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Tips for better street photography

Stay calm... and carry your camera everywhere

The best way to take spontaneous photographs in the streets is to always be ready  to shoot. I have DSLR camera that I take out with me when I’m on a family outing or just when I go with my asssistand (my son) to take some landscape shots. But when I am walking on the streets I would like to shoot with a system camera or point-and-shoot (compact) camera that I can use without being noticed.

Use a telephoto lens

Obviously the further you are away from your subjects the less likely they  will be to know that you’re photographing them and the more natural they’ll be. Others might argue that you should carry only one mid-range lens like the 18-55 mm but just be prepared for all situations and keep that telephoto lens in the car hidden somewhere in the trunck.

Taken with a telephoto lens out of my car window while slowly driving the streets of Beirut.

Streets are where contrasting message are. Look for social and cultural discrepancies.

Streets are where contrasting message are. Look for social and cultural discrepancies.

Taken at Hamra street. Park your car and have a walk and you will notice endless opportunities for your street photography.

Taken at Hamra street. Park your car and have a walk and you will notice endless opportunities for your street photography.

Politely approach people telling them you would like to take picture of them. You will be amazed how many would enjoy it.

Politely approach people telling them you would like to take picture of them. You will be amazed how many would enjoy it.

Don't use flash

The most obvious way to disclose yourself or to signal to anothers that you’re photographing them is to use flash. Attempt to photograph without the flash if you’re aiming for candid shots. Test your camera by increasing that ISO settings and use a faster lens, and open up your aperture. Hopefully one or a combination of these settigns will help you get camouflaged in the crowd or blended in the background.

Shoot more and use burst mode

Don't shoot once. If you take multiple shots of a person you are increasing your chances of getting a surprising or spontaneous shot. His/her eyes might be closed at the moment you release that shutter and you don't have a second chance to reperform. So switch your camera to drive / continuous shooting mode and shoot in bursts and in doing so you’ll increase your chances of that perfect shot.

Anticipation and position count

While street photography is about capturing the spontaneity of a moment or a social message, getting that perfect shot at the right split second of time is crucial. You don't want to be stationed behind the scene or in a bad perspective spot. Try to think ahead and anticipate what is about to happen on the street. Wait for that hobo to be located beneath a luxury street ad for example or anticipate that business women crossing the street while capturing the green light in the scene, etc. Consider each moment: which way will people be facing? what will they be doing? what will the light be like? when will they turn and face the camera?

Shoot people when they are engaged or doing things

Pictures of people at work or engaged with their daily routine tend to be much more interesting than people sitting doing nothing. This adds energy and context to the photo not to mention that you will be unnoticed if they are busy doing things. Timing is everything in street photography, so wait until they are distracted from you and fully focused on what they are doing.