6 Tips for better street photography

Street photography is a beautiful and spontaneous genre of the photographic art which can tell many stories within a single shot. I hope that these few tips, that I share in this article, will be of help to any beginner out there.

Old Man sitting on an old cobblestone street with traffic driving by

1. Use layering to strengthen your composition

Layering is the process of capturing an image where various subjects are located at different planes within the same photograph. As you know a wide aperture provides a shallow depth of field, that aims to distinctly separate the object on focus from its background. In street photography, the approach is quite different because we are trying to create images with depth and layers. Quite often, it’s precisely in the background that unexpected opportunities and objects appear that ultimately enhance the overall composition. Shooting people behind windows, store fronts facades, mesh fences or any other transparent barrier will offer such an opportunity to use this technique and further lead to an interesting visual change to the objects behind it. Weather conditions such as fog, mist, rain or snow fall also provide excellent ground to achieve this goal.They work as natural layers. Instead of being afraid of the bad weather, take advantage of it at every opportunity!

New York City, 1/23/16: Central Park covered in heavy snow during Winter Storm Jonas

2. Play with the light

In the beginning and in the end of the day, the elements of the city environment cast harsh deep shadows, which could be a good foundation for your general composition. Don’t miss the effects that any reflective surfaces such as mirrors, metal constructions, glass facades, wet streets and water surfaces can provide. The bold contrast in such cases will work entirely in your favour.

Cuba, Old Havana

3. Use prime lenses

In street photography, prime lenses have a few substantial advantages over zoom lenses. First, they are relatively lighter and unnoticeable and give you the ability to react faster in certain situations. Also, that means reducing the total weight of the gear that you have to carry with you. Further, fixed focal length does make the shooting process far more spontaneous and unconstrained, which in turn gives you the freedom to think about the shot more and forces you to be more creative. In some cases, zoom lenses could considerably slow you down when you are trying to pre-composed and trying to find the optimal focal length.

Traffic in Shanghai, China

4. Learn how to make an eye contact

Many photographers find it difficult to make eye contact with the absolute strangers who just happen to be passing by. However, we have to admit that this is a wonderful way to achieve a highly impactful image. A simple technique you can use is called “shooting through”. In most such cases, the people who are in your shot don’t even suspect you are taking a picture of them, especially those people who are moving, walking or going somewhere. Still, if you feel uncomfortable doing this, you can easily mask the process by continuing to take photos even after the stranger has left the frame. In most cases you will notice you will have achieved an eye contact even if the person doesn’t know you taking a picture of them. Of course, you won’t even need this technique if you have great social skills.

National Day of Romania

5. Be patient

The ability to react quickly in any given situation is key for your success with street photography. Nevertheless, if you are a beginner, framing your shot and waiting for the right moment is always a good idea. This can happen when an object enters your frame. The opportunities are truly unlimited and the result are always unexpected. The dynamics of the urban environment provides countless varieties of compositions.

Long shadow of a man

6. Have fun

This is the key to any other forms of photography - make it a completely enjoyable experience. Don’t be trapped by strict rules and dogma! All of the above are simply suggestions for more general directions you can take with street photography.

Create your own style, travel, observe and have fun !

Photo credits: Gabriel Petrescu, Grigor Atanasov, Maya Kovacheva Photography, Mihai Coman, Sam Antonio, Vadym Tarasov.

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February 13, 2018


thanks for sharing!

February 13, 2018


I always learn something new then when I go out and try it I realize that it works so thanks a million.

February 02, 2018


I have learned a lot and thank you for sharing.

January 27, 2018


Mpau, I believe your are confusing two different things. RF stands for "royalty free." "Royalty-free, or RF, refers to the right to use copyright material or intellectual property without the need to pay royalties or license fees for each use, per each copy or volume sold or some time period of use or sales." (From Wikipedia.)The other issue that concerns people in street scenes without a model release is different. You can use such photos without model releases or property releases in an article such as a travel piece. If the people in your photo are going to be used to promote a certain product, such as a soft drink or a gasoline brand, then they would have to sign a model release. In normal usage this is called "editorial use." Plenty of articles will explain the use terms for you in most cases.

January 24, 2018


I do a lot of Street Photography. My question is How does that sale in the Stock market without a RF from the people on the photos?

January 24, 2018


I can feel a lot of fun from your sharing.

January 23, 2018


useful blog... thanks for sharing.

January 22, 2018


thanks for sharing :)

January 22, 2018


Tanks for your tips! Very good blog!

January 19, 2018


Very good advice!

January 18, 2018


A good blog. I guess it needn't be said, but while shooting, you need to pay attention to your surroundings. When I shoot street scenes, I have the tendency to get wrapped up in my subject. On several occasions while moving around for better angles, I have stepped out in traffic. I would have wound up plastered on the front of buses or taxis if hadn't been for my shooting partner.

January 17, 2018


Useful! Thanks! Like your Images!

January 17, 2018


very good sharing.

January 17, 2018


Great Blog Stamena,and interesting,street photography is one of my favourites and love taking the photos in Black and White .

January 17, 2018


Thank you for this interesting tips.

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