Headshot, portrait, street and documentary photographer in NYC and Jersey City

alastair.arthur@gmail.com

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Street Photography Tips

Like any art form, there are no rules beyond the legal and ethical considerations. There are some things that work, in general, visually. There are some things that work, in general, as techniques. But not everything works for everyone, and part of the fun (and frustration) can be the journey finding out what works for you, what images speak to you most, and how you can best create those. So consider the list below as, mostly, suggestions to try out sometimes.

Gear
  • One camera, one lens

  • Take business cards

  • Travel light

  • Shoot film sometimes

  • Get a cheap manual lens

  • Try something different (e.g. using a filter, smartphone only, fisheye lens)

Technique
  • Set the scene - start by finding a background that you like

  • Find negative space

  • Don't plan, just explore

  • Use spot metering (especially at night)

  • Wait - if you’re nervous about photographing people it can be much less intimidating to stay still, let people come to you and walk through your frame

  • Use Back-button focus

  • Expose for the highlights

  • Manually focus sometimes, so you know how when you need it

  • Try zone focusing

  • Shoot from low down

  • Listen to classical music

  • Shoot in the rain or just after (reflections)

  • Shoot for the conditions (golden hour vs. sun vs. cloud)

  • Find a good location and work it

  • Aim a little away from people so they don't think they're being photographed

  • People tend to look at a person they’re about to pass when about 6 meters away, then look away again. Let that happen then photograph them.

Vision & Composition
  • Pre-visualize a shot

  • Use your surroundings to create a frame within the frame

  • Create layers (foreground, middle-ground, background)

  • Tell a story

  • Study the light

  • Look for striking, matching or complementary colors

  • Use triangles

  • Experiment with leading space

  • Create diagonals for a more dynamic image

  • Break the rules (know them first)

At home
  • Study the great photographers, not (or at least not just) Instagram

  • Study composition

  • Learn color theory

  • Practice at home

  • Know your camera

  • Find other street photos you like and figure out why

  • Learn how to edit

  • Don't over-edit

  • Be selective over what you share online

  • Join a collection or club

  • Find a mentor

 

Philosophy
  • Try street portraits

  • Give someone a print

  • Get 5 rejections while asking for a portrait

  • Shoot whatever catches your eye

  • Photograph others genres

  • Work on a project

  • Slow down

  • Smile

  • Be patient

  • Listen and smell - don't just look

  • Have an answer for 'what are you doing?' - know what and why

  • Have fun, don't force it

Try something different, ignore the tips, break the rules, do what nobody else is doing, or at least what you don’t normally do. It just might work out.