybe you should add that you should wear clean underwear if you get run over by a car or bus…

    Best regards from Switzerland

    Thomas Leuthard (85mm)

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  • http://www.jaimiedeephotography.com Jaimie Dee – Atlanta Wedding Photographer

    Wow this is so awesome! I’ve done this before with a friend once or twice. But I felt incredibly weird doing it! I had no idea it was actually a whole genre of photography! Very nice! I’ll have to look more into this later!! Thanks for posting. :)

  • http://www.kbtimages.co.uk Kevin Thornhill

    A very enjoyable read, thanks for sharing your enthusiasm for the topic.

  • http://www.thelongestwayhome.com/blog/ Dave from The Longest Way Home

    Very nice list, that many people should read.

    Would disagree about allowing the police to delete an image. It’s destroying evidence. And, they get about will bullying photographers too much at the moment anyway.

    Dave

  • http://www.uctstudent.com/blog RichardAtUCT

    Really great list! I’ve been thinking of going out and about in Cape Town, you’ve just inspired me to actually do it!

  • shrestha das

    hey eric,
    i am an amateur photgrapher and i like clickin all kinds of pictures, from street to indoor. but u just inspired me with your photographs. loved it big time. :)

  • Niklas

    Less is more twice…
    Great tips!! :)

    • http://www.thisisjoe.net YJawhar

      I was just about to mention that, I opened the search bar to make sure it was mentioned twice, to find out that you mentioned it before I did!! :P

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/exi87/ Jaap Barnhoorn

      Yes! :)
      It’s a very useful tip, so I don’t mind.
      You have to keep looking around, not shooting around.
      You’ll miss a great deal if you look through your viewfinder only.

      Great tips Eric!

  • http://www.photographybytanya.shutterfly.com tanya

    LOL…#22 & #29 sum it up for me. Those two points are my weakness just in general. Haven’t really done much street photography.

  • http://highmaintenancewoman.blogspot.com MizzJ

    Awesome tips! As an utter newbie to photography, this post is quite inspiring!

  • Debosmita

    i’m an amateur from Kolkata, India. n ur suggestions r really helpful.

  • http://www.tommykellner.com Tommy Kellner

    … thanks for sharing, very encouraging – which I need to start with

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Anytime Tommy! Feel free to stop by anytime soon :)

  • http://thundaxsoftware.blogspot.com/ Jordi

    Amazing tips!. I’ll take into consideration all your suggestions.
    thanks for sharing.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      No problem Jordi :)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/63032604@N00/ Harry Ravelo

    Dear Eric,

    Thank you very much for sharing these tips. Great great read! I recently went on a trip to Barcelona and Paris and tried to take street photos. Besides my obvious lack of practice, I couldn’t understand why most of my pics were not sharp. Now that I read your article I know I shouldn’t play around too much with a telezoom and rather use a prime lens. Also taking pics of strangers is still very daunting to me. I will definitely practice taking them from the hip. Many thanx again and keep up the amazing work!!

    Harry.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Hey Harry,

      Glad to hear your experiences! Hopefully the next time you are in Europe–you can def use those tips!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/50033037@N08/ Hester

    Thanks for sharing! “There are always photo opportunities regardless of where you are.” is my fav quote!

  • http://wollollo.tumblr.com Martin

    I use #18 (pretend to be shooting something else) all the time. I am fairly new both to street photography and photography in general, and I don’t really have the courage to let people know I’m taking their picture. My solution: go to some touristy place (I’m in London, plenty to choose from…) where people are taking pictures everywhere and all the time anyways, and pretend I am shooting the statue in the background.

  • http://pavandaxini17.blogspot.com Pavan Daxini

    Great tips :-)
    Can’t wait to get my hands on the book now!

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  • Jen M

    Hi Kim,

    Revisiting this post. Re: #59. If someone says that you are “really lucky,” slap them.
    What do you mean by this?

    Thanks and have a great weekend!

  • http://www.flickr.com/mistersimbol Ric Simbol

    Eric,
    I had a lot of reflections after reading through this. Thanks for being an inspiration to street photography and I found my love for it again!

    Ric

  • http://www.alexwisephotography.net/blog/ Alex Wise

    Some great tips there. Thanks for sharing! I’ve always wanted to further develop my street photography but it’s so challenging.

