An Introduction to Street Photography

Have you ever seen something that inspired you on the street while you were walking and you wished you had your camera with you to immortalize the moment? I’m sure you have, all of us have. If this happens to you often, then maybe you should think about going into street photography.

In this article we’re going to take a look at what street photography is, we’re also going to discuss approaching strangers and how to overcome the fear or embarrassment you might feel when shooting in the street. This article is only the first one on street photography, but don’t worry, more will follow, in which we’ll discuss what to look for when out on the streets with your camera, which cameras to use, what settings and much, much more. But for now, let’s begin with the basics.

What is Street Photography?

Well, it’s exactly what you think it is: it is the process of documenting everyday life and the society in which we live in. Street photography doesn’t even need to be shot in the street for it to be street photography. You can take pictures in malls, parks, airports and even subways (pretty much any public space) and it’s still going to be street photography.

What you almost always (notice the almost) need in order for street photography to be street photography is candidness. Almost all street photographs are done candidly, that is without permission or knowledge of the subjects involved. If you are not OK with this, then you could ask permission from the people you are photographing, and that is simply fine. A photograph doesn’t automatically become street photography if it is taken candidly, so relax and do things that make you feel the most comfortable. Street photography should capture emotion and humanity; it should be illustrate society and its rules and inhabitants. Street photography usually includes people, but it doesn’t always have to. Again, do things your way, but try to follow the general guidelines, which are: candidness, people and public spaces. Capturing emotional and powerful moments will create emotional and powerful images.

Approaching Strangers

street photography umberto verdoliva
Umberto Verdoliva

Approaching strangers can be a really hard thing to do for some people, while for others it comes naturally. If you’re one of those people who dread approaching people they don’t know, then I think you should think about the worst case scenario. What is the worst thing it can happen if you approach a stranger? Well, to be honest, they could reject you, which is totally fine. We’ve talked before about how to interact with your models, you should take a look at that.

The best way to approach strangers is to be honest about your intentions and do a lot of smiling. You would be surprised how much smiling matters in street photography. Sometimes you’ll look like a mad person, but if that’s going to get people to allow you to take their photograph, then it’s worth it!

How to Get Over the Fear of Shooting Street Photography

street photography ed peters
Ed Peters

Robert Capa, Hungarian war photographer and photojournalist, said that if your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough. Sorry to say that he’s pretty much right, which means that a lot of people are going to have a hard time getting close to capture the perfect shot. The best way to overcome your fear of shooting street photography is to know that what you’re doing is a good thing. Know that people can indeed react in different ways, but most people on the street are decent people who will appreciate a nice smile or a thank you.

You can also bring a friend with you, at the beginning if you think that it’s going to help you be a little more relaxed. Also, you can ask for people’s permission to shoot them, if you’re in doubt. Tell them why you’re taking their photo and if they don’t let you do it, respect their choice and move on.

Any more tips you would like to share with us on street photography? Drop us a line in the comment section below. Cheers!