Street Photography: A Complete Beginner’s Guide

What attracts you to the street photography? What street photography is one of the disciplines that more you love? Congratulations you’re in the right place, because today I bring you a mega guide where you meet all the tips, tricks, and secrets for taking the plunge to the street, camera in hand and achieve authentic as well.

Whatever the genre that interests you most strongly recommend you to practice street photography, how? That is what we will see today. Take good notes of everything that we’re going to share with you here and use this guide whenever you need it.

What is street photography?

The street photography is one of photography that captures the human essence in relation to the urban environment in a sincere way.

It is a general definition, and is that there is great controversy with what is and what is not street photography, but I’ll leave some points generally accepted what is and what is not street photography:

  • It is not a photograph prepared or inn.
  • It is not necessary that you appear a person but yes its footprint, it is evident that a person has been there and has left some kind of trail.
  • It is a picture that tells a story or conveys an emotion.

“If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it is street photography.”

Bruce Gilden

To the naked eye, street photography may seem simple. We all carry a camera always on top when we by the street, which makes it very accessible. However, to make a street photography of truth, a good photo of street, it is not so easy.

Peeeeeero… it is why we are here! To learn, right? And to make it easier. If you follow the tips I am going to give to throughout this guide, and practices (this is very important and I will never tire of repeating it), you will wake up to the real photographer of the street that you carry inside, and you’ll get photos that you will surprise yourself.

Before you throw I want to make a couple of clarifications are in order to avoid possible and typical confusion about what is and is not street photography.

Street photography is something that any amateur photography enthusiast will want to try at some point. You see the works of professional photographers and think “Yes, they are good, but it can’t be that too difficult.” So you grab your camera, run into town and come back with 50 photos of garbage cans. And it turns out: this is very difficult. Street Photography requires a capacity for timing, light and moments.
it’s very spontaneous and fast, and on the other hand, also tiring and very demanding. So here are a few helpful tips for a better street photo.

Understand how street photos work

Of course, it is difficult to consider rules of conduct and laws in such a spontaneous discipline, but you can still think about them and also look at lots of street photos and photo reports.

Might interest you: 330+ hashtags from 15 Instagram Streetphotography Accounts 2021

IN order to achieve this efficiency in shooting perfect scenes look at the scenes of the masters and try to understand how they came to their conclusion. Always keep in mind that these photographers often used a lot of film and shot many, many variants of the same photo.

You can take some inspirations from North Borders while doing some street photography in Vic, Australia

Street Photography: Identifying good places

Where should you go and take photos now? Certainly motifs worth photographing can arise anywhere, but there are still some indications where it could be interesting.

Look for Squares, avoid streets! Some places are great for taking street photos. People move slowly and there is a lot of interaction.

Pay attention to the light! Many places only become interesting through a certain incidence of light, when shadows form on the floor or shiny houses let light come from all sides. If you find one, you usually instinctively take photos from it anyway. But also remember that light can often change quickly. Sometimes it can be worthwhile to stay in one place for another 2 minutes.

Equipment for street photography? Not so important at first.

Don’t let yourself be persuaded that street photography can only be done with a particularly small, inconspicuous camera. Most of the pictures in this article were taken with a combo of Canon 5D and Sigma 50mm 1.4, a comparatively huge full-frame SLR combo. Shoot what you have: iPhone, compact camera, entry-level SLR, even medium format cameras are great for street photography.

You don’t necessarily have to approach street photography with one of the “classic” focal lengths, 35 and 50mm; You can bring many more lenses or much longer ones to your destination in the same way and present new challenges.

The street in focus – photos straight from life

Street photography is a great and demanding discipline in photography. A good street photographer can master almost any other type of photography as well, as so many talents are required here. Grab your camera, get out there and take a picture!

Street Photography Tips – How you take photos of people around you

How and where to photograph the street

We’ve already advance that street photography is done in urban environments that don’t we told you yet is that not necessarily has to be in the street. You can make pictures of street in public spaces such as stations, transport, restaurants, shopping malls, etc

The fundamental premise is, we insist, is that they are candid, where not involved in the scene, that nothing has been prepared or handled. And that is not a detail or individual portrait that did not have anything related with the street.

It is important to convey the sensations of what is happening, capture the atmosphere and convey the noises, the smells, the temperature and everything that has to do with the senses beyond sight.

