Street Photography Snappin’
• Do you want to introduce strong vision within your photography?
• Are you looking to shoot hard-hitting, raw and gritty imagery?
• Would you like to learn to express yourself (and others) through your work?
Well here’s a genre that you may have overlooked, that may appeal to you, that’s right up your street…
Street photography has become hugely popular over the last few years, and it’s no wonder with the boom in social media. Ask any photographer “what is street photography?” and you are guaranteed to get a different response each time – that’s what is so brilliant about this style of photography.
There are no ‘rights’ or ‘wrongs’, just like there are no right ways to go about writing a book or painting. It is entirely about sharing your own vision as a photographer with your audience, and showing them a snippet of the world through your eyes (and your cameras).
Here at iPhotography we want to share our views on this genre; so, what do we think street photography is all about?
Street photography can be quite similar to documentary photography, that shows images of people living in certain situations or societies around the world. You as the photographer mirror image society as you see it.
The reason Street Photography is so successful is because of the emotion and connection a stranger can make with the subject. A successful street photographer knows how to evoke emotion from the audience, hit you in the gut, and bury a lasting memory in your mind. Sometimes, these style of images can trigger emotions such as confusion, sadness or even fear – hence why they are so hard-hitting and effective.
In most cases, a large number of shots are candid and ‘in the moment’. However, if it’s a ‘posed’ street portrait shot they still contain a candid element, that’s usually something unexpected (like an expression, or gesture from your subject), which catches you off guard.
It’s all in the eyes! We all know how important eyes are in photography, they can really be the making or breaking point of a shot. The stronger the eye contact, the more emotional the image can be.
Observe and look for emotion and gestures. The best images are strong, emotional, candid shots. Keep an eye out for people making excessive hand gestures, or for a look and emotion on someone’s face, these are what turn mundane images into dynamic shots.
We are all aware how important composition and framing is in photography, but a photograph without some form of emotion is a dead image.
Get close to your subject: (and by close we mean quite cosy). The closer the better as far as we are concerned, as you can capture more expression on the faces.
We feel shooting head on is generally better than a side/back view, and faces are generally more interesting in this type of photography category. It allows us to see a sense of the character, their emotions and expressions – the audience can then be pulled in with mystery and intrigue, asking themselves ‘what can I work out from this image?’.
Eye contact adds such an intimate relationship with the audience, as it feels as though the subject is staring directly at them. This style of photography, when executed well, instantly transports the viewer to the scene.
So what if your image doesn’t contain a person, can it still be street photography?
Well, the answer to that is ‘yes’. For example, if you are taking street shots of a city or area, and something in the street catches your eye, (whether that be a pile of broken bricks, graffiti on the wall or a bunch of bin bags) you are showing the audience a reflection of society and humanity in that particular area; the audience can then build a story in their mind and gain a sense of what the city or place is actually like.
Street photography doesn’t always have to be in the street, but usually (and from the history of street photography) it is. You can take these styles of shots in subways, doorways, street alleys – anywhere you wish! There are unlimited opportunities available to you.
There are no real ‘technique tips’ in this area, you just need to have creative vision, a good gut instinct, a strong eye for composition and most of all… confidence.
You have to think fast when taking these images, as you are trying to capture “moments” and scenarios: which could be over in the blink of an eye.
Follow your intuition and take photographs of things you personally find interesting. Remember: you are in charge of showing the world through your eyes. Don’t set out to take these sort of images with the intentions of pleasing people; sometimes the truth can hurt and cut deep.
You need to have consistency when taking these types of shots; your style will then emerge, evolve, and the story will develop.
Make the most of the scene. You might not feel confident enough to stand in a busy street or location, getting up close and personal with passers-by and simply snapping away – It can be intimidating and you may receive a few funny side-ways glances. Well, our advice is to ignore that feeling completely. Take as many shots of the scene as you can (around 15 -20). The odds are on your side!
Use your flash – consider using your flash in the day, firstly because people don’t notice it, secondly, it makes your subject ‘pop’ put of the scene/background.
Get low, low, low. Most people with a camera shoot from eye level, (guilty, we’ve all done it) but it’s a pretty boring perspective and there’s nothing too creative about it (because we are all used to seeing the world from this view point).
So you as a photographer, now have the duty to offer new angles, perspective and a different view of the world people may be ignorant to really “seeing” at eye-level. By crouching down and shooting from a low angle, you make your subject(s) look larger than life.
