If I started street photography all over again, this is advice I would have given myself:
1. Shoot in P (program) mode
Just stick to P (program) mode and keep your ISO at 1600. Why? You are less likely to miss the “decisive moment.”
2. Zone focusing for slow autofocus cameras
If your camera has autofocus and it is quite reliable, just use center point autofocus. If your autofocus is very slow and unreliable, use “zone focusing”, which is pre-focusing to a certain distance, and consistently shooting at that distance at a relatively small aperture like f8-f16.
3. What camera should I use for street photography?
Just use the simplest, smallest, and most convenient camera for you. That might just be shooting with a phone.
4. Don’t just take 1-2 photos and run away. Take a few shots and linger.
If you see a good street photography moment, take a few shots, and hang around and LINGER for a while, and keep shooting. The biggest mistake we make in Street Photography is to run away after just one or two shots.
My practical suggestion:
When in doubt, shoot 25% more pictures.
Why? It will force you to push yourself forward, and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Often, the more you shoot, the more your subject will notice you. Therefore, you are more likely to get eye contact, or some interaction with your subject, which often makes a more interesting image.
5. Integrate yourself into the crowd
I like shooting street pictures of many people. When doing this, I try to integrate myself in the crowd, and get lost in the sea of people.
Strangely enough, the closer I am to people, the more relaxed I am. I feel one with the people.
6. The closer you are, the less creepy you are
This is a strange lesson I learned:
The closer you are to your subject in street photography, the less creepy you will be perceived. And the less creepy you will feel.
Why? If you’re shooting at a close distance, you’re signaling to your subject and yourself that you’re not doing anything wrong. And you’re not.
So when in doubt, use a wide-angle lens, like a 28mm lens, and get VERY CLOSE to your subjects, around 1 meter (two arm lengths away or closer). Also get close to your subjects not just physically, but EMOTIONALLY.
With physical proximity comes emotional proximity.
7. Ask for permission
A good lesson from STREET NOTES:
When in doubt, ask for permission.
Why permission? You empower your subject. You give them the option to say “yes” or “no.”
Often, you also get interesting interactions. Sometimes you chat with them, and learn more about their life.
For me, I prefer the conversation with a stranger over the picture. I use the picture-taking as an excuse to interact with strangers.
When asking for permission, tell your subject why you want to photograph them. Tell them that you think they look beautiful. That you like their fashion, look, or how they carry themselves. Or that you like their face.
8. Direct your subject
If you see an interesting subject, you can direct them. Ask them to look straight into the lens, up, down, left, or right. Shoot some pictures with flash, and some without.
To shoot a silhouette of your subject in street photography, use P mode, and use -1 or -2 exposure compensation, and shoot them against the sun, to get dramatic silhouettes.
Or shoot at night, through windows.
10. Just shoot
Don’t think about composition when you’re out shooting street photography, if you’re just starting off. Just shoot.
Often I hesitate too much before shooting, because I want to get the “perfect” composition.
Better to capture the moment and have an imperfect composition, than to never capture it in the first place.
Just follow your instincts and guts. Just click.
11. Tilt your camera
Define street photography for yourself. Have fun. Don’t take this too seriously.
Ignore the definitions people give “Street Photography” online. Define it for yourself.
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BOOKS by ERIC KIM
Feed your hunger to learn:
- PHOTOGRAPHY ENTREPRENEURSHIP MANUAL by ERIC KIM
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- THE PHOTOGRAPHER by ERIC KIM
- The Photography Manual
- The Art of Street Photography
- 100 Lessons From the Masters of Street Photography
- The Art of Photography
- Zen Photography
- Photography by Eric Kim
- Street Photography by Eric Kim
- Personal Photography Manual
- Street Photography Contact Sheets Volume II
- Street Photography Contact Sheets Volume I
- Street Photography Composition Manual
- Street Portrait Manual
- How to Shoot Street Photography
- Street Photography 101
- Street Photography 102
- Color Manual
- Monochrome Manual
- 31 Days to Overcome Your Fear in Street Photography
- Letters From a Street Photographer
- Street Photography Aphorisms, Heuristics, and Sayings
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STREET NOTES will take your street photography to the next level.
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