In this article, I’m gonna introduce some tips on how to shoot street photography.
I love street photography and I always take my camera with me, looking for a good chance to take a shot.
When it comes to street photography, you can’t take the same picture twice. Because timing and coincidence are huge factors, it becomes a record of the scenery you saw and the time you spent there, and I don’t think there are many criteria for judging whether a photo is good or bad.
Moreover, even if you don’t go to a special place, the scenery of your neighborhood can turn out to be a very attractive moment, so anyone can take attractive photos with a little creativity.
In this article, I’d like to introduce some of the methods and tips that I usually use when taking street photography with some examples of my photos.
9 tips for your street photography
The first idea for shooting is to wait. Waiting means waiting for the time to come, waiting for people to pass through, waiting for something to happen, etc. It can also mean waiting for the moment you imagine will come or for some interesting situation to occur.
When you hear the term “street photography,” many people think of walking around the city and taking pictures of the moments that catch their attention, and I think that’s actually true.
However, when you actually try it, it’s hard to find the right situation by chance, and it’s also hard to take good photos.
So, it is important to have an image of a situation or scene that you think is good, and wait for the right moment, for example, when someone comes or when the sun shines in a good way.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.
This photo is of an ordinary street lined with houses in the Nishijin district of Kyoto. I felt it would be boring to just take pictures of the streets, so I waited for a while for someone to pass by, and then a local cyclist rode by.
I thought it would be nice to have a bicycle riding in the middle of the subject, so that the subject of the photo itself would be clear.
This photo was taken on a street in the city of Essaouira, Morocco.
I found a nice alleyway and waited for a long time to see if I could get a good shot, and when I saw a car and a bicycle about to pass each other, I took the shot without missing a moment.
The focus was a little too close to the people, but I thought it was a nice touch.
2. Looking down
The second idea is to look down from a high place.
Even if you are at the same height, you may not notice the charm of a place, but by looking down from a high place, you can often take interesting pictures.
From a high place, you can see the whole picture of the place you are looking down on, so you can notice new things. If there is an observatory, pedestrian bridge, building, or other high place nearby, you might be able to get some interesting shots by going up there.
This photo is of a pedestrian bridge in Umeda, Osaka, a famous photography spot.
The moment the traffic light changes, all the people who were waiting for the light to change walk at once here, and if you shoot at a time when the sun’s rays are strong, you can capture long moving shadows, which can be very powerful.
This is a photo of the Kamo River in Kyoto, Japan, taken from a slightly higher vantage point.
Watching the two of them walking together from a little distance from the high place makes me feel a little nostalgic, as if I am somehow watching over them from afar.
Looking down from a high place in a simple landscape makes the subject matter clear, and I think it makes the concept of the photo easier to understand.
3. Looking up
The third idea is to look up.
Especially in urban areas, looking up between buildings or near a large building can give you a very powerful photo. It is also interesting to look up at places where there are dense electric lines. This is especially interesting when taking pictures of buildings.
This is a photo taken in Varanasi, India.
The streets of Varanasi are like a maze, and I think I was lost when I took this picture.
At that time, I looked up at the sky and thought that the buildings looked very oppressive, so I took this photo. When you look up at a tall building in a narrow alleyway, you can express the light dramatically.
This photo was taken looking up in an alley in Pontocho, Kyoto.
The orange of the lanterns stands out against the dark gray sky in the early morning. The texture of the electric wires and the front blur of the roof create a nice texture.
The fourth idea is reflection.
When you take a picture of a puddle of water or a pond after it rains, it becomes a very fantastic and beautiful picture. When you look at the reflected scenery, you can see the top and bottom or left and right sides reversed, which is more mysterious and attractive than looking at the scenery normally.
Glossy tables, car hoods, and large glass windows in the city can also be photographed with reflection in mind to create interesting pictures.
This photo shows a waterway along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto in winter.
There are trees planted on both sides of the canal, so if it were cherry blossom season or autumn leaves season, it would have been gorgeous, but I think the blue of the sky stands out simply and beautifully in this photo. If it were taken normally, the leaves would have fallen and the scenery would have been tasteless, but when taken with reflection, it has a different appeal.
This is a photo taken at a cafe rather than a street.
There was a glass table right in front of the barista who was making coffee, so I thought it would be interesting to make a picture of him through the table.
I think there are probably reflection points in many places, so it might be interesting to consciously look for them.
5. Finding Regularity
The fifth idea is to try to find regularity.
Regularity means to find a landscape where things are arranged or color patterns are arranged according to a certain rule, and when you walk around the city, you will find many things arranged in a regular way.
Tables in a cafe or furniture lined up in a row can make interesting photos depending on how you shoot them.
