In this short article, I’ll go over five things you can do that will have an immediate, positive impact on your street photography.
Don’t Be Afraid to Use a Telephoto Zoom Lens
I know almost every article and just about every street photographer state you should shoot with a wide-angle, prime lens. I don’t entirely disagree — If you’re just beginning street photography, I agree 100% with all who espouse the notion of using a wide-angle, prime lens but, once you get the hang of focusing and composing quickly, and you find that you’re getting a high keeper rate, I suggest you experiment with different focal lengths. One complaint I hear all of the time from street shooters is that street photography has become a homogenous pot of imagery lacking in character and distinction. In my opinion, that is mainly because everyone is shooting with wide-angle prime lenses. Dare to be different, and your work will stand out. Shoot with longer lenses to compress the scene as in the image above or use that long lens to get a shallower depth of field. Also, try shooting with ultra-wide-angle lenses that distort the scene.
Don’t Be Afraid to Vary Your Lens Aperture
Yes in street photography we most often want as much in focus as possible. After all, we are documenting humans in a city, and we usually want the elements of the photograph recognizable, but that isn’t always the case. Often, we are capturing a person’s emotion, and if too much in the picture is in focus, the viewers of our image may miss the subtleties of the emotion we’re trying to display. The police officers in the image above have slight smiles on their faces. I want you, the viewer, to notice that and having a shallow depth of field, which was accomplished by using a wider aperture, helped me blur the background, so it wasn’t distracting from the part of the picture I want you to notice.
Frame The Scene and Wait For Someone to Come Into It
A subtitle to this would be to slow down. You don’t have to be continually walking. If you see something that would make for an interesting backdrop, stop and wait for someone walk in front of your backdrop.
Look For Geometric Shapes
Look for squares, triangles, rectangles, and circles. Compose your image, so the shape or shapes work as an exciting backdrop to your subject (as in the picture above) or compose so the shape frames your subject (as in the picture below) or if possible, compose so the shape leads your viewer’s eyes to the subject. Triangles are particularly powerful shapes in photography so be on the lookout for them and try to exploit them when possible.
Shoot That Which Will Elicit Emotion From Your Viewer
For a long time, I wouldn’t take pictures of the homeless, children, or people that might be doing anything they’d be embarrassed to have photographed. I began to realize that I was severely limiting myself. Homelessness is undoubtedly a problem in most cities, and if I want to be the best street documentary photographer I can be, I need to document the struggle of the homeless. I am uneasy about doing it but for me, and the keywords are, for me, homelessness is necessary for me to shoot so that I can be the best street photographer possible. Everyone is different, and you should decide for yourself if this type of subject matter is something you want to photograph.
Children are always fun to photograph. These kids had a good time that I believe I captured but my only regret is that I didn’t have a zoom lens to better show the fake mustache that the little boy is wearing.
In the past, I would pass up a shot like this one of a guy that fell asleep in the park. People are interesting in general and even more interesting during their more vulnerable moments. I now capture such moments.
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