Getting your camera out in public might seem daunting if you’ve never tried it before, but these five street photography projects will get you started right. Armed with our expert street photography tips, you’ll soon have the confidence to shoot everything from motion-blur abstracts to candid portraits of strangers.
You don’t need to travel to exotic, remote locations to get amazing image. There are plenty of subjects around almost every street corner; you just need to be able to find them. The very familiarity of your local town or city can mean that it’s all too easy to miss the host of potential photos available on the streets close to home.
So here are five easy street photography projects to help spark your creativity, give you some ideas of great subjects to look for and the right techniques to use for the best results.
1. CANDID PORTRAITS
People pictures present the biggest challenge for the aspiring street photographer, so let’s tackle them first…
Approaching the shot
There are two main ways you can shoot candid portraits. The easiest is to use a long lens and shoot from a distance, so that the subject isn’t aware you’re photographing them.
The advantage of this approach – apart from the fact that it means you don’t have to approach a complete stranger – is that it can result in much more ‘candid’ shots, with natural behaviour and expressions.
Alternatively you can get in much closer, with a wider lens. It is more difficult to get candid results from closer to the subject, as they will be much more likely to react to the camera.
But if you take the time to engage with your subject – by haggling for some produce at market stall, for example – it can give a more intimate and personal feel to your images than shooting from a distance.
This will depend on whether you want to shoot from close to the subject, or from further away, but a superzoom lens such as an 18-200mm will allow you to shoot both styles without having to waste time change lenses – which may be critical for spur-of-the-moment shots.
As with any portrait, the background is almost as important as the subject, so you need to decide whether to blur the background by using a wide aperture, such as f/2.8, or whether to keep it sharp by using a smaller aperture, such as f/8, which might be the case if the background is relevant, or adds to the story in some way.
In either case, it’s a good idea to use Aperture Priority mode – that way, all you have to do is set the aperture – the camera will then work everything else out automatically, leaving you free to concentrate on framing, composition and so on.
Whether you’re shooting from near or far, you definitely don’t want to waste precious seconds fiddling about with camera settings.
The only thing you do need to keep an eye on is the shutter speed. If it becomes too slow to shoot handheld at the aperture you’ve set, you may need to up the ISO.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re shooting in sunny conditions, an IS0 of 100 or 200 is probably fine, but if it’s a bit overcast or very early or late in the day, you may need to up it to 400 or even 800.
The good news is that you can check this by shooting something as simple as your hand held out in front of you – so long as the lighting stays fairly constant, you can then set the ISO and forget all about it, which again means not getting bogged down in settings while you’re actually shooting.
Things to watch out for…
Shooting candid street photography isn’t for the faint-hearted, as not everyone will appreciate having their photograph taken