The technology and ease-of-use of digital photography makes it a perfect companion for whenever you’re on the streets of a city. Conversely, many photographers, especially beginners and hobbyists, are concerned about what might happen if they take pictures in public settings. In most cases, that anxiety is only keeping those photographers from an excellent photographic environment, where many events may occur that you deserve to capture with your camera. This PhotographyTalk.com article presents 10 tips to help you reduce any anxiety you may have about being a street photographer and enjoy this special brand of picture taking.
The Streets Are Not Filled with Thieves.
It’s understandable that you might be a bit paranoid when you take your camera, especially an expensive DSLR, to the streets. You could certainly be a target of thieves, but the probability is low. Most of the people that will approach you are apt to have a camera around their necks too, or are enthusiasts interested in what you are shooting. Take the same precautions as you would in any public setting: Be aware of your surroundings, loop your camera strap under an arm as well as over your neck, stay in well-lit areas, etc. and you will discover many great photographic opportunities as well as remain safe.
You Don’t Need Your Camera Bag.
A camera bag is just another target for those few thieves and it’s a burden to carry. Equip yourself more like a tourist, with a camera body and a normal lens. The freedom of street photography allows you to move closer to your subject matter. If you do want to shoot “secretly” with a telephoto lens, then scout a few good locations and plan to spend some time shooting from those positions instead of wandering through the streets.
Ask for Permission Before Shooting People.
This applies to when you’re shooting with that 50mm, or normal, lens, and your goal is a frame-filling portrait. You don’t need permission of people in the distance or the background of your pictures. Start a friendly conversation first, and work toward asking those people to pose for you. Offer to give them a print of your picture or be legally protected by giving them a dollar.
Don’t Shoot in Businesses.
Storeowners or managers might think you are trying to obtain competitive information. If there is an unusual store with unique merchandise, then ask permission first. Don’t take your camera into a major store or chain, as security may quickly escort you to the front door.
Don’t Avoid the Tourist Traps.
You have the advantage of photographing the tourist attractions in your city whenever you want and as often as you want, while tourists are limited by the time of their visit. That means they are still many unique photos to take. Plus, shooting in these areas is common practice, so vendors and the tourists are apt to be more relaxed when you start pointing your camera in all directions.
Look for the Less-Traveled Areas.
Most cities typically have very interesting sections that the tourists never visit and are not often photographed. Again, you have the advantage of knowing those quiet streets and the unique images you can capture there. Try the streets just outside the tourist traps.
Move Closer to Make Your Photos More Interesting.
Sometimes, the smallest objects will help tell the story of a street: signs; merchandise on display outside stores (produce and flower markets); architectural details that define an area, such as restored, “Old Town” sections; etc. Move closer to this subject matter to discover interesting photos that may not be apparent from a distance.
Capture More Than One View of Each Photo.
Every street photo shoot is unique. There are many pictures to capture that will never occur again, so you often only have one opportunity to do so. Take a number of pictures of each subject or scene, from different angles and distances, to make sure you have what you need to create a very interesting photo in photo-editing software.
Determine a General Exposure Setting First.
When you first enter a street or area of the city, take a few meter readings and test photos, so you know the best general exposure for all your photos. Then, you can easily and quickly make adjustments for low light in the shadows or brighter light in the sun or numerous streetlights. This also allows you to bracket your exposures, so, again, you know you’ve captured the picture you want.
Distribute Business Cards.
If you’re a pro, then you want to take advantage of meeting people who might want to hire you. If you’re a hobbyist, then you still want to be ready to network with other photographers to find shooting buddies or people to share photos.