I have been interested in street photography as a hobby for the last few years and I still remember my struggle as a beginner.
How to Navigate Street Photography
Many beginners are anxious when they first start trying to do street photography. They might worry about how people will react to them and they might also find the changing and unpredictable nature of the streets challenging.
Sometimes people are also looking for interesting project ideas and themes when they don't know what to shoot. In this article I will try to give you some tips and tricks to help you navigate your way and break the ice with street photography!
Before You Start
- Make sure you familiarize yourself with your local laws regarding photography in public places. In most countries it should be alright to take photos in public places unless it is embarrassing or degrading. In other places photographing strangers may violate local law.
- If you are in a private space/building always ask for permission to enter and take photos.
- Never take photos of children without agreement from their parents.
- Never put yourself at risk.
- If someone refuses to be photographed or asks you to delete their photo, please just do.
Approaching the Streets
First, make sure you are wearing comfortable clothes, especially shoes, and that you have your equipment ready and charged (including your phone as you might need Google maps!).
Important tip: Do not hide!
Imagine you see a guy hiding behind a wall pointing a big lens at someone and looking around like he is doing something dodgy? Not a good way to approach strangers! I would try to do as few candid shots as possible. Do not try to hide yourself or your camera. Imagine you are a tourist, walk calmly, and be relaxed. If you see something interesting, take a picture. Ask for permission if possible and smile!
A lot of communication in photography can be non-verbal. You might see someone doing something funny or interesting and just point your camera with a smile. They will usually smile back or even pose for you.
Obviously, these are just general rules but you will know more about your local area and your culture. In some cultures, for example, people do not like to be photographed or women might not like a man to take their photo. Always make sure you respect people’s cultures and feelings, especially if you are traveling.
In the beginning, it might be helpful to go out with a friend or a fellow photographer. You can also check local photography groups on websites like meetup.com or other similar sites.
Where to Go
- Local events: Check for regular events around you. A good place to start in a city like London or even a small town would be the different markets. People are usually friendly and you could also find a lot of interesting people there. Just make sure you are not blocking anyone's way and that sellers are not annoyed by your presence. You can talk to them and explain what you are doing and that you will not get in the customer's way.
- Big events: This probably applies to cities more but it is now becoming more common in many places to have weekly, monthly or yearly events. It might be worth traveling to enjoy an event and practice your skills. Whether it is a big marathon, a walk for charity, a fun fair, or a festival, there will be a lot to shoot. People are usually friendly and willing to express themselves and there may also be other photographers around. One of the first places I went to when I started street photography was Trafalgar Square in London where all sorts of events happen throughout the year. Not only were the performers friendly and welcoming but also people attending the events were relaxed and I do not think anyone objected to their photo being taken. Check your local council/city/state website for future events or "What's on" so you can plan this. Try to practice at different times of the day, at different venues and with different crowds.
- Tourist attractions: This one is probably obvious. Attractions are usually full of interesting subjects (people) and are also busy so people won't even notice you most of the time.
Interact With Your Subjects
Interact with the people you are photographing. This can be difficult in the beginning especially if you are not used to this or you are an introvert. However, if you make this a habit you will gradually get used to it and most importantly, you will enjoy doing street photography. Don't just spend your day taking candid photos of people with no interaction. It also looks creepy.
Ask for permission if you can. Also, give people your website/Instagram information so they can follow you or contact you.
Ideas and Inspiration for Street Photography
- Inspiration for street photography can be found everywhere. Start by varying your techniques, timings, and locations.
- There are many themes in street photography but as a beginner you don't have to stick to one. Try everything until you find your own favorite theme. Some of the common project ideas focus on things like juxtaposition, colors, black and white, funny, emotional, night street photography, etc.
- Look at the work of other street photographers. Try to think about how they took this picture and try to repeat that the next time you are on the street (this is for learning purposes, do not publish a photo for money and claim it is your original idea if you have exactly copied someone else's idea!).
- And lastly, as you progress and feel more confident about your street photography style, do not stick to these things above! After some time, you will find that photos of events and certain situations can be repetitive, plus other photographers in the same place might be taking similar photos. You might even want to try and find unusual places, or very ordinary places that other photographers don't shoot, but that another topic. At this stage, focusing on gaining the basic skills and building up your confidence in doing street photography.
I hope this helps! Happy shooting and please feel free to share this article and tell us if you have any tips, questions or suggestions in the comments section below.
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