For reasons we can't explain, street imagery has been linked with urban lifestyle since the historical birth of this genre in 1838. And even though we agree on the fact that one can do street photography in the countryside, there's just something alluring about the busy nature of streets embedded in the hearts of so many cities across the world. Today we bring you a short street photography manifesto we've come up with so we always have a good time while wandering the streets.
Expecting tranquillity on the streets could end up with a rather bitter experience due to having so high hopes… So, instead of wishing for a Utopian happening, you should strategically approach urban life rhythm.
First, you can always plan and arrive at your desired-to-photograph place before it gets too crowded. This will also allow you to work with a highly praised kind of light available during early morning time. This is, the shift in hue occurring as the blue hour turns into the golden hour. Let me explain, the blue hour is this time of the day in which night is ending. Light here is cool, indirect and deep; filled with saturated hues of blue. As this moment ends, the golden hour starts to peak through, and the well-known warm tones slowly appear.
Another strategy for dealing with chaos and crowded places is using an ND filter and playing around with exposure. Did you know you can erase people in front of your camera thanks to the wonders of long exposure in photography? This can be achieved slightly, for an eerie effect, or in ways so severe people will vanish from the scene leaving just the architecture or other surroundings intact.
My favourite approach is photographing chaos in its purest form instead of avoiding it. Walk during busy hours, commute by foot or train with your camera in hand, and dive into markets and food stands. Of course, the challenge here is to isolate subjects so your images won't appear to be just random snapshots made by Google Maps.
By that, we mean don't start shooting right away; especially if you aren't from around. Taking some time to examine people will allow you to get an insightful overview of the social dynamics happening next to you, and will also get you blended in. Have you ever wished for an invisibility cloak for maximum candid frames? Well, becoming one with our surroundings is the only real way in which we can get unseen and ultimately capture close and natural scenes with our cameras.
Pro Tip: Having an inconspicuous camera or even your phone will help you in unimaginable ways.
Focus in Architecture
Not everything has to be about people, it can also be about human intervention in our planet. In other words, don't take architecture for granted and use it as part of your urban exploration when walking down the streets. And back to using long-exposure, this is one of my favourite things to do when I spot a gorgeous facade on a church or even an old house. By doing so, I easily achieve vanished-looking human figures walking in front of crisp and clear venues.
Use Available Lighting
Or practical lighting, as Kubrick connoisseurs could argue.
Back when I started learning photography in 2009, I had a very narrow vision of artificial light. And I have to be honest, I suck at using flashlights, it's just too hard for me to imagine or anticipate how the beams will fall on someone's skin. But later on, thanks to a colleague from Costa Rica who introduced documentary work to me, I started considering using other kinds of artificial light sources.
More specifically, she opened my eyes to the visual flexibility video light can deliver. Since then, I have combined portable light sources with available light, especially when walking streets at night. So try using anything around you to produce light and play with it. Use camera motion in your favour, shoot with slow shutter speeds and never forget about that practical lighting idea mentioned above.
Use Shadows and Silhouettes
One of the main differences across cities from the world is how light behaves during early or late hours of sunlight. Cities with taller buildings tend to produce stronger and longer shadows which are perfect for achieving images like the ones made by Saul Leiter with his trusty camera. So try hunting for particular shadows and wait for the perfect moment to press your shutter release. Also, working with silhouettes is possible when doing street photography; every street with a bright background offers countless opportunities for you to photograph this highly desired phenomenon.
Experiment with Different Techniques
As you've already guessed by now, street photography is all about juggling with things we can't control and photographic techniques. Therefore, you'll be almost obliged to deal with different things.
As I always say to my students, if you consume high-quality images, you'll more likely produce the photographs you crave the most. Here, we've prepared a short list of images for your inspiration, but please, don't stick to just a few 21, go out there and see more, go out there and photograph everything!
Pro Tip: Having a tripod isn't always a must for street photography, and in those years I've learned to use window frames, car trunks and bumpers, and even my right knee while crouching as a fixed point for my camera to stand still. About the shutter-speed, I recommend anything between 1/2 to 1/16 seconds.
Advanced Composition will ensure you create shots that pop. You'll get more out of your photography and start taking images that will truly capture your creative vision. If you’d like to improve your composition skills and learn concepts that go beyond the rule of thirds, do take a look at Kent DuFault’s guide.
We hope you've enjoyed these inspiring street shots, and if getting better at photography composition and learning beyond-the-basics concepts resonates with you, then take a look at Kent DuFault’s guide to advanced composition!
- Two Skills You Can Practice At Home For Better Street Photography
- How To Capture The Life Of A City Through Street Photography
- 5 Street Photography Rules You Shouldn’t Feel Bad About Ignoring
- These Street Photography Tips Will Help You Master The Craft
- Quick Take: How Anticipation Leads To Better Street Photography
- Street Photography: Tips To Get Creative