Intimate portraits without permission

Question number 1. Is it even allowed to take photos of people without their permission? This is certainly not an easy topic, especially in times when data protection is a top priority. In another article we dealt with the topic of “right to one’s own image” – you should read this once when you have the opportunity to get a feel for the legal situation.

Since street photography is precisely about photographing people and situations as they are or as they happen, you should arrange as little as possible. However, you don’t have to rule out the possibility of staging in general. If you see an interesting person, you can also just speak to them and ask if you can take a picture. This is a great way to get intimate portraits of someone in their natural surroundings. And it costs nothing to ask!

Keep an eye on your goal

The most important thing is that you enjoy street photography. You will get the best results when you turn your head off and focus only on your surroundings. Unpack the camera and get started! We’ll tell you later how you can overcome your fear. Always keep your primary goal present: namely to portray emotions, humanity and the character of a person.

street photography camera settings

While it will take time, practice, and patience to get a really good photo, it will definitely be worth it – I promise. Now I don’t want to keep you tortured anymore. Here they are, our top 10 street photography tips:

what is the best lens?

Choosing the right lens is one of the most important factors in street photography. At first you will be tempted to use a telephoto lens with a huge zoom – so that you don’t have to get too close to a person. But a telephoto does more damage than good. Ultimately, you don’t want to be someone who, as unnoticed as possible, takes pictures of unknown people with a huge lens from across the street. Such behavior only fuels uncertainty. On the other hand, a certain inconspicuousness is not wrong either. So where is the mediocrity?

You should look inconspicuous and be in the middle of the action. Use a wide-angle lens or even a prime lens (for the very brave of us) and immerse yourself in a crowd. Many street photographers even opt for a compact camera that is less intrusive than a DSLR. In addition, it has the advantage of being lighter and more discreet. Large lenses are frightening if they are pointed at you head-on – have you already experienced it? You feel like you are in the line of fire – not good, so don’t do that.

street photography camera settings

Camera mode
The easiest way to set up your camera for street photography is the AV (Aperture Priority Mode) mode. In this “aperture priority” mode, the exposure time is calculated automatically by the camera. You set the ISO value and the aperture manually yourself. With the manual aperture you have the possibility to bring beautiful depths and blurred backgrounds into your pictures.

Aperture and ISO
On a sunny day you can start with f / 16 and an ISO between 200 and 400. When the camera shows a shutter speed of over 1/200 second, you’re ready to take the picture. We do not recommend the full manual mode for street photography because you have to react quickly to situations. The lighting conditions and situations change so quickly that you will hardly find the time to set all factors (ISO, shutter, aperture) manually.

Avoid blurry images
But pay close attention to the shutter speed (exposure time) and set the aperture and ISO accordingly. With a shutter speed of less than 1/80 of a second, you risk that the photo will be blurred (which can also be used as a positive effect). To sharpen the image, raise the ISO and / or enlarge the aperture.

Automatic mode
If you are new to photography, you can of course switch the camera to automatic mode. You can still adjust the light value (EV) however you want. This is particularly useful when you shoot ‘run and gun’ (without time to think) and have almost no control over what the camera is doing (which is not always the best solution). The automatic mode usually does a relatively good job. However, I would not rely on it in low light conditions as the shutter speed may be too slow to capture the moment properly.

Depend on your zoom

A wide angle lens enables you to stand close to your photographic object of desire. In addition, wide-angle lenses have the advantage that the photo taken gives the viewer the feeling of being part of the moment. Many famous street cars were shot just a few meters (or even inches) away from their object. Walk mindfully through busy streets, markets, or parks in search of interesting objects. This is how good photos are created. If the photos don’t end up looking like you visualized them, you need to get closer to the subject.

Use your feet as a zoom – until you are in the right place. For this reason, prime lenses are also a really good option in street photography, as the lens forces you to keep a small distance.

take your camera with you wherever you go

Street photography is spontaneous, nobody is waiting for you. It is a discipline that you need to practice to perfect. Your camera is your extended arm – it is your mouthpiece to share your view with the world. Unfortunately, you rarely get a second chance for a great moment! So be prepared. Your camera must always be close at hand. Equip yourself properly with batteries so that you can always leave the camera switched on, even when you are not looking at it. You only have a split second to take a photo at the crucial moment!

ignore your inner voice

Many people struggle with the concept of street photography. They are afraid that their subject will react annoyed, respond with violence, or even call the police. Practically all photographers have such fears because they are all too human. It is the fear of rejection that we consciously or unconsciously struggle with every day. But I have good news for you: it can be overcome! How? By going out with the camera more often.

