Everything you need to know to get started in street photography (and to eventually master it)!

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What is street photography?

Street photography is the art of photographing strangers. It can be done in a public or semi-public space. At the park, beach, mall, subway, in the streets, in a library, hotel lobby, airport; any place where humans congregate.

With or without permission?

Either or.

Sometimes you ask for permission, sometimes you shoot candidly without permission. It depends more on the situation, your mood, and circumstance.

When I want to get hyper close and shoot a “street portrait“, I’ll ask for permission.

  • Street portrait with flash (Denver, 2019)

Why shoot street photography?

Berlin, 2019 — original photo

Now this is the real question:

Why shoot street photography? Why does street photography interest you? Why do you want to pursue it?

Reasons why you might want to shoot street photography:

  1. Your hunger for adventure (photographing strangers gives you a “sense of place”). Works well in travel street photography.
  2. The belief that there’s nothing more beautiful than humans. Therefore to photograph humans as the apex form of photography-art.
  3. The fun challenge and hormonal rush from shooting street photography: The great adrenaline rush from street photography.

The best camera for street photography

Street photography vertical
Shot on RICOH GR III x 21mm adapter

I’d recommend RICOH GR III or the iPhone Pro. The ideal is a camera which is small, compact, and always with you.

What’s the best lens or focal length for street photography?

Dark Skies Over Tokyo, 2017
Dark Skies Over Tokyo, 2017. RICOH GR II, 28mm, flash.

If you must choose a lens, use prime (non zoom) lenses. If you’re new, 35mm is ideal. 28mm for intermediate. 21mm for advanced street photographers.

I generally find the wider your lens, the more interestingly your street photos.

Who are the master street photographers I should study?

Josef Koudelka, from his “Exiles” book

Here is my list of master street photographers.

If you’re new or looking for inspiration, this is the order I would recommend:

  1. Josef Koudelka
  2. Henri Cartier-Bresson
  3. Richard Avedon
  4. W. Eugene Smith

Street photography techniques

  1. Shoot with a flash
  2. Fishing technique: Find an interesting background and wait for someone to enter the frame.
  3. Ask for permission: First compliment your subject then ask for permission to “make their portrait”.
  4. Pretend like you’re shooting something behind your subject.

What’s the best way to share my street photos?

Hanoi, 2019 hoan kiem lake
Hanoi, 2019

Start your own blog (WordPress.org or WordPress.com).

For feedback on your street photos, upload them to arsbeta.com (my photography feedback platform).

What makes a good street photograph?

Hanoi, 2017

A good street photo has drama, soul, simple yet dynamic form, and is open-ended to interpretation.

Hanoi, 2017

How to take your street photography to the next level

NYC, 2017
NYC, 2017 #pentax645z
  1. Shoot with a wider lens (and get closer to your subject).
  2. Experiment with digital medium format street photography (Pentax 645Z, Fujifilm GFX 50R/50S).
  3. Experiment and innovate with new and asymmetric street photography compositions: For example, tilt your camera in street photography [dutch angle], experiment with unique perspectives [super low angle].
  4. Create more layers, depth, and dynamism in your photos. For inspiration look at Alex Webb, Constantine Manos, and Nikos E.

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