Street Photography Techniques

Street photography techniques - my top 10:

1. Look at people's hands. Their body language is often most purposely expressed in the hands.

In the image below the young boy's face is quite neutral and you don't notice his hands straight away. 

But they are more important than his facial gesture because of the two toys he his holding, each of which carries a very different message.

War or Peace?

Above: War or Peace? by Anne Darling

It posits the question, what will he be like when he grows up? If a good street photo is one that tells a story, as many people say, then this is a story in the making.

2. "Don't think, but look." This is a famous quote by the philosopher Wittgenstein and who knows what he meant by it, certainly I haven't read his work. But what it means to me is, give your brain a rest, switch off, become aware of the spaciousness that surrounds you, how everything and everyone is in their right place, nothing overlaps, it's all good just as it is. Walk around with that awareness and just look, give your analysing left-brain a holiday.

3. Street photography does have to have people in it. If it has no people then it is urban photography where the presence of people is implied by the traces they have left in that place. If your photos are about buildings then it is architectural photography. One is not better than the other but it is important to know which genre you are working in at any one time.

4. Don't hesitate, just click, or as the Nike slogan says: 'Just do it!'

5. If you take a series of photographs of the same subject, usually the one that works best is either the first or the last. You know when you've got the shot you wanted. When you think 'That's the one', move on to something else, don't overwork it.

6. Use a prime lens for a whole day and see how it changes the way you work. When you don't have a zoom lens to move in and out, you have to move your body instead. This involves you much more in the scene and makes you less of a voyeur. And it shows in your photos.

7. Never use a telephoto lens - it distances you literally and metaphorically from your subject. Wide angle lenses are good - they let you take in a large area of the scene easily and they are better when light levels are low.

8. Be very careful when photographing children, even if the parents are standing right next to them. In the photo above, the child was on his own but I was attacked once at a bus stop (in France) for taking a general shot of all the people with a cute little girl standing in the middle of the scene. The mother was incensed and  tried to rip the camera from my neck. Always ask first if it's a child you want to photograph.

9. Of all the street photography techniques, the most important one has got to be - smile. Try to connect with people all the time (unless they look scary ). It really works. And you will remember the event. I spent an hour and a half in a family's home in Inner Mongolia because I smiled at them in the street as I was passing by. They didn't speak English and I didn't speak Mongolian but we got on like a house on fire, so much so that they gave me dinner. And their friendship. I loved the photos too!

10. Always have an ultra-violet (UV) filter on your lens - it works as a transparent lens cap, it's inexpensive, protects your optics, and one day you will be glad it was there. With a UV filter in place, you will be able to respond really quickly to what's happening in front of you as you won't waste time taking the lens cap off!

I hope you enjoyed reading my top 10 street photography techniques - happy trails!

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