Street Photography Composition Here are some practical tips that have helped me a lot personally:

  • Find an interesting place to sit with your camera. I spend a lot of time in cafes and restaurants. Especially when I’m traveling; my camera is always with me. In a comfortable environment, you can relax and wait for the right moment to take a great picture. You are also less noticeable when you sit in a café and not stand in the middle of the street.
  • Listen to music while you go out with your camera. Music distracts you a little. It can also be inspiring and help you relax. It may not sound very logical, but it works wonders. If it helps you to be relaxed, it’s worth a try. (However, I advise against it in unknown places and at night).
  • Set a goal for yourself before you start. For example, say to yourself: “Today I am addressing 10 people”. A simple psychological trick. You know in advance that you have to talk to a maximum of 10 people or ask for permission for a photo. Believe me, this will make it a lot easier for you. Not all will say yes. But maybe only one person who gives you a really great street photo will say yes.

Shoot photos from the hip

The general rule in photography is that a photo with the camera directly on the eye is always better. However, there are situations when it is not possible to bring the camera to the eye. That is why it is useful to learn how to take photos from the hip.

When I started street photography, it was really difficult for me to face people and hold my camera in front of them. So I started taking photos from my hip. At first I wasn’t really successful. However, once I got used to the camera and the focal length (the right distances), I was able to shoot some great pictures. It is important to have a good feeling for distances and the focal length, which you can read more about here.

Take photos at night

Taking pictures at night is a great way to incorporate the fascinating moods into your pictures. However, it’s not as easy as taking photos underground; you have to watch out for slow shutter speeds to avoid blurry photos. You also have to increase the ISO value and open the aperture as far as possible to compensate for the low light conditions.

If you want to or have to expose longer, you should take a tripod with you. Alternatively, a bright lens would allow you to take a good picture even in poor lighting conditions. However, such “strong” lenses also have their price. Always use the reciprocal rule to determine how long you can take photos with your hand (i.e. without a tripod).

With night photos, you should also find interesting lines, shadows, and compositions to give your image the necessary expressiveness. Silhouetted objects are interesting and, together with shadows, can make beautiful compositions.

Think Outside the box

Powerful ideas and emotions can be portrayed using very simple scenes. Most people associate street photography primarily with people or street portraits. However, you don’t always have to immortalize people or a crowd in your pictures. This is of course difficult in busy places. However, you can walk down a quiet back street and look for various interesting objects. With or without people – there are countless possibilities for a wide variety of photos.

During my time in Cuba, I spent some time photographing the old buildings in the streets. Amazingly, the resulting series became quite popular in the photography community. That was not intended – but all the more gratifying since I just tried something different.

By the way, you can find more quotes from successful street photographers here. Or be inspired by our collection of 72 photography quotes!

Image quality isn’t everything

Although some photographers will certainly disagree on the following point … I still believe that image quality is not the most important thing in street photography. In contrast to landscape photos or professional commissioned work in the advertising environment. Of course, you should be careful to keep the image quality as high as possible. However, this is certainly not as important in street photography as it is in other areas of photography. In my opinion, the composition, lighting, drama, and the story you are trying to tell are more important than image quality. If your pictures represent all of that, you are well on your way to becoming a good street photographer!

Sharpness, low noise and image quality are worthless if the composition, light or atmosphere is not right. Focus on the most important things – this is how you will make a good road car.

It’s not suitable for everyone

As with all other genres of photography, enjoying what you are doing is important. If street photography is something you don’t like, then you can take normal pictures. Creativity arises where your passion lies. So do what makes you happy and not what other people want you to do. I love street photography because I can be outdoors, meet new interesting people and also see everyday life from a different perspective

Street photography vs. documentary photography

It is possible to confuse street photography with documentary photography, however, though they share many aspects, and the first can be understood as part of the second, they have clear differences.

The street photography is spontaneous, while the documentary requires a prior investigation to send a clear message. The first aims to excite, the second claim, or report.

Street photography vs. urban photography

For many years they have been the same, however, in the recent times has emerged a new photographic style that makes necessary a distinction and separation so as not to confuse the real concept of street photography, this is the street photography that responds more to photography in the street photography of the street.

