The Right Camera
The Right Lens
Focusing System and Use
Depth of Field
Although limited street photography is possible with a compact, or point-and-shoot, camera, a DSLR is required to give you the features and capabilities to shoot under all conditions and capture the broadest variety of images. You want a lightweight DSLR camera body with an above-average viewfinder; a quiet shutter, with no shutter lag; RAW image mode; and high-ISO sensitivity that produces clear images.
You also want to shoot with the LCD’s immediate playback disengaged as well as any settings or modes that beep or make other disruptive noises.
Pair your DSLR with fast, interchangeable lens (f/2.0 or wider). If your DSLR has a cropped sensor, then an excellent lens choice is a 30mm f/1.4. If your camera has a full-sized sensor, then you might to take a 35mm f/1.4 and a 50mm f/1.4.
Remove your lens cap during your street photography, so you’re always ready to shoot. Attach an UV filter to your lens.
Your DSLR should be equipped with a focusing system that is accurate when the general light is low. You also want to use the center point of the focal-points matrix exclusively. Be sure to disengage the exposure from the focal point.
Pre-focus by pressing the button halfway on the back of the camera that you have designated as the focus-lock control. Then, compose your image with your eye to the camera. If your subject is still not in the best position for an interesting picture, then hold the button in position as you wait for your subject to move. You can also select manual focus, as you hold the button. When you release it, the focus will not change, although you must re-engage auto-focus, so your next images will be in focus.
Street photography is almost exclusively shot hand-held, so you want to follow the general guidelines of your shutter speed being the same number as the same focal length of the lens. Shoot at 1/30th with a 30mm lens, 1/90th with a 90mm lens, etc. This takes a bit of experimentation to determine the right combination, as some photographers are able to hand hold a camera at different shutter speeds. The amount of motion on the street may also have an effect, as fast-moving objects/people may blur at these slower shutter speeds.
Avoid activating any of the various shooting modes on your camera, so you maintain control. You may want to select aperture priority mode (AV) and shutter priority mode (TV), so you can quickly choose either for various shooting conditions. This technique requires a fast lens and an ISO setting of 800.
It’s important that your DSLR camera has a flexible range of ISO sensitivities, so you can shoot at high ISO settings without producing much, if any, grain. One of the ways to judge the capabilities of the camera you want to use for street photography is whether there is any grain at ISO 800. Compact, or point-and-shoot, cameras are not capable of non-grainy images at much more than ISO 200. If there is grain at less than ISO 800, then you need a better camera. If you have a high quality DSLR, then you’ll have the latitude to shoot at ISO 1,600 and a shutter speed of 1/4000th. The primary benefit of shooting with high ISO sensitivities is that you can achieve acceptable images in low-light conditions, with narrow apertures and a fast shutter speed.
Although the auto-focus capability of today’s DSLRs typically makes it unnecessary to use the hyper-focal technique, it can be helpful. For example, if your lens is a 30 to 35mm, then use f/8 and select a focus of 10 feet. If the light is sufficient, then all objects and subjects within 6 to 15 feet of the camera will be in the hyper-focal range, and appear in focus. Many photographers are unaware of this technique, since most modern lenses don’t have a hyper-focal scale and auto-focus does this job, automatically.
Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Czaba Czirko
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