Beginner Photography: Street

Hey y’all. Here’s the second of my two-parter of my trip to San Francisco. I went knowing that the topic of street photography would be covered a few weeks later, so I made it a point to take some shots I wouldn’t normally. I’ve been shooting with the Olympus E-M10 and a Lumix 14-42mm 3.5-5.6 which is a good, discreet little set up for street shots. The screen in the back flips out, so you can take shots without looking like you are.

Street photography is a very loose concept. All it needs to entail is a person and the space they exist in. It is often candid, but street portraits are also a subset of street photography. (Street portraits take a boldness I don’t quite have yet, but maybe I’ll tackle that another time.) Now, the fact that street photography is vague doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes a lot of consideration to bring a photo of people from a snapshot to an image of interest. Here are a few ways to do that.

First: Backdrop

I found that scouting out a good backdrop and sitting at an outdoor cafe was a good way to stealthily get shots of passers-by, like this one:

I had a hard time getting people’s faces in focus. I was more concerned about not getting spotted when I started out, but got more bold as I went.

You can take photos of your backdrop before a person walks into frame, and then just keep shooting once they walk past. Most of the time they won’t notice you’re shooting at all, or if they do and pause to not walk into their shot, you can just wave them through. 

Second: Interaction 

One thing that makes people an interesting subject is their interactions with each other. Try to capture a moment between people, be it a simple conversation or a touch.

My next spot was at the beach. Everyone takes pictures at the beach! And I was so obviously a tourist, wearing a leather jacket and jeans, carrying a camera. This time I took a ton of shots, and did better with my focusing.

So many great looking surfers

That can also mean interaction with you, the photographer. If your subject notices you shooting and you still feel comfortable doing so, keep shooting! That connection can make your photo.

I wanted a picture of the van, but got these guys instead

This was shot with my phone, but I loved her expression and the fact that the man she’s interacting with doesn’t seem to notice.

Third: Light, Shadow, Shape

These are what make compelling images in any genre. Interesting light, the play of shadows and leading lines draw the eye where you want it to go in the frame.

It wasn’t until going through my photos afterwards that I realized how many were facing the sun, which means I got a lot of silhouettes and shadows

I loved the line in the sand bringing you to the fisherman and his fishing rod leading off frame


I feel pretty good about this. Some feel a bit more landscape than street, because I took a lot of distance shots instead of getting in their space, but I think I’ll do better with that the more I practice. I had a lot of fun shooting street shots, I wasn’t sure I would. I need to practice on nailing focus and getting in closer, but I think this is a good start. 

What other tips do you have for shooting street shots? What makes a street shot compelling to you?

Our live show this week will be with street photographer Andy Shields, whose work I love. He does amazing things with street photography. You can read his beginner blog post here and make sure to tune into the show on Thursday at

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14 Responses to Beginner Photography: Street

  1. Matthew F October 4, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    Nice job! I love the pictures you took! The EM-10 link is bad, I think. I love these blogs =)

    Matthew F

  2. Alec October 4, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

    Awesome shots! I tried street photography myself recently, but I started asking people if I could take their photos, with mixed results! Still a good mini adventure. Love the shadow shot in particular.

    These blogs are great! Keep it up!

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    Andy Shields October 4, 2016 at 6:34 pm #

    Such a great blog here. These shots are well executed with really interesting compositional elements like the shot of the fisherman with the great lines. Looking like a natural here Siobhan!

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      SiobhanKyle October 5, 2016 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks again, Andy. This may become my niche!

  4. Bear Hawk October 5, 2016 at 3:57 am #

    You photos are very good if you actually took them. Maybe Tony took them for you. You can’t be that accomplished that fast I don’t think. If you took them yourself you will be pleased I wrote this. If you did not you will be angry. That is how it works.

    I like taking portraits into the sun with the exposure set on +1 to +2. A lot of times background completely vanishes and their is only whiteness. The subject can still be tweaked perfectly in PS.

    The biggest thing that prevents someone from achieving what they want in street-shooting is fear. I suggest drinking a six pack of cheap beer before you begin. Don’t drink while shooting. It will reflect badly on Street-Shooters everywhere.

    When subjects look at me angrily / questioningly I just say “Khun suay mak”. I don’t know if that will work where you are. Try it though.

    I have often offered to delete the photo for 5 baht. Often times people are reluctant to pay. I tell them I am going to post it on Facebook. They look at it and if they hate it they will pay 5 baht. They feel they are getting a good deal and it empowers them. This is the only way I have ever generated any money as a photographer. But the fact that I made money off my photography places me in the professional category. So if you or Tony ever have some questions let me know.

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      SiobhanKyle October 5, 2016 at 11:21 am #

      Haha, I did indeed take them. I have proof!

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      Andy Shields October 7, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

      This is the single greatest comment I’ve ever read on the internet.

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      Andy Shields October 7, 2016 at 6:29 pm #

      I feel like there is about a 50% chance that this is Matt Granger.

  5. Pauline Follett October 5, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    I am not game enough yet to take street photos, but would love to try it. Do you have any other ideas on how to get candid shots? Nice shots by the way.

  6. Dave Robbins October 10, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    Great Stuff, Siobhan!, Is there any chance that you tag all of your beginner blogs with “Beginner Photography” so that all of your beginner blogs can be easily acquired?

    Thanks for everything you do in the Shipping Department!

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