With the advancement of digital photography, new kinds of photographic adventures (or improvements on old ones) are waiting for you. One of those adventures is taking digital photos in and of the exciting, mysterious and nitty, gritty streets. Street photography, also known as “no-rules” photography, is more of an attitude than a place. Instead of shooting city and urban street life as an objective observer, you become part of the scene, shooting it from the inside, as a subjective participant.
Street photography could be considered the ultimate snapshot. It’s meant to snatch a moment in time, as it happens, without any planning or set-up. At the same time, street photography can be highly artistic. You may capture that one-of-a-kind unusual angle of a human interaction or interpret the setting where you find yourself as no other photographer has.
Forget the camera bag, tripod and a vast selection of lenses and filters; capturing the best street photography doesn’t allow for set-up time and equipment changes. In many cases, even your DSLR camera is too much. You want small size, so you can shoot quickly and from any angle, which means some kind of compact, or point-and-shoot camera, is just fine.
No-rules digital photography also refers to breaking the accepted rules of exposure, composition, lighting, etc. You simply can’t take the time to make those adjustments manually and remind yourself of how to follow the rules of thirds or the relationship between shutter speed and f-stops. Street photography is a different vibe, one that requires an open mind and a spontaneous reaction to the environment and the action. That means many of your pictures will be blurred, with high contrast and your subjects at crooked angles, and shot without you even looking through the viewfinder.
Street photography is not a totally mindless activity. There are a few tips to keep in mind, especially if this specific photographic adventure appeals to you.
The late-night streets may be more exciting, but shooting during the early morning hours can be equally interesting. The pros refer to early morning as “magic time” because of the filtered light. The empty, quiet streets of the city present a quite different photographic palette. Often, the streets have been cleaned or it has rained and the wet pavement reflects the light in a special way. Then, you have the opportunity to photograph the streets as they awaken: people heading to work; stores and businesses open; cars, buses and trucks are on the move.
Buildings define the streets they front. Taking your digital photography to the streets allows you to shoot the same buildings at night and early in the morning. At night, a skyscraper stands silent, while during the morning hundreds or thousands of people enter it that work there. The diner open at night has a different atmosphere than when breakfast is being served. The light changes and there are two totally different groups of people.
Ask Before You Shoot
Refer to the PhotographyTalk.com article, Digital Photography—Ask Before You Shoot, for information about obtaining permission to shoot people on the street. You may also need permission to photograph the exteriors and interiors of buildings and businesses. You definitely shouldn’t break the law, but, after all, this is no-rules photography.