The f/8 Rule for Street Photographers on the Move. Let’s Take a Look…


Commonly Known as the “f/8 and be there” Rule

Why f/8 anyways? Well, if we're going to take an average, many lenses are pretty darn sharp at around f/8 and some f/11 i.e. getting clean shots are a higher probability (providing you've actually composed and focused correctly).

the f/8 rule for street photographers
Image by Pexels

The saying represents the notion that f/8 is THE go-to aperture you should shoot with, often. I'm not sure about you, but I personally don't stick to this “rule” as often as I could.

Sure, it's a great place to start and if I know my lens is at the ready then I'll feel more confident, but, it's f/8. Most of the time, I want more depth of field or less, depending on what I'm shooting. Perhaps I should view it as a “challenge” to only shoot at this aperture, that might push my composition skills somewhat.

For Street Photography I'll often be using a 35mm f/1.8 on a Nikon DX format, which means this lens (albeit a bit of a bargain for a sharp prime) can produce better shots at closer to f/4 or f/5.6 AND I get the added bonus of a greater depth of field. For street photography, however, I realize that quite often, you actually want most the scene in focus – tells a better story, right?

the f/8 rule for street photographers
Image by Robert Pastryk

About Aperture

We know that a wider aperture allows more light through the lens and into the camera (i.e. to hit the sensor) and a narrow aperture will allow less light in. If you want more light in with the latter you're gonna need that bad-boy on a tripod.

Be sure to check out the article for any further clarification or elaboration on aperture.

the f/8 rule for street photographers
Image by tnamd

This also has an impact on the sharpness of your photo too. So why is f/8 the place to be for street photography?

Well, it comes down to the simple fact that using the f/8 rule for street photographers ensures everything is in focus. Combining this with an ISO of around 400 will mean you're pretty much loaded and ready – don't forget a clean slate on your memory card, you'll be needing it for a day on the streets.

What is the “f/8 and be there” Rule?

Arthur “Weegee” Fellig – the famous photojournalist, once famously said in response to being asked about his photographic technique “f/8 and be there”. This is an alleged response and one that many photographers might view in a speculative way, but it does hold true that if you've got your aperture here, you just need to be in the right place at the right moment.

We could go further into details about what else you need aside from clicking the wheel round to f/8 but for now, let's view this as a starting point for those beginning in their journey to becoming better street photographers.

Allowing yourself adequate time to prepare, compose and think about your framing whilst not missing the shot is what's key here and that's where the f/8 rule for street photographers can come in handy as one less thing to think about.

the f/8 rule for street photographers
Image by Martin Ceralde

Further Resources

Further Learning

How are your Black & White photos? Do they stink?
If they do, hang on, all is not lost as this guide will get you up to speed in Lightroom. Begin to recognize what constitutes a good black and white conversion and what's a bad one.

About Author

Russell is a self-taught photographer who loves travel and capturing life as it unfolds. Having lived in the far east for a few years with some long term travel, this catalyzed his new-found passion for photography.
Lifestyle, Food, and Event Photography are areas he enjoys most.

I’m pretty sure F4 has LESS depth of field than F8 … Hence why landscapes are F16-22 and every one loves bokek in f2.8 and below

one advantage of keeping f/8 as your default aperture when you start out is that shifting to wider or narrower apertures is quicker than if you were at one or the other end of the tunnel. This time difference could sometime mean getting or not getting the shot.

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