Tag Archives: Streetphotography

Five simple tips for making street portraits

• The Lady •

• The Lady •
Classic Rembrandt Lighting in a modern street portrait
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• The Lady • by Netkonnexion, on FlickrExternal link - opens new tab/page

There is a beauty in simplicity.

I love to make street portraits, simple characterisations of people in their real lives. The street photographer thrives on the capture of the moment in someone’s life that just says a little about who they are… a moment in the life of a person you will never know. In this post I am going to look at how best to capture a street portrait.

1. Eye to eye

Out there on the street you a part of the scene – creating a momentary rapport with your street subjects. People like to communicate. And, they like to see communication. When you take a street portrait try to get your subject looking at you. If they are, they are communicating with you. The viewer of your photograph will be a part of that correspondence too. It will pull them in. Work at the eye level of your subject. Explore their faces through their eyes. Your capture will have much more power. If you are able to capture them looking in your direction, make sure the eyes are in focus too. This is good advice for any photograph, but it is critical for portraits. If the eyes are out of focus any appearance of communication will be lost.

2. Understanding the background

Every subject exists in some sort of environment. However, street portraits don’t allow much control over the background. Sometimes that can ruin your shot. A street portrait is about your subject. If there is too much going on around your subject then it can be a distraction. It takes the viewers attention away from the person you are showing them. When you are doing street portraits you can control the background in two ways – capitalise on it or get rid of it. If it is interesting, not too distracting, and puts your shot in context, then go for a deep depth of field (say, f11). That way you show your subject in the full light of the city environment. On the other hand if the background is complicated, distracting, or just uninteresting – go for a wide aperture and shallow depth of field. If your subject is away from the background your subject will stand out leaving the background out of focus.

3. The other people round about

If your subject is a part of a group then include the group. However, if they are not in a group portrait the other people round about can add to the shot or create a distraction. Try to make your shot pick out your subject or the group they are in. If you are trying to do a street portrait then your concentration should be on the subject you are trying to show. If you are more interested in your subject with their group then the relationship is important. Fix on that and bring it out.

The point of street photography is to show something coherent. If what you show is simply the chaos of a street scene, most of the time the impact will be lost in the chaos. When there is more than one person in your scene you need to bring out relationships, coherence or some sort of point that makes the shot interesting. There is nothing wrong with capturing a group of people as long as the capture has a point. Tell a story, bring out the meaning.

• Paper hats •

• Paper hats •
Pulling a group portrait together requires a coherence, collective story or central interest to the shot.
Click image to view large
• Paper hats • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

4. In the best possible light

The character of the light is one of the most important aspects of the shot. There is no single rule for lighting but it certainly helps to have an idea about the basics. In the photo above, “The Lady”, you will notice the triangular patch of light on her left cheek. This is a portrait lighting situation called “the Rembrandt” after the famous renaissance painter who pioneered this lighting. The form of the light/shadow helps show off the shape of the face and highlights the cheeks beautifully. In this case her eyelashes cast an interesting shadow and add character to the shot too.

When you are taking street portraits it helps to know about basic portrait lighting. The light and shadow on your subjects face is important. The wrong light can affect the form and shape of your subjects face, be unflattering or even create odd contrasts or miss-shape the face. It can certainly create a distraction if it is wrong. If you want to know more about how to light the face for portraits then check “Simple positions for classic portrait work”. It is the face that gives the most character to your subject. A beautifully photographed face is the foundation to a great shot.

5. Shoot many shots

No one should just be machine-gunning shots. Look for great shots and take them with care and consideration. On the other hand, you really want to make your trip worthwhile. Concentrate on bringing out some of the points above, but make sure you take lots of shots. Street photography is an uncontrolled situation. To ensure you get the best out of the subjects you see you will need to follow up on as many interesting points as you can. Things change fast – you may not get a second chance. Look, study, consider, frame, shoot – a working sequence of steps for a great shot. If you keep spotting interesting things… do your best to capture them.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

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Three “laws” of street photography that will help you

• Green Girls •

• Green Girls •
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• Green Girls • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Street photography is not as chaotic as you imagine.

