How to Take Better Street Photography

People walking across the road simultaneously.

Don’t you wish you could truly capture the essence of life in a photograph? That is what street photographers are trying to capture; everyday acts in public spaces. 

The bigger question is, how do you take better street photographs? In reality, it requires a lot of patience, planning, or luck. All you can honestly do is know what you are looking out for. But, before we can get into that, let’s dive a little deeper into what street photography is. 

What Is Street Style Photography?

Even though the name suggests otherwise, street-style photography is not simply photos taken in the street. Instead, street style photography, also known as candid photography, captures everyday occurrences in a public place. 

“A photograph is the pause button on life.”

-Ty Holland

Using these wise words of Ty Holland, street photography is when you try to hit the pause button on life. Now let’s look at some ideas. 

A group of people standing still in the middle of a very busy intersection.

10 Street Photography Ideas

There are many different types of street photography. Depending on what you are looking for, here are some of the various ways you can capture life in public. 

Shoot The Aftermath

Even though many street-style photographers argue that people need to present, they don’t always do. Instead, you merely need proof that people were present. 

A green umbrella laying in the middle of the road.

It could be anything from a shadow to an everyday item such as an umbrella or scarf. All you need is something that represents people. 

Distance Shots

If you aren’t comfortable getting close to your subjects yet, take your photos from afar. That doesn’t mean you need to whip out a telephoto lens, but rather that you can stand at a distance and still get some great shots. 

A photo taken from above of a courtyard filled with people.

Hello From The Other Side Of The Glass

Taking photos from the other side of a window is a great way to catch people in the act of everyday life. Try finding a place to take pictures of people inside a building through the window. Be sure to find out whether it is legal in your area, of course. Glass can also give you a sense of protection in case you are still a bit fearful of encountering your models. 

A photo of a lady on the other side of a window working on her laptop.

Face Them Head-On

With this style of photography, you don’t always need everyone in the shot to be unaware of your presence. Instead, you can try finding people that look approachable and either ask them for a quick photo or make it abundantly clear that you are taking a picture of them. 

They will often smile and look straight at the camera, giving you a more intimate picture. But, of course, you can always show your subject afterward, and if the person doesn’t like what they see, delete it. 

Side note: Remember to smile; it will give them a sense of calmness. 

Catch Them From Behind

A great way to do street photography without your subjects noticing you is to take photos of them from behind. You don’t have to have a face in the picture, so why not take advantage of this. Find people of interest and snap a quick photo of their backs. 

A photo of a lady walking away from the camera down a road.

Silhouettes

Another great idea for street photography is taking photos of people’s silhouettesIt is a great way to stay anonymous. 

All you need is to set your camera to exposure compensation to underexpose your model and find a spot with some good backlighting. Your final step is to wait for an unsuspecting subject to pass snap a picture. Just like that, you have a fantastic photo. You can take silhouette photos in a black and white film and color film; it is entirely preference-dependent. 

A silhouette of a lady standing in a doorway.

Set Your Scene

If you stumble upon a place that is perfect as a background, then with some patience, you could potentially create a piece of art. An example would be a mannequin in a window that might look like they interact with a person walking by or a reflective surface so you can capture your subject twice. 

A photo of a person standing behind a telescope that looks like a face.

Capture Buskers In The Act

Before snapping your first photos, be sure to donate a few bucks to your new model first. After all, that is how they make a living. 

A photo of a busker playing the violin.

Once you have given away some savings, go crazy. Buskers are performers and don’t mind people taking their photos. Explore various angles, and get a few great pics of the artist. When you are happy, try to exchange details with your model to send them a few photos. 

Pouring Down Shots 

A photo of a man with an umbrella standing in a road at night while it rains.

Rain shouldn’t be something that stops you from practicing your passion. On the contrary, it is a great time to do street photography, seeing as people won’t focus on you but instead get out of the rain. It will also give you a wide range of emotions to capture, along with some great textures. 

Street style photography is an art, and harsh weather conditions are an obstacle that you can overcome. For more tips, visit this article

A photo of a bunch of people walking on the sidewalk while it rains.

Get The Light Just Right

Good light can be your friend with enough patience. If you can find a spot that allows you to have subjects shadows interact with other humans, you have struck gold. Another way to use these light pockets is to let them give you only a glimpse of the person but a well-defined shadow. Finally, be sure to play around with your camera’s exposure to capture the essence just right. 

