A simple lesson in street photography

"Gritty Street" - Getting out there comes first. The shots come next.

“Gritty Street” – Getting out there comes first. The shots come next. Actually, the whole thing is about communication.
“Gritty Street” By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Some of the simple things are the most difficult when starting.

I have been asked many times why some people find street photography so difficult. Many photographers never get past the first step. Here is some advice to help you.


Getting out there is difficult if you think it is. Actually the most difficult thing is letting people know you are doing it. Most people just ignore you. My advice to beginners is, “just do it!” If you don’t start you will never do street photography. Once you are out there the next thing is taking shots of people. My best advice here is, “be a conspicuous communicator”. Walk up to people and talk to them. They will let you know if they are not interested. No harm done, say thanks, and just walk away. If they are interested then talk. Next, invite them to be photographed. Offer them copies. In fact, communicate. Most people love communicators. Do it the way you know best. Do it with enthusiasm. Then do some photography. That’s how to get started. Once you have done one or two shots you will wonder what the problem was to start.

Some things to do…
  • Find a busy place, stick with it for a while. People will be easier to approach from one spot.
  • Look for your shots. Don’t just photograph anything and everyone.
  • Make your shots important and meaningful. Have a very good reason to push the button.
  • Have your camera pre-set so you don’t spend ages fiddling around with it.
  • A good lens is a 50mm prime. You can use a zoom around the same focal length.
  • A setting of F8 gives you good depth of field and flexibility for street shots.
  • Try getting some candid shots of people (just capture them as they are).
  • Ask some people to pose or be themselves – talk to them before shooting.
  • Get in close when you can.
  • Be a part of the street scene, not a voyeur. People hate to be watched, love to be included.
  • Respect the people you photograph.
  • If you are asked to delete a shot – comply.
  • Remember you are an artist not a spy.
  • Search out peoples expressions and natural poses. Show what they feel.
  • Be chatty and grateful, apologetic and gentle.
  • Practice patience.
Some things not to do…
  • Don’t approach people in quiet places or where they may feel threatened.
  • Don’t be a predator, be a facilitator.
  • Wear simple, non-threatening clothes and appropriate for the weather.
  • Remember, make your intentions clear and friendly.
  • If you are uncomfortable/threatened don’t stay. Get out of there!

There, that’s it. Take it easy, have fun. Talk to lots of people. Take lots of photographs.

5 responses to “A simple lesson in street photography

  1. Simon I’m surprised at you LOL..I hear what you’re saying. Of course legally we are in the right and nobody can DEMAND we delete images taken in a public space. But, for me it’s about courtesy. No harm is done by deleting an image (my one exception is cops. If I photograph a cop and he asked me to delete it I wouldn’t. I am not photographing him/her as a person, but as a cop..if that makes sense). Also if i refuse then I just make it harder for the next photographer. On the other hand I think in four or five years I’ve been asked maybe three times (no more I am sure) to delete an image. Once i OFFERED to delete the pic because a woman went ballistic about me taking photos of people in public blah blah BS BS LOL. She just walked away. So I didn’t delete it, used it as a subject for youtube video on PP and on ethics and it’s had hundreds of views..and you know the funny part? I only managed to get the back of her head as she turned away! hahahah..nice image though LOL

    • exactly. Anyway Simon, in my humble (well not so humble) opinion you are too nice a person to not smile and be nice to people. That image of yours is also of real public interest. Just a copper being a copper. say no more LOL

  2. good points of advice….i like respect, be a facilitator not a predator..these are basic to my work as well. thank you

    • Damon (Editor)

      Hi Paul, Thanks for your comments. Yes, these things are important to me and my work too.
      Best wishes,

      • Hey Damon Just reread this and also struck me about deleting images. Just read the other day a “street tog” said “Why should I delete MY photographs? I have a right to take them” sigh…lol