Think of it this way, if you’re snapping away head shots of total strangers in close proximity (who probably aren’t used to being stopped for images) by crouching down and getting low, you appear smaller and a lot less intimidating to the person, not to mention your shots will have much more of an added interest.
In photography we often try and capture the “decisive” moment; in street photography, we want to take a step back from this and capture the “unguarded” moment (which is when the subject drops their guard and feels comfortable). Usually, they start talking with their hands, it could be a simple gesture (something as simple as itching their forehead) – it’s easy to capture moments that aren’t posed or forced (if you are paying attention and looking out for them).
You could also try what street photographers call “The fishing technique”. This is where you have identified an interesting backdrop and wait around for a subject to enter the frame. Be prepared to have a lot of patience for this, it could be a long wait.
Creating exciting images using depth and layers can also make for some really exciting shots. Try to incorporate more subjects in your shot: one in focus in the foreground, and another in the middle and background. Use these people to build your layers and to add interest to your shots.
So, let’s talk settings. Start by experimenting, and finding out what works best for you. We would suggest shooting in “P” mode, so your camera automatically chooses aperture and shutter speed. Keep your ISO fairly high, 1600 might be a good starting point, this allows you to use a faster shutter speed.
Don’t worry about noise, especially if you shoot black and white. Grain held within street photography can actually enhance the mood and atmosphere – it can provide a gritty, raw urban edge.
Similarly, embrace the motion blur and slightly out of focus shots. Who says that a good street image has to be perfectly crisp and clear? What’s the point of trying to achieve a technically brilliant image if the story is non-existent?
Any time of day or night, be aware of the quality and quantity of light. Look for interesting light sources and subjects to enhance the mood and atmosphere of your images. The great thing about this genre is anything pretty much goes!
You might be overwhelmed with all this information and be stuck thinking “but where do I start?!”. Well, firstly, you need to work out what you are trying to communicate to your audience through your photos. How do you see the world? What are you trying to portray?
It is entirely up to do what you decide to photograph, and the content and subject matter – but ensure you feel a personal connection to the subject you’re photographing.
You may decide to document the neighbourhood you live in, take images that document your travels, or even go for a certain theme ie. dog walkers. Follow your intuition and the style that suits you – shoot from the heart!
Keep snapping! Focus on things that interest you. The best images are the ones that have a sense of mystery and leave your audience wanting to know more, “Who is this person? What is their life story?”.
There are several students on our course who excel in this area of photography; you can see how each of their shots holds their own unique and individual style. This genre really is totally diverse.
Here are a few images and thoughts shared by our students: We hope they inspire you as much as they have us! Click on their names to see more.
“ I am a silent observer of human interactions. Even alone, silent subject is in someway interacting with the world around them, and being influenced by their environment. Even inanimate objects such as structures, vehicles, and nature play a role in this collaboration between human and environment. It’s like a beautifully choreographed dance, you only need to adjust your eyes to see it!”
“I simply observe”
“I am very much an amateur who trusts her instincts. I shoot with a Sony A7r, it’s perfect for me because of its lightweight body and ability to carry with me everywhere without it being over cumbersome. This shot was taken quickly as we stopped briefly at the village of Sheen in Ireland. He was parading his goat to get money from tourists! I loved the character of his face and the comical scene of holding a goat.”
‘Where are you?’
It was cold and raining when I took this photo. I named this photo
“where are you”, because she looks so lonely for me.
Sharing memories from Goa
“Amsterdam with my fiancé. Not too bad for damp night in the suburbs.”
‘Cuppa and paper’
“It was on a Sunday and I took a walk early in the morning. The streets were nice and quiet. I decided to take photos of bicycles, cycles, balconies and staircases!”
In the streets of Nairobi Kenya
“I love this type of photography ‘street’ photography even when it doesn’t incorporate people because even though it’s the people who are unbeknownst in the scene it as well is the architecture, landscape, and surroundings that sometimes get overlooked when you are people watching or when people are watching!”
Learn photography the iPhotography™ way
There’s no right or wrong way to take a photograph. But, if you spend all your time obeying the ‘rules’ of photography, your work will simply look like everyone else’s.
A shot can be technically perfect but aesthetically boring! That’s why iPhotography Course not only teaches you all the standard technical expertise, settings, skills, and special effects with your camera – but we also show you how to use these skills to develop your own individual style as a photographer.