An interest in street photography has tickled pretty much every photographer's fancy at some point. But few are capable of building a solid and consistent style in this beautiful genre.
The reasons for not achieving exquisite or compelling street images are various, and the most obvious is that while seeking their natural photographic niche, photographers may discover a passion for another genre.
We are okay we that, and there is nothing we can do about it until that specific photographer becomes interested in street photography again.
The other main reason why a photographer with an interest in the streets doesn’t get the images they want is a certain lack of knowledge of how to blend into the street, a lack of social skills or a considerable shyness.
Thankfully, these can always be hacked with practice and patience. Today, we want to talk about 5 ways to get better at street photography.
1. Work On Your Social Skills
Wandering the streets in pursuit of meaningful candid shots of people requires not just patience, but also good social skills.
Usually, every street photographer understands the benefits of working with gear that craves social proximity, but that is not easy to achieve if you are poor at transmitting confidence to people. This requires practice. Approaching strangers is not easy, but with time it gets easier to achieve.
The best thing any photographer can do is to keep their camera away from their subjects’ eyes for a while, so people can get used to your presence. After a while, the act of taking photographs becomes less odd or threatening to them.
2. Anticipate Happenings
Streets are generous when it comes to stories and events, and many places offer great potential for rare and interesting images if we include at least one person in the frame. People usually walk through these beautiful places, and we just need to be able to anticipate these moments.
Anticipation is not limited to framing, but also to exposure, so always take note of the light before pressing the shutter button. If you can anticipate light and timing, you'll get a great picture for sure.
Crowds are always exciting, endless rivers of people minding their own business. But honestly, crowds may not be visually interesting if you just take mere snapshots of them. Try to isolate a couple of individuals inside a crowd to capture a beautiful and meaningful scene.
Another trick for dealing with crowds is to capture them using a slower shutter speed to get some interesting results. Alexey Titarenko is an excellent source of inspiration if you want to try this technique.
A more recent photographer to check out for getting inspiration from slow shutter speeds focusing on crowds is Martin Roemers.
Keep your eyes open when walking around in a crowd. There are many great stories happening inside them, and that may be why capturing a single story can be so tricky.
4. Small Photo Walks
Before getting into photo walks, I want to offer some secret advice for all street photographers: you don't need to travel far to make important street photographs. Explore your own city, hometown and neighbourhood.
Get involved with small groups of photographers wandering the streets. It’s true that street photographers prefer to walk alone rather than in groups, but sometimes the companionship of fellow photographers is nurturing indeed.
Walking with another photographer, or a small group will give you a huge confidence boost when approaching strangers. Another important thing you need to keep in mind when working with other photographers is to be aware and respectful of your peers’ frames.
Try to not interfere in their shots, and please, don't steal another fellow photographer's photograph. If you are a mature and experienced photographer, please share what you can with the newcomers.
5. Experiment With Slow Shutter Speeds
The big similarity of working with slow shutter speeds with crowds (as we mentioned above), and using slow shutter speeds on single or more isolated subjects, is that both require anticipation.
Technically speaking, achieving this, even when shooting handheld, isn't that complicated. If the available light is generous (like on a decent sunny day) you can get interesting results with an aperture value of f/11 or f/16 and a shutter speed of 1/30 to 1/8 of a second.
This isn't an exact science since it will always depend on the available light, but you can practice a bit with ISO and aperture values to achieve a correctly exposed image with blurred subjects. Remember to keep yourself extremely still when shooting handheld, and if possible, try to use the focus lock button or manual focus to avoid undesirable focus in your pictures.
These are just suggestions since there is no magical recipe for achieving unbelievable mind-blowing street photographs. Simply grab your camera, try to keep it always around, practice daily, and keep your eyes and soul open for meaningful moments on the streets.
The best skills you can have in your photographer’s repertoire are social skills and the ability to anticipate moments and the behaviour of light.
As street photographers, with each shutter click we make, we push ourselves further towards achieving the most meaningful images of our lives. We are not pleasing anyone but ourselves; that is the priceless joy of our genre. No gear will be sufficient if you don’t practice constantly, so stop thinking about gear, grab whichever camera you have right now and start practising in the streets.
Please share your thoughts on how to achieve beautiful street photographs in the comments section below.