Ten Ideas to Improve Your Street Photography, For Beginners

Ten Ideas to Improve Your Street Photography

Ahem, pardon the slightly unrelated photo of (the very beautiful) Rebecca Lim who happened to look my way. Thought I’d share ten ideas which worked for me so far for street photography, and hopefully for you too. These tips are more biased towards Canon DSLR as I’m a lot more familiar with those, but hope they’re still useful! Without further ado…

1. Learn and practice good composition. Michael Freeman’s “The Photographer’s Eye” is a good book to start your learning journey.

2. Learn the Rules of Third.

by Theo De Roza

“Blind Eye” taken at the Clarke Quay underpass. I placed the lady along one of the RO3rd vertical gridlines and the eyes of the mural on the top horizontal gridline.

3. Don’t let the camera choose the focus point for you. Manually select focus points and learn how to quickly roll through and change focus points.

4. Know which focus point on your camera falls exactly or roughly on one of the Rules of Third intersections. Have your focus point there before you even raise your camera to take the shot. This saves you valuable time to snap the photo, instead of having to switch focus points. For Canon crop cams with 9 point AF, these are the points that are in between the 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock points.

5. Autofocus (AF) mode. I’m usually on AI Focus or AI Servo. This is because I expect my subject, or even myself, to be moving when taking the shot. If using a lens with razor thin depth-of-field (like say F1.4 aperture,) I found that I get more keepers using AI Servo.

6. Where to aim? Have your AF point lock on the eyes. The human eye will look at the subject’s eyes first. If it ain’t sharp, it ain’ a keeper.

7. Shooting mode. I’m usually on Aperture Priority, in the widest aperture my lens can offer. This is because I want to de-focus anyone who strays in between me and my subject and to blur out the background as much as possible. I’m seldom on F8 when shooting street, unless it’s a group photo I want to take.

8. Cropping your subject. Don’t crop off a person at their joints. Like say their waist, elbows, wrist, knees.. You get the idea.

9. Shoot in RAW format. Chances to retake an original street photo are near impossible. RAW format gives you way more headroom to edit a (hastily taken) photo that is too dark or too bright.

10. I usually shoot in Burst Mode as well. Most cameras nowadays do at least 3 frames per second, use that technology to your advantage. I use Burst so that at least one out of say 5-8 shots will have the composition and subject placement that I desire. Especially when shooting handheld.

by Theo De Roza

The contact sheet for my Perspective photo. Burst mode. Saves lives!

Contribution by takuma:

Another thing to add. When possible, always thank or acknowledge your subject. Just a simple smile and nod of the head will do. 🙂


Contribution by indigo22:

yes, should try to always aim for the eyes…butttttttttt…

must know how your camera AF works. it works by detecting contrasty colors around the focus point…so if you are shooting in bright lights, there is on issue..

but if you are shooting in dark conditions (i.e at night with no street lamps), it will get very hard to focus on the eye as there isnt enough contract detection around the eyes. in this case, the camera will recognise the focus point as one whole black (because its at night, thus black) patch..

for an illustration, point your cam to the sky at night..

focus on a star, can focus, cause white star, black surrounding
focus on a empty patch of dark sky, hard to focus

unless you are using a 1dx or d4s, in which it can lock even in pitch dark i suspect

Summary: know your camera’s limitation well

Will add on when more stuff comes to mind.


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