A photo taken from the top that perfectly displays peoples shadows while they walk.

Street Photography Tips

Now that you have some excellent ideas for street photography, here are some quick tips to consider. 

A photo of four different kinds of analog cameras.

Use A Prime Lens

When it comes to street photography, a significant decision to make is whether you will be using a prime or zoom lens. Even though this might seem like a minor issue, these two lenses greatly influence your experience. 

A zoom lens is the most common type of lens for an apparent reason. It allows you to capture multiple viewpoints without having to move. On the other hand, a prime (fixed focal length) lens will force you to move around to get the shots you desire. 

For street photography, we recommend using a prime lens. It keeps you on the move relying on your own eyes to find the shot, rather than relying too much on your zoom lens to do the work for you.

Pick Your Focal Length And Stick With It

24mm, 35mm, 50mm, or perhaps something else? Many photographers will swear by a particular focal length. So, where do you start? Pick one and shoot it for a month straight. It will give you an idea of what sort of images you consistently capture with that particular focal length. 

When your month is up, change your lens for some variety. Once you have a solid grasp of how you shoot with a 35mm prime lens, for instance, try the 50mm. You’ll quickly notice how a 15mm focal length difference will force you to change your shooting style. You’ll also come to see and appreciate the differences between the various focal lengths suited for street photography.

Shoot 400 Speed Film

For street photography on film, we recommend a 400-speed film like Ilford HP5 or Kodak Portra 400. During the day, these films will allow you to stop your aperture down to f/8, maintain a fast enough shutter speed, and capture a greater depth in your images. 

Should you decide you want a shallow depth of field, a 400-speed film in the daylight is not too sensitive, so it won’t super overexpose your image. Besides, as we discussed in our previous blog post, film handles overexposure like a champ. So, feel free to open that aperture up to F/1.8 and shoot away.

More Equipment Tips

When doing street photography, you require a lot of things, so here are a few more quick tips to help you on your adventure.

  • Use a small camera—it will be less noticeable. A good example is our Ilford Sprite 35-II camera.
  • Get comfortable shoes; it could save your feet from blistering. 
  • Dress to blend in. 

Leave The Camera Home

When setting out to shoot on the street, don’t get caught up in looking for things you like. Instead, find the unusual, the strange, and the unique. To help achieve this, take a day out where you do not bring your camera with you. 

Spend some time in an area you’d like to shoot, observing and pondering your surroundings. Doing so will allow you to notice unique scenes without the pressure of taking the shot. You’ll develop a sense of what you’d like to shoot next time you return to the area. 

With only 36 shots on your film, slowing down and having an observing eye will serve you better in the long run; rather than running through that roll in 30 minutes.

Be Confident & Courteous

People are the most exciting subjects to capture when shooting on the streets. However, it may also bring about an inevitable feeling of anxiety when you’re taking photos of people you haven’t met. 

However, keep in mind that most people are social by nature and love being listened to. So, strike up a conversation with someone you find fascinating and ask them about their life. Be open to hearing them, making them feel heard, and then ask to take their photo. 

People rarely care how much you know until they know how much you care. Getting to know people better over time will help increase your confidence level for street photography and develop a sense of who to take photos of. We discuss how to approach these models next. 

How To Approach Your Models

If you find a potential subject that has a feature you like, don’t be scared to approach them. You have a 50% chance that they will say yes. What is essential when doing this is how you approach the subject. 

  1. Try to stay calm and collected when you walk up to them.
  2. Keep your camera by your side, not in your hand.
  3. Compliment your subject on the feature that caught your attention.
  4. Tell the person what you do and who you are—establish a level of trust.
  5. Strike up a quick conversation.
  6. When you feel ready, ask them if you may take their portrait, not just whether you can get a photo of them. Here, the method is in the wording. 
  7. Show your gratitude by complimenting them again.
  8. Show them the photos you took to see what they look like. 
  9. Finally, exchange details so you can send them the portraits. 

Hit The Streets

The time has come for you to venture forth and find your own two feet (quite literally, seeing as you will be walking for a while). There are many factors to consider when making street photography, but the best way to get better is to practice perfection. 

At Reformed Film Lab, we have a great range of analog cameras for all photography styles—visit our shop to find the one that works for you. If you would like to know more about photography, see the rest of our blog.  


1 comment


  • Raj Savari

    Great tips.


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