Tips for Street Photography

July 17, 2012

in Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials

I Heart Faces Street Photography Tips


This is the year of challenging myself.   I’ve had this nagging photography void that I couldn’t figure out until I saw an article in the paper last year about Vivian Maier. Vivian Maier’s story is incredible (please Google her).  The gist of her story is she was a street photographer who started in the 1950’s but remained unknown until after her death when she was discovered by chance. I purchased her book of images and knew that was what I was missing.  I pride myself on capturing candid moments of children and families, but this takes candid to a whole new level.  This truly is everyday life captured.  This is street photography.

Street photography is the rawest capture of human life that we all have access to.  But it isn’t as easy as just picking up your camera, stepping outside and randomly shooting.  There’s a lot to learn and a lot of failing in this art form. Think about it.  You are literally taking your camera, hitting the pavement and photographing  random strangers as they go about their lives and they aren’t stopping for you.

It’s intimidating.  Scary.  Extremely bold. Yet unbelievably satisfying and inspirational.

I recently went to my most favorite city on earth (next to NY of course), London.  I picked a few extremely crowded locations and spent a few hours each day documenting London street life.

Here are my tips for delving into the world of street photography:

Shoot with a wide lens.

Two very popular lenses to shoot with for street photography are the 50mm and 35mm.  A lot of hardcore street photographers feel that using zoom lenses is cheating but even more important in my mind, it is a bit creepy.  There is a sneaky element to the zoom. I’d much prefer being closer and have someone ask me what I am doing, than look like some stalker with a huge zoom.  So think about shooting with a 50mm or 35mm.  All of these images in this tutorial are shot with a 50mm.
I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

Forget about bokeh.

Remember, you are capturing life on the street as it’s seen happening.  Anyone ever look down a street and see bokeh? Exactly.  Besides, you want the buildings, cars and everything else to be in focus in addition to your human subject so you get a complete picture of the neighborhood and time period you are shooting in.

I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

Blend in.

Go where there is a lot of action to help blend better.  Don’t wear any screaming bright colors or anything that makes you stand out like a sore thumb.  I equate it to how wedding photographers operate.   You do not want to stand out and BE the subject.  You want to capture the subject.

I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

Shoot what interests you.

Photograph faces that have character.
I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

Shoot contrasts (like the tired waiter on a break while leisurely shopping is going on around him). PS: Everyone smokes in London.
I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

I love finding people so involved with their task at hand that they don’t even notice I am right. in. their. face.  This subject was so into writing I was literally two feet away from him and phtoographed this at all different angles.  Even in Piccadilly Circus where it is jam packed and not quiet at all, he never lifted his head.  I would have loved to know what it was he was writing.

I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

Up close with the tourists.  I practically was reading the map with them!   Remember I had no zoom, just a 50mm.

I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

Capture what is going on right there, right now.

With the Olympics coming up for this city, the hustle bustle and construction is near sensory overload.  The locals normally deal a lot with overcrowded tourist areas, and now they have to navigate through construction at every turn.  Loved this gentleman’s face as he walked through one site.  Says it all.

I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

Look up down and all around.

Life isn’t just happening at eye level.  It’s happening up on buildings, down on the ground, on a subway platform overhead or at hip level (I love the WAIT signals in London.  So to the point.)  Again, as with all photography, be very aware of all the angles you can shoot.

I Heart Faces Street Photography Tutorial

Be prepared for failure.

I’ll tell you this- I shot over 500 images and I ‘kept’ about 25 from my trip. Why? You cannot predict when something interesting will happen or someone will present themselves to you.  It’s hard enough in a controlled environment like a house, but out on the streets, nearly impossible.  Yes I kicked myself on a few out of focus shots, it just moved super quick even at my 500 shutter speed. Or someone would cut me off, and I got a back of a coat versus what I was going for.  It happens.  Shrug it off and be patient, because another interesting subject is literally right around the corner.

Be sure to continue this series by reading Street Photography Etiquette.

Jennifer Tonetti-Spellman for I Heart FacesJennifer Tonetti-Spellman is a die-hard, natural light, lifestyle photographer in New York who loves to search for the light. Like her on Facebook to continue being inspired by her beautiful work!