In street photography, the important thing is not the story or the emotion, but the technical and the aesthetic. In addition, the urban photography is based in photographs that were prepared, while street photography implies that it is a photograph sincere, spontaneous, without any type of intervention. Don’t you line, yes, there will be pictures that can be understood both as a picture of street and urban, but others in which the difference is very evident?

Tips for photographing the street

Finally comes one of the points that were waiting with more impatience, am I wrong? Let’s go to the mess that I have a lot of things to tell you, but let me before you say something very important. There are two fundamental aspects that you need to master in order to make a good street photography: lighting and composition. I insist, fundamental. In the links you will find guides, very complete on each of them, to deepen in them and can apply the knowledge learned in the street. In addition, a few tips for you about below are related with the light and the composition.

But let’s continue with the rest of the tips. As a team we have already spoken, what I understood, you just remember two words: discreet and lightweight .

  1. Discretion. I know, I am a very heavy with this. But it is really important that you be discreet so as not to interfere in the scene and capture it in a sincere way, as it is happening. And not only with respect to the equipment. For this reason it is important that your attitude and your outfit to be as unobtrusive as possible. Nothing of going with a t-shirt orange fluoride that will make you be the center of attention.
  2. Respect. Avoids capture images denigrating and if someone is upset because he photograph (rarely happens) he smiles and apologizes, in addition, erase the picture if you ask for it.
  3. Carry your camera in hand and not hanging in your neck, or you will miss more than a snapshot. Also you will spend more unnoticed with it in the hand that hung.
  4. Pay attention to the light. Depending on the light, a story or a scene can be completely changed. The sensations that causes a harsh light have nothing to do with a diffuse light. Salt at different hours of the day, from sunrise until the night closed. Observe the changes of light and how it affects the scene. Take notes as needed, maybe some day want to go to a specific place looking for a specific light.
  5. Makes a good composition. Also I have advance how important it is to take care of the composition to achieve an interesting photograph, that will attract and catch the eyes of more than a nanosecond.
  1. Looking for scenarios that say something. We talk about street photography, so the scenario is to co-star. A good place to help you contextualize and build the story.
  2. History and emotion. A street photography without one of these ingredients, or both, is not a street photography.
  3. Looking for interesting subjects, but remember to photograph them within the context and not as an individual portrait, but it will be just a portrait.
  4. Capture gestures and expressions that speak for themselves. A look can be the absolute star of your image. Pay attention to what’s going on around you.
  5. Do not copy. It is easy to fall into the temptation to reproduce those images that impact us but it is a mistake, in addition to the plagiarism it is neither ethical nor legal. You try to capture the scenes with your look personal and unique. That’s not to say that there photographing reflections, silhouettes, juxtapositions, contrasts, backlights, details, games of lights and shadows, humorous scenes, lines, geometries, etc, these are topics and resources that work very well in spite of being the typical clichés, but that and you can make them yours if the traps from your look and not from the other.
  6. Make sure that the spectator will be stunned. If you get that, without a doubt, your image will work. To create ambiguity, surprise, or make the public wonder how nose you’ve done this picture is the icing on the cake.
  7. Test out each day with a different lens or shoot with a single focal length. With time, you will discover what focal length you feel most comfortable.
  8. Salt with an idea in his head. It is not something you have to do always, but going out with an idea in mind will help you be alert on this topic and to concentrate the efforts. For example, you can go out looking for scenes that convey a specific emotion (loneliness, longing, insecurity, excitement) or one type of subject, as lords with hat. As such, they are only examples or ideas. Think of something that will motivate you to put the focus there on your next outing.
  9. For the night. By the night of the circumstances and the stories change, the city seems different and although it may seem that now is not the time for the lack of light, it is not so. Use the light from street lamps, windows, lights of cars, bus shelters advertising and any other point of light that will help illuminate the scene to capture the essence of the night. I assure you that you can achieve instant large impact.
  10. Giving it a title. You try to put a caption to your photo, if you are not able to, replantéate if your image of a true account of something or have a sufficient impact.
  11. I know agile. You have to be very fast, the scene vanishes in a jiffy. It is important to know your camera to not get to tinker buttons at the most inopportune moment, and to make adjustments prepared. Pretty soon, I’ll talk about the recommended settings.
  12. The best zoom lens is your feet. It’s not about being discreet escondiéndote behind a telephoto lens as if you were a paparazzi, but do not call the attention. This does not prevent you from approaching the scene and get inside. It is the best way to make you feel the viewer is a participant in the story. Approach. Without fear.