Most people behave in predictable ways in public. Understanding the general “laws” of street photography can really help you get the shots you want and capture the most interesting characters. Here are three ways that you can get ahead as a street photographer.

Outrageous people

When people are out and about enjoying themselves, especially in groups, they love to be photographed. The more outrageous they are presenting themselves, the more they love to be in the frame. They have made the effort to be “stand-outs” and so they are! More to the point they love to have photos taken because it shows they are the centre of attention. Groups like the green girls above just love to show off. And, don’t we love it too! So, for a bit of carnival fun, our first law is…

The photographers law of street stand-outs: The more outrageously dressed someone is, the easier it is to get a street photograph.

Hiding in plain sight

Be obvious, better still, be official looking. Nobody will question you taking photos. At lunchtimes I used to go out taking street shots. I wore a suit, had a tripod, and a Canon 5D. Sometimes I even wore a fluorescent jacket. I would put my tripod up in the middle of the pedestrian precinct and take photos of anything I wanted – nobody asked questions.

When hiding in plain sight, never look at someone directly. There are three little tricks to this:

  • When you are looking through the camera people cannot tell what you are looking at. If you use a wide angle lens you get a general view. Keep the camera pointing in the general direction of interest. You don’t even need to have the lens pointing directly at individuals. As people walk in and out of view you can snap them and they never know you are doing it.
  • Spend a long time looking through the lens – poised. People will walk in and out of the field of view and never guess you are watching them. All the while you are snapping away. Crop them into position later. With a wide angle shot you have plenty of scope to change the composition on-screen later.
  • If you are doing some spotting, not looking through the camera, make a big effort to “look past” people. Make it look like they are just in the way. People soon lose interest. Bingo – you have the shot and they are none the wiser.

So, for our every day photography in the high street our second law is:

The photographers law of sticking out like a sore thumb: If the photographer is obvious, the subject will be oblivious!

Candid or “can, but didn’t”?

The candid shot is a part of the business of being out on the street. However, not every shot has to be a candid. Interacting with people, getting in close and watching them pose, work or play is also a part of the scene. You probably think it’s difficult to stroll up to strangers and ask to invade their privacy with a camera. Its not as difficult as you imagine. Most people are pretty flexible. If you show an interest in them, generally they like to show cooperation. The problem is with the photographer. I have heard photographers say, “yeah, I could of spoken to them, but I couldn’t be bothered”. What they really mean is: “I would love to have chatted with them and got some shots, but I was worried about rejection”.

Here is some news. It is not as bad as you think. If you do get rejected just walk away. Try someone else. Actually, rejection does not happen very often. Most of the characters you want to photograph are quite pleased to be involved. Be polite, chatty, fun, complementary and respectful and most of the time you will get what you want. Pick your subjects for their character, presence and interest and you will probably find that they are pleased to share with you. Get in close and personal, be enthusiastic and involved. You will be a part of the behaviour, and a part of their lives. If they want copies, send them some. Then you have given them something in return for their posing. This is the third law:

The street photographers law of proactive interaction: If you don’t ask you won’t get!

If you want to be a street photog…

You have to develop and practice a number of strategies. Street photography is a fast and fun activity. Sometimes the direct action approach works best. Other times the candid approach works. However you choose to do it you will find it’s not that difficult. Actually the most difficult thing is starting… and only you can sort that out.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Street photography law – a simple approach

• Street Legs •

• Street Legs •
Street photography has some simple rules that are pretty universal. Stay sensible!
Street Legs By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Common sense is the best guide.

Staying clear of the law is pretty easy if you follow common sense rules. These follow from good principles of established manners and social skills. Here is a simple summary to help you out. There is also some links below that will guide you through the more legal approach…

Disclaimer… not so boring!

I cannot offer you hard and fast legal advice. There are too many legal systems world-wide. Also, I am not a lawyer. Nevertheless most people go through life with few brushes with the law. They have been bought up to be good citizens. It turns out that, in most of the Western world at least, that good citizenry applies to photographers. Behave sensibly and you will probably be OK! So, feel free, follow my advice. Just remember it is best to get proper legal advice before taking action!