 

 

 

 

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{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

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Ndoro Kakung November 5, 2012

Baca ah… @peksicahyo: Ciyus Keyen nih » @iheartfaces: Tips for Street Photography http://t.co/tbvjARM9

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Kimberly October 15, 2012

Thank you so much for turning me onto Vivian Maier. I have been reluctant, yet wanting, to shoot street photography for about a year now. Vivian’s work is truly inspiring!! Words cannot explain how much. Maybe this will be the inspiration I needed to step this far outside of my comfort zone. Your words are also inspiring and motivating. Thank you again.

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Maria Firkaly October 15, 2012

I am not a photographer, I’m a chick with a camera who likes the way things look. I was contacted a few months ago by a local group to take photos at events in my area, mostly candids and mainly faces. It has been a challenging adventure. I’m not sure if you can classify it as “Street Photography”, I have a press pass, I’m allowed access to many areas. I like to try and blend in to get the most interesting shots. I have found it amusing that when people notice me with the camera, they automatically “pose”. People are funny.
It has made me appreciate the art of Street Photography and want to do more on my own. (And yes, I’d do black and white for those.)
This is an album I did this weekend .. the 58 out of the 300 I actually took.
http://reprints.goerie.com/mycapture/enlarge.asp?image=44208616&event=1549995&CategoryID=60276

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Caroline (Frogmum/TMFH) August 14, 2012

I love street photography ~ there is something deliciously insular about it (for me anyway), as well as eye-opening.

Here’s some sets I’ve taken ; http://bit.ly/RcTfJF, http://bit.ly/RcTjsE, & most recently ~ http://bit.ly/TpJCVp

I’m not very brave (yet), so they’re more about the city ‘texture’ than about the people, but there are a few ‘people’ shots in there. Either way they do portray the feel of each place (I think).

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Greg Dreyfus August 5, 2012

A great post with good suggestions "Tips for Street Photography, Part I": http://t.co/zSR51o4k

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jen July 29, 2012

i too have been intrigued in street photography since reading about vivian maier. her story amazes me. i would LOVE to try this. someday. thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.

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Lowepro July 25, 2012

Tips for Street #Photography http://t.co/Iq3bPtvu

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Michelle McDaid July 24, 2012

LOVED this and loved seeing my home city captured on this post. Made me so homesick. Although I challenge the notion that “everyone smokes in London”: not true!

I have been trying to get up the nerve to do this myself for some time and you’ve inspired me. Great tip on which lens to use (I would have totally picked a zoom but now realize why I should/would not.)

Thanks!

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Kimberly July 24, 2012

Love all the great advice! I’ve been itching to do street photography for a long time now, but you hit the nail on the head when you said that it’s intimidating and scary. I definitely feel a little more confident now about it and can’t wait to take my camera to the streets.
:o)

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Jennifer July 24, 2012

Leilani- the 2nd part of this series just went live where I speak to just that! Check it out… and in a nutshell, I don’t ask, but I certainly am not sneaky or deceptive about it. I tend to shoot first and answer questions if they have any later 😉

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Leilani Rogers, Photographer July 22, 2012

Love this – I’m curious as to your subjects’ reaction to you photographing them, though. Has anyone ever gotten upset? Do you ask before you shoot? I’d think that would disrupt the rawness of it. Thanks for sharing!

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Photography Office July 21, 2012

Tips for Street Photography #photography http://t.co/VYopfqJP

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Rasha Yousif July 21, 2012

A great post with good suggestions "Tips for Street Photography, Part I": http://t.co/F4s3mbpK

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Jennifer July 20, 2012

Thanks for the feedback Bobi and glad it resonated with you. Stay tuned for next week’s follow up!

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Bobi July 20, 2012

loved this post. I found it met quite a few of my issues upon my first attempt at street photography. in fact those photos no longer exist. anyhow it’s a very challenging art to photograph people who won’t stop for you or who would rather not be photographed by some stranger. thanks for the post very good read. I love the photo of the guy who was writing and you got so close in the composition is absolutely perfect.

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Life In LoFi July 19, 2012

A great post with good suggestions "Tips for Street Photography, Part I": http://t.co/zSR51o4k

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Christy Harper July 18, 2012

wonderful article!! Thanks for sharing :)

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Jennifer July 18, 2012

Dave to me street photography is quite simply photo journalism. If you look up Vivien Maier as just one of many (I suggested above), you can see this has been a very real art form for quite a while now. I don’t feel obligated to say ‘hey I’m taking your picture now’ as that defeats the whole purpose. When I do street photography I am capturing real life happening that catches my personal eye. I have my own limits- some have no limits. I don’t film children or homeless people. Plenty of street photographers do. I address those points next week. I also don’t claim to be a street photographer. I am a lifestyle photographer who enjoys telling stories from the street… it’s my own personal journey as a photographer in which I am constantly challenging myself. Here’s a great video that explains more about what drives street photography. Hopefully this link works. http://vimeo.com/6497905

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Dave July 18, 2012

It seems to me you are obligated — socially if not legally — to ask people who are less than 10′ or so away from you if they mind having their photo taken. I hope you address this next week. (Bill Cunningham gets away with because he’s a “journalist.”)