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  • http://www.dipeshpatel.com Dipesh Patel

    Hello Eric,

    I have always been very keen on photography. By profession I am in IT but i have been clicking lot of photos from my iPhone and Sony camera. I liked your thoughts and passion about photography. I also have a website called http://www.24x7photography.com where we manage images from people who like to add on the internet.
    Just like any other individual I would like to know, which camera is ideal for long run photography passion.

    Looking forward to hear from you.

    Dipesh

  • http://www.bristolgamer.com/ Simon

    Love this article – thanks!

    I am just starting out and point 22 is very pertinent to me. For the first couple of weeks I hated going out alone (“people are staring at me”) but I am slowly over coming this. I now try to just blend in.

    I have taken mostly street scenes and buildings/landscapes – not daring to venture into taking pictures of people yet – that’s the next step for me!

  • http://www.flickr.com/ovahamer Ova

    Good stuff. To me Street Photography is like a Rally Race without a co-driver.

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  • chispa

    I’ve made copies of both lists and am sticking them in my notebook. Thanks.
    I notice from my street excursions that people tend to look at your face more than they do your hands, so a small camera goes unnoticed. I know that when I look at people I look at their eyes and not so much what they are carrying. The exception is loud shirts, punk hair styles and other body ornaments that draw attention – so, dressing for the neighborhood you are in draws less attention.

  • http://www.moushphotography.wordpress.com Moush

    Inspirational and educational all at once. Street photography is daunting no matter where you are, but I guess in places like London its more easily doable. Having lived in Dubai for a long time and now in Toronto, I am still getting used to the fact that you DO NOT need permission to shoot people. If they expressedly show contempt or unwillingness it is a different matter. Personally I am very conscious while shooting strangers and most of the time I ask, but I know I need to be much bolder if I want any success in this . . .

  • Steve Huff

    Very funny … Number 47 “don’t be sneaky” comes straight after number 46 “the quieter your camera the better” and probably just after an article on how to be an unobtrusive, “invisible” street photographer !!

    • http://erickimphotography.com/blog Eric Kim

      A bit contradictory huh Steve? ;)

  • Steve Huff

    Very funny … Number 47 “don’t be sneaky” comes straight after number 46 “the quieter your camera the better” and probably just after an article on how to be an unobtrusive, “invisible” street photographer !!

  • BRMC

    63. Less is more.
    92. Less is more.
    42. Never delete any of your photos.

    98. Think before you shoot.
    73. If you are a beginner, don’t worry about the settings too much. Just toss your camera on auto mode and go shooting.

    12. Crouch when taking your shots, it often makes for more interesting photos.

    25. If a policeman asks you to delete a photo, tell him that you know your rights and refuse to do so. (edit 9-29-10)
    88. If someone asks you to delete a photo of them, just do it. It isn’t worth the trouble.

    You are an absolut idiot. Thank you for that, that was very funny.

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  • http://adisuryadiphoto.tumblr.com/ Adi Suryadi

    1-100 < 101

  • Raj

    this is really a gr8 tips for beginners … thanks for sharing Eric………

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  • Chakravarthi Suchindran

    you mean “discreet” dont you? eg: “8. Don’t make eye contact with your subjects when trying to be discrete.” :-)

  • Vicki~

    Why slapping the less lucky people on the street?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/dokter.william William Jusuf

    great insight as always

    about this points..
    If someone says that you are “really lucky,” slap them

    well.. it always happen to me , Eric …
    I wont slap any of those so called photography Guru …

    I simply nod , smile and say to them..
    well, I think I am just one lucky bastard with camera on the right time in the right moment

  • http://nulledshare.com/ebooks/ online money

    You really make it appear so easy along with your presentation but I in finding this topic to be really something which I believe I’d by no means understand. It sort of feels too complex and very vast for me. I’m looking ahead on your next submit, I
    will try to get the dangle of it!

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  • Nick Name

    “Be smart: ie don’t go shooting in the hood by yourself at night with hundred dollars worth of camera gear.” Eric, I don’t own a camera that’s worth a hundred dollars. The simplest configuration I can bring (camera body with a 35mm prime) is worth at least two thousand dollars.

  • Lawrence James

    Some really inspirational insights for us beginners.

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