Go for it! A generalised approach to street photography law.
  • Always consider your personal safety first, then the safety of others.
  • You can take a picture of any thing you want in a public place.
  • You can freely take pictures of any person(s) in public.
  • You can publish your work without permission.
  • Take pictures of the police, armed forces, general officials and professionals.
  • Freely take pictures of women, children and any other person or animal.
  • You can follow people to get a shot (paparazzi do it frequently and legally).
  • You can photograph buildings and structures.
  • Traffic wardens, security guards and civilian police assistants cannot search you or order you to do something without a policeman present.
  • If stopped by the police give a reasonable and calm account of yourself IF YOU WISH.
  • You never have to surrender your camera or other equipment to any official without a court order (UK).
  • You never have to delete your photos or modify any of them or your equipment (UK).
  • You do not have to justify yourself or your photographic activities unless arrested (but see below).
  • If you are arrested for any photographic activity tell the arresting officers “I have the right to remain silent until I have been advised by my legal representative on what are legal, fair and reasonable questions to answer”.
  • Check with local authorities for special regulations relating to photography (eg. Trafalgar Square for commercial shots).
  • If you have more equipment than a bag and camera then make sure you have appropriate insurance against third party liability (eg. tripod, free-standing lights etc).
  • If you are working in a commercial capacity you must seek permission from local authorities and procure appropriate licences to carry out a complex shoot (lights, models, staff, equipment, vans etc).
  • If working as a paid photographer you must carry third party insurance and you may need location insurance for certain shoots
  • Be open and relaxed about your photography – you should not be harassed by officials if you are legitimate.
  • Do know the appropriate laws for your country or the one where you are travelling.
  • Don’t scare or intimidate people you are photographing (especially children or women). Following people for more than a short distance may be construed as intimidation.
  • Don’t persistently stalk, harass, irritate or torment people or follow anyone around (especially vulnerable people, women and children) for your picture-taking.
  • Do not take pictures if there may be a reasonable expectation of privacy (homes, toilets, through windows, private property, gardens or other private areas, serious personal injury situations, hospitals, changing rooms, etc.).
  • Do not block access ways, pedestrian paths, roads, doorways or fire escapes, or prevent official works or access with your equipment (tripods, lights, general photographic paraphernalia).
  • Do not stay anywhere if you are feeling threatened by anything or anyone.
  • You CANNOT profit from your street photography work without written permission of the depicted person(s) (eg, stock photography sales, advertising, selling posters etc.).
  • Do not publish pictures of personal, private or government buildings for profit without a property release, even if taken from a public space.
  • In publications do not provide identifying information about people you photograph unless you have written permission to do so.
  • Do not deliberately set up people you photograph to misrepresent them or actions they may take.
  • Do NOT get angry or violent or threatening if stopped by police or officials.
  • DO NOT make statements or justify yourself or discuss your photographic activities without a lawyer being present if arrested.
  • Do not take pictures of secure buildings with Government associations of secrecy.
  • Do not hide your camera or appear surreptitious near secure buildings with Government associations of secrecy.
  • Don’t lurk or hide yourself near secure buildings/land with Government associations of secrecy.
  • Don’t behave in a suspicious manner or a manner likely to incite scrutiny.

The minute you step off the public land you are subject to very different laws…

  • On private or Government land none of the above “Do’s” apply!
  • You do not have a right to do anything without the owners permission on private property.
  • In public buildings, and privately-owned buildings open to the public, rules often apply that photographers must obey. Check with the management – you should know about those before you go snapping.
  • Beware the Official Secrets Act (UK). Basically this applies in any Government secure area. Don’t go there! Warning – there are extensive powers of search and arrest, but there must also be reasonable grounds for suspicion.
  • Beware the Terrorism Act 2000 (UK) – this applies in any Government secure area, certain designated areas (not published) and anywhere that a policeman will have reasonable suspicion that you are carrying out a terrorist act or collecting information for such an act. Don’t make yourself look like a terrorist! Again, be warned, there are extensive powers of search and arrest, but there must also be reasonable grounds for suspicion.
  • If you collect a lot of information about the same individuals you may need to be “Registered” under the Data Protection Act (UK). In certain circumstances (eg. where identity is clear) pictures count as “Data”.
  • If people ask you not to photograph them it is polite and courteous to comply. Happy subjects make great subjects. Upset people might pop you a punch on the jaw! So think carefully before upsetting someone.
  • Don’t deliberately portray people in a bad light, a defamatory way or depict them in a way that may misrepresent their intentions or lead people to draw inappropriate conclusions. Such actions MAY lead to court action against you.
  • If you are observed frequently or persistently photographing in places where one person, children or vulnerable people may be found, ensure you have a legitimate, officially agreed and written reason to be doing that. Regular behaviour of that sort is deemed suspicious and grounds for a police investigation.

