Beginner Photography: Street

Hey folks! This week’s topic is street photography, which I love. I’m really excited to have Gisele Duprez on the live show. She’s an incredible street photographer and a good friend of our crew. You can see a blog that Gisele wrote for us a while back here.

You can also see my first post on street photography here, which, frankly is better than this one. San Francisco served for some great shots. But to be fair, I was shooting over a whole weekend. This week I just went out for a few hours. My family went with me down to Kelly Drive, which is a lovely jogging/biking trail along the river in Philadelphia. It was a nice day and there were a lot of people out. I didn’t want to capture joggers and bikers though, as that’s where I’d shot for my sports blog previously.

There are a lot of challenges to street photography, but many of them are self-imposed. It’s scary to photograph strangers! I have the tendency to never get close enough, which can cause me to miss focus and include too much busyness in the background. When shooting street photography, you want to look for interactions between people. To zone in on a moment in the midst of a lot of unfocused chaos. But what you’ll see a lot of is people on their phones, or determinedly zipping through a crowd. It can take a lot of shots to find something worth seeing.

Technically, here are some tips. Using a smaller camera with a movable screen on the back is great. You can hold your camera down and pull out the screen which can disguise where you are pointing your camera and whether or not you’re even shooting. Holding the camera to your eye is certainly more conspicuous. I choose to shoot on aperture priority at a low to moderate f/stop so that I have some leeway on my focus. I almost always convert my shots to black and white in post to eliminate distractions which inevitably exist in street photography. Here’s a helpful video from Chelsea on the subject:

Here’s what I got:

f/4, 1/400th, ISO 2oo

This one is my favorite, the eye contact made it.


f/4, 1/640th, ISO 200


f/5, 1/400th, ISO 200


f/4, 1/1250, ISO 200

I realize now that my camera chose a crazy fast shutter speed to freeze the water, which was unnecessary. 


f/5.3, 1/400th, ISO 200


So those turned out okay. The first shot is the only one I would really keep, but I love street photography and practice makes perfect. I have a few spots I know I’d like to go out and try again. I look forward to seeing what you all come up with this week and to hearing from Gisele on Thursday!

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11 Responses to Beginner Photography: Street

  1. Roderick August 8, 2017 at 10:40 am #

    Street ? I immediately thought of the lyrics to “Hay Jack Kerouac” by 10,000 Maniacs (which is precisely the correct amount of maniacs you need to accomplish anything).
    “You chose your words from mouths of babes got lost in the wood.
    Cool junk booting madmen, street minded girls
    in Harlem howling at night”.
    I digress…..
    Thanks for the link to Gisele’s site and blog – fantastic work and I can’t wait for this week’s show.
    I’m with you on your first photo. The angler’s face and pose is great.
    I sort of like the three lassies sitting by the fountain. The water effect is not unpleasing (!)
    Hope you put in an appearance on Thursday’s show –

  2. Richard Reich August 8, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

    I keep reading and watching videos, but I know I’ll never have the courage to point a camera at people in the street.

  3. Gisele Duprez August 8, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    I’m excited! See you all there!

    I like these shots, Siobhan. I think the bottom one may be my personal favorite – such a slice of life moment.

  4. James Lemon August 8, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

    It’s very hard for me to comfortably “point my camera” at people. I think that is partially due to that we are taught or at least I was that pointing at people is rude. Sounds funny because it’s not exactly the same thing. But in my mind theres no difference between my hands and my camera, when I’m shooting of course. So what I do is kindly wave with my camera like I would with wave to a friend or family member. Give a smile, if by then they show signs of annoyance I walk away. But if they seem welcoming I say softly may I take a photo of you. I generally keep it quite so not to disturb the scene. People usually for me as long as I approach them kindly and with a warm smile,”at least I hope it’s warm looking. I don’t know what I look like when I smile at strangers.” But most of the time people are ok with it, and sometimes they are even flattered. I guess what I’m saying is think like your the one who’s picture is being taken. Would you more likely let the shady person in the corner making no eye contact and frowning have a picture of you. Or a person who has a kind personality with a warm smile take a photo of you?

    “Treat thy neighbor as you would want to be treated yourself.” – Mark 12:31

    • mm
      SiobhanKyle August 9, 2017 at 10:01 am #

      Ah, asking permission turns it into portraiture. I prefer to not ask. People rarely think you’re photographing them. The best method is to find a background you think is pleasing, and wait and shoot until a person walks into it. Then you keep shooting after they walk away. Then you aren’t invading their space, they are entering into yours.

      • SteveWaller August 10, 2017 at 8:23 am #

        aww. Wish I’d read your responses yesterday before I went out. My two best street photography attempts I now realised are portraits and so off topic and inadmissible tonight… Still a few moments left today to try to get that perfect picture and I have learned some more which is sort of the point for me. 🙂

  5. Bear August 8, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

    You always remind me to get out and shoot lol.. Big City’s like philly are a serious + for street.

  6. SteveWaller August 9, 2017 at 8:34 am #

    There is a politeness barrier to get over. Ask permission and immediately the scene you saw changes and possibly the moment is gone. Don’t ask, and it feels rude. I’m not too bothered by confrontation, but I don’t like to be a possible cause of causing anyone distress. Odd really that people might be concerned about an amatuer photographer taking a snap of them in public when they’ve been on cctv all day without a second thought.

    I went out on Monday and took a few photos but I don’t think I managed anything half decent so I will try again today.

    • mm
      SiobhanKyle August 9, 2017 at 10:03 am #

      I posted this reply above, but it helps to find a background or an area of light that is pleasing, and shoot until a person enters into it. Then you aren’t targeting them, and they aren’t assuming they are being photographed. If they do notice, they might try to get out of your way, but you can just wave them through!
      I do have the benefit of being a lady though, people are less likely to be creeped out by me I guess.

  7. Steven Prokop September 1, 2017 at 10:24 am #

    I feel like street photography appeals to me the most but I just can’t get myself out there- even on my last vacation I was like “this is perfect for street photography” and my camera just hung there. Maybe next time I’ll get a few drinks in me first!

  8. Jason DeMatteo February 16, 2018 at 10:39 am #

    I had a great time taking street photography photos with my class. I agree it is intimidating at first but after a few warm-up shots, you can get a technique down of “blending in” in the background and wait for the opportunity. You can always ask the person as well depending on how candid you want to be.

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