  13. Dress appropriately. Eye, that discretion is not the only important thing in terms of clothing. The comfort is also key. Can you imagine having to drive you home because you are not warm enough? Or do you go with the empty hands because you are frying the neck? Before going out to it can kick you in the city in search of the best street scenes, be sure to take the right clothes, several layers if you are going to be many hours because the temperature can vary by several degrees (more or less depending on the part of the world you’re in, of course), a cap or a hat and comfortable shoes. Do not neglect this small detail, you can make the difference between going home with something interesting or frustration as a single capture.
  14. Observe the environment. The observation is crucial in street photography. Observe everything that happens around you will be the only way to capture the stories that have taken place, the decisive moments and to anticipate the moments more amazing. And not only when you go with the camera, the observation also you can practice when you go without it, when you’re walking, on the subway or sipping coffee on a terrace. Look around you and less to the mobile screen .
  1. Avoids the errors unforgivable. There are mistakes and errors, which are not condoned in street photography are: manipulate a scene, retouch in excess or go to the edit settings, photograph destitute for the sake of it or to put water marks, for example. Flee them as one who flees from the devil.
  2. Better to go without company. It is easier to move and your companions do not desesperarán. If this is not possible, take advantage of the situation, he sees chatting quietly without losing sight of what’s going on around you, this will help you to get a bit more invisible.
  3. Practice, practice and practice, there will be days that you come back home without anything really interesting, but you will accumulate experience in the observation and gather speed for framing and reset parameters when necessary. Without realizing it, you’ll automating all of these actions and will arrive on the day in which you’ll be able to achieve stunning images without batting an eye.
  4. Do not dream, or wait to travel to big cities. Your best street photography can be in your same neighborhood, is the more accessible you are, the more you know, the one that allows you to study the light of a corner, to return each time you need it, and with the more connected you can be to convey its essence. It starts by him. If you get bored you can explore other neighborhoods, but get it out of your head that only New York provides great opportunities for street photography.
  5. From home. And if you can’t leave the house, you know that you can also do street photography from your window or from your balcony. There are many street photographers who have proven in the last few months.
  6. Patience. Arm yourself with her, I’ve already warned that it is not easy to get a good photo of street, you can’t control the light, or change the scene, or repeat to correct an error. You have what you have and lasts, a sigh. It is a mix of luck, training, observation and perseverance. Is not to reach and succeed. But if in truth you are passionate about, you will not mind try it as many times as necessary.
  7. Have fun. The street photography is to live it, feel it, love it… don’t take it as an obligation, to obtain great results you have to turn it into a passion. Enjoy the scenarios, characters, plays with them and captúralos with your camera and with your heart photographer.
  8. The camera is always with you. The most important thing is not to plan, though many times to help, or to carry all of the directions to the letter, the important thing is to get out, practice, shoot, lose your fear of photographing the soul of your city or the city where you are visiting. Don’t forget your camera or when you go to make a comment, your chance may be right around the corner.
  9. Creativity. When you believe that you lack the ideas refer to sets or projects.
  10. Edition. Do not fear the edition of your photography. This is a necessary step, the last to close the process from the time you saw the scene in your head. The edition will help you to highlight what really is important in the image, to bring out details and modulate the tone emotive photography. This is not to put here or remove it from there, no, it is not to manipulate because it would not be street photography, but adjust shadows and lights, focus, color, highlight textures where you consider or reframe if necessary.
  11. Knowing how to choose. To edit a photograph is not only to reveal it, is to know which of the images within a series of frames similar is the more powerful, the more interest you can wake up and more power off. Learn how to discard what does not work and choose what’s best is another essential step that you must give the author of street photography.


  • Street photography takes practice. The more you go out, the more your self-confidence increases. With every tour, your eye is sharpened more.
  • The approach is a lot easier than in other areas
  • Post-processing of the images should be reduced to the essentials (minimal or no processing).
  • Perception and intuition are the most important factors. You have to be attentive and train your eye for details. Follow your intuition, not logic.
  • Good street photos start from powerful ideas and emotions that are presented in a simple way.
  • These factors combined will help you capture those unique moments and take your photos to a new level.

reviewed by Daniel Davis

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