I hope that this list is helpful. You should feel free to take pictures in public streets. However, you should remember it is better to know the law than to fall foul of it! Prepare yourself properly with the right local legal information before doing anything controversial, or new-to-you.



By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

Forty six quick street photography tips

street photography tips: Worry · Street photography can be anything you want it to be - just do it!

· Worry ·
Street photography can be anything you want it to be – just do it!

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• Worry • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
Street photography tips to get you out there…

The best street photography requires rapid thinking.

Here are some really quick street photography tips to make sure that you do better photography on the street. They are aimed at getting out there and doing it. They are all about different situations and ways to approach them. Here are our 46 top street photography tips…

Forty six quick street photography tips
  1. Get out there, you can’t take street shots indoors!
  2. A big camera is daunting for people on the street.
  3. Always shoot in RAW – street shots need proper processing.
  4. Respect the people you shoot, then they will respect you.
  5. Polish your lenses – street dirt ruins shots.
  6. Get in close to the action – you will get better expressions.
  7. The simplest little actions make a great story.
  8. Remember reflections – windows, puddles, glasses, mirrors.
  9. If you feel uncomfortable – get out of there.
  10. Open up a wide aperture, some street shots work with lots of bokeh.
  11. Find ways to isolate the action – less distraction focuses the viewers eye.
  12. You are not a spy. Be there, in the scene. Don’t try to hide.
  13. Go light with your camera equipment.
  14. Set yourself up to take fast pictures.
  15. Try three different positions, stay a while in each.
  16. Beware of traffic headlights, winkers etc, they can overpower a shot.
  17. Use a non-photography bag to draw less attention to yourself.
  18. Be observant, be fast to react. Still you’ll miss more than you shoot.
  19. Working with a friend is good fun and gives you confidence.
  20. Do not use flash when doing street photography.
  21. Talk to people – shoot them posed, also catch them unaware.
  22. The best street shots have a strong story.
  23. Big cities have great street scenes, but so does the local main street.
  24. Brightly coloured cameras and equipment attract undue attention.
  25. Make people laugh and your street will come alive.
  26. You get some great street shots in the rain.
  27. Shoot people not things – there is more interest in humans!
  28. Bump up the ISO to get the right light sensitivity.
  29. Try shots from down low, the perspective works well against buildings.
  30. F11, pure heaven!

More street photography tips after this…


Quick street photography tips continued…

  1. Photograph both men and women.
  2. Try some shots in a tourist attraction – people relax there.
  3. Candid captures are way better than posed pictures.
  4. Sometimes shoot the whole person. Sometimes just the face.
  5. Feet can be interesting. Try the different approach.
  6. Think before you shoot – every shot should have a message to offer.
  7. What are people carrying? Get the feeling of the place.
  8. Keep away from anyone or any place you consider ‘worrying’.
  9. Look for tonal, colour, and shape contrasts.
  10. Capture relationships – they make great stories.
  11. Try wide angle shots, capture a wider perspective – the whole scene counts.
  12. Prime lenses help you get into the scene – 50mm is great.
  13. Look for sadness, look for happiness – shoot for emotions.
  14. Digital noise from high ISO is preferable to hand movement blur.
  15. Shoot in colour. Be prepared to go to black and white in processing.
  16. Be confident – it won’t work for you if you don’t work a scene.

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.