How to Shoot from the Hip


In street photography, one of the popular techniques that photographers employ is “shooting from the hip.” To sum it up, “shooting from the hip” it is holding your camera at wait-level, and shooting upwards without looking through the viewfinder. One of the reasons why this technique is widely popular is because it allows you to take much more candid images of people, as they do not see you shooting them with your eye through your viewfinder, and assume you aren’t taking images. Another thing is that when shooting from the hip, you often get a much more interesting perspective as you shoot from a much lower perspective.

Although there are some individuals who are opposed to shooting from the hip and consider it as the “easy way out,” simply disregard their words. As you will soon find out, framing while shooting from the hip is very difficult when starting off. For every 100 shots you take shooting from the hip, you will probably only get 5-10 or so “decently” framed images.

Although I do not use shooting from the hip as my primary type of street photography, I will try my best to walk you through how you can effectively shoot from the hip and get amazing candid images of people.

1. Use a wide-angle lens

Pushing Along Shooting From the Hip Street Photography
Notice how the wide-angle draws you into the scene

This is where most people mess up when trying to shoot from the hip. Assuming that you have a 1.6x crop DSLR, you are going to have a near-impossible time shooting from the hip with a 50mm. It is simply too close of a focal length to effectively capture images from the hip.

Rather, you should use something along the lines of a 17mm lens on a crop-sensor (24-28mm on a full-frame). First, this will allow you to get a much wider perspective, which gives you a much higher likelihood of capturing your subject in the scene. Not only that, but shooting with a wide-angle allows the viewer to feel as they are “part of the scene,” as wide-angle lenses give that effect.

2. Do not look at your camera while shooting

The man had no idea I took an image of him

When you are shooting from the hip, your primary goal is most-likely to capture candid images of people. Therefore if you walk around and shoot from the hip while looking directly at your camera, naturally people will be drawn much more to your camera.

So when you are walking past people and shooting from the hip, keep your eyes locked forward and also prevent making eye contact with your subjects. This way you will be nearly invisible to those around you.

3. Use a small aperture and fast shutter speed

Capture those beautiful moments of everyday life, candid. Note how the image is well in-focus

When shooting from the hip, you want to use a small aperture and fast shutter speed to make sure your subject is in-focus and not blurry as well. When shooting in bright daylight, I use manual settings and shoot an aperture of f/16 , a shutter speed of around 320ths of a second, and an ISO of 400. If your images are a bit too bright, shoot with a shutter speed of 500ths of a second. If your images are a bit dark, I would boost the ISO to 800 or 1600 (when it starts to get really dark).

I also try to avoid shooting from the hip when it is nighttime. The reason is that often when it is night, it is difficult to get a small enough aperture/fast enough shutter speed.

4. Prefocus your lens

I could have not gotten this image if I had not pre-focused it.

If you are shooting from the hip, the best way to make sure your images are in-focus is to “pre-focus” your lens before shooting. In order to do this, stand in front of a wall and judge how close you want to be to people once you shoot from the hip. Once you have measured that distance you are comfortable with, focus your lens manually on that wall and keep it there. Then once you are walking by people and shooting from the hip, your subjects should be in focus.

Also don’t hesitate to experiment with your focusing ring. If your images turn out out-of-focus, change your focus manually and keep adjusting until your images turn out clear.

5. Take a ton of photos

Keep shooting.

Shooting from the hip takes a ton of practice, so do not feel disheartened when the majority of your images are out of focus, blurry, of just framed incorrectly. I know it is cliché, but practice truly does make perfect. Take hundreds upon hundreds of photos when shooting from the hip, and experiment with different techniques. Try shooting from a lower angle like from your legs, or even higher at your chest. Shoot with your camera dangling by your side in a vertical format, and shoot from your hip when passing people who are sitting down. The possibilities are endless and after much practice, you will master shooting from the hip.

How to Shoot From the Hip [Video]

So I got a question for yall– what tips do you have to the aspiring street photographer on shooting from the hip?