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Theodore (Ted) Stark July 18, 2012

Tips for Street Photography http://t.co/FrwmMsNR

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Photography Office July 18, 2012

An Introduction to Street Photography – {Photography Tips} http://t.co/Dn3jO1ZT

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Jennifer July 18, 2012

Hey folks it’s Jennifer from JellyBean jumping on to say thanks so much for the feedback and to answer/address a few comments: @Emily/Janet- sorry my answer was buried, but yes, I talk about the legalities next week in the do’s/dont’s so stay tuned :)… @Denzil- you are 100% correct on specifying full or cropped sensor, oversight on my part so thank you for bringing it up. I shoot full frame, so crop sensor shooters should try out 35mm and wider. @Jean, thank you so much. Coming from a photographer whose work I follow and admire, it means a ton!

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Daniel Nahabedian July 18, 2012

RT @canvasoflight: An Introduction to Street Photography – {Photography Tips} | http://t.co/BZC4h4Ab #Photography

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Mariah July 18, 2012

I’m a huge fan of Vivian Maier’s work, beautiful and rich photos!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on street photography and your photos as well, so encouraging.

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Jean Smith July 17, 2012

Awesome and refreshing article! I am a huge fan of Vivian Meier…went to her exhibit in Chicago. Your images rock and your words were fabulous. Thanks!

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Denzil Jennings July 17, 2012

Great article. One thing that I think needs to be clarified is whether or not you are referring to a full frame camera or a crop sensor. A 50mm lens is closer to an 85mm lens on a crop, which some would argue is not shooting wide at all.

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Emily Annette July 17, 2012

I was happily surprised to see this post when I got on the site today! I’ve always been fascinated with street photography, but I never understood how you were to go about it, or what the etiquette was when shooting strangers, as Janet said. (And my guess is that it will be addressed in the next one, since it’s the “do’s and don’t’s”.)

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Angie July 17, 2012

Great street photography tips from Jennifer of Jellybean Pics on @iheartfaces: http://t.co/FB5R8wIq Really enjoyed this article!

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Leilani Holmes July 17, 2012

RT @JonathanCRiley: RT Tips for Street Photography Photography http://t.co/cJW4jOzX

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Jennifer July 17, 2012

Thanks Jennifer!

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Jennifer July 17, 2012

Black & white adds to the documentary feel, whereas bokeh eliminates other things on the street, hence negating the whole point of street shooting. I’ve rarely liked any color street photography I’ve seen- doesn’t do it for me-but as always, personal preference and I don’t judge people for it 😉

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Ewelina July 17, 2012

Tips for Street Photography #photography http://t.co/DP8zyMfM

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Damien Franco July 17, 2012

Tips for Street Photography http://t.co/ppkBTu2l Good tutorial from I Heart Faces.

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Declan Mc Glone July 17, 2012

Tips for Street Photography #photography http://t.co/DP8zyMfM

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Emily July 17, 2012

I had the same question!

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Aaron July 17, 2012

“Remember, you are capturing life on the street as it’s seen happening. Anyone ever look down a street and see bokeh? Exactly.”

Hmm. I don’t recall ever looking down a street and seeing things in black & white, either. 😉

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Jennifer July 17, 2012

This is great. What an awesome way to get back to the root of candid photography.

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Corel July 17, 2012

Tips for Street Photography: This is the year of challenging myself. I’ve had this nagging… http://t.co/TlPqqzBx

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Jennifer July 17, 2012

Thanks folks. Yes Janet. It’s in the do’s and don’ts portion of the series next week!

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Sarah Hawkins July 17, 2012

Great shots Jennifer! I felt like I was there with you.

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Miriam/The Winter Guest July 17, 2012

Loved this article, very inspiring. I just need to have the guts to do it 😉

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Janet July 17, 2012

Very interesting read. I really enjoyed the tips and seeing your work. I’d like to do more of this but I’ve always wondered about the legal issues of street photography. Will that be addressed in part 2?

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