Once you find a regular pattern, you’ll want to look for more patterns, so I recommend it.
This is a photo of a chair and table at a casual cafe I took while walking around town.
It’s a really simple scene, just a table and chairs, with no people or food in the picture, but I thought the contrast of red and blue was beautiful, and the way they alternated was interesting, so I took this picture.
This is a photo of a ship I took at a seaside overseas.
There were many similar boats in a row, so I thought I could use a medium telephoto lens to take a photo with a sense of compression, and then I pressed the shutter button. It’s interesting to see several identical items in a regular line.
6. Chasing Shadows
The sixth idea is to chase the shadows.
In the morning or afternoon, when the shadows are long, you can take a really cool picture by backlighting. You can take pictures with high contrast between light and shadow, and I think you will be able to take pictures that are dramatic, emotional, and somehow appealing to the senses.
This is the cityscape of Marrakech taken from a high vantage point during the shadowed hours.
I mentioned earlier that you can take interesting photos by looking down from a high place, but this photo was taken not only from a high place, but also in the afternoon when the shadows were longer, so I think the photo is dramatic.
I personally recommend backlighting for photos with shadows.
This is another photo taken at a common roadside cafe space, not a special tourist spot, but shadows are the subject of this photo.
If I took this photo on a cloudy day, it would probably look bland, but I think the shadows make this photo interest adding contrast.
7. Low angle
The seventh idea is to shoot from a low angle. Low angle means to take a picture with the camera in a low position, right on the ground.
When you shoot from a low angle, you can often get a sense of the realism of the ground and create a powerful photo. Not only that, but shooting from a low angle also changes your perspective, allowing you to capture the scenery as if you were an animal or insect.
This photo was taken from a low angle in a narrow alley, and I think the low angle gives the photo a more realistic and powerful feeling than if I had taken it from a normal height.
I think that shooting with a wide open aperture value also creates a bokeh effect and conveys a sense of perspective.
This is a photo of a cat I took overseas.
I took this photo from the same perspective as the cat. In this way, I think it’s a good idea to take pictures of animals from the same perspective as the cat, because it gives a sense of immersion.
8. Dare to tilt the camera
The eighth idea is to tilt your camera.
The basic rule of photography is to keep the camera horizontal, but when taking street photography, you can create a sense of realism and immersion by tilting the camera at an angle.
When shooting at an angle, I find that using a wide-angle lens and shooting dynamically is often more appealing than using a standard or telephoto lens.
This photo was taken with a 24mm wide-angle lens. By tilting the camera, I think I was able to get a wider view of the cityscape into the composition, giving the photo a dynamic impression.
This is one of those shots that I took on the street and pressed the shutter at random, so the focus is not on the person in the middle and there is some blur, but I think that’s one of the reasons why it has such a cool atmosphere.
I think this is more of a landscape photo than a street photography. Anyway, it’s a photo of a monkey family with a landscape in the background.
By tilting the camera at an angle and placing the monkey and the setting sun, the subject of the photo, on the diagonal, I think I was able to use the wide-angle angle of view to the fullest and create a dynamic photo.
9. Slow shutter
The ninth idea is to use a slow shutter speed.
Using a slow shutter speed makes it possible to take pictures that are intentionally blurry, which makes for interesting pictures. This is a good idea when you want to take pictures that express the movement of people or objects.
During the daytime, you need to use ND filters to reduce the amount of light, because too much light can cause blown-out images. However, at night, you can easily use the slow shutter speed, so it is easy to try the slow shutter speed when taking snapshots after sunset.
This is a picture I took with slow shutter speed when I took a tuk-tuk to a village in South India in the early morning.
The slow shutter speed makes the electric lights look like they are flickering.
I don’t think anyone other than me would know what this photo is about, but I personally like it because it reminds me of the rough driving of the tuk-tuk, the feeling of the air in the morning, and the memories of feeling a little anxious about whether I would actually arrive at my destination.
This photo was taken using a ND filter and a slow shutter speed. By using a long shutter speed, I think the movement of the people in the photo is brought out, giving the photo a sense of dynamism or bustle.
While the background is clearly depicted, only the people are moving, which creates a contrast and draws the eye to focus on the movement of the people.
I’ve introduced you to the tips on how to shoot street photography!
I think it can be quite embarrassing to take pictures on the street when you’re not used to it, but I think the key to taking good pictures is to have good manners and take pictures with your camera in a dignified manner. If you are too embarrassed to take out a big DSLR camera, you can use a small compact camera like RICOH GR3x.
In addition to the photos shown in this article, I’ve also posted a lot of street photography on Instagram, so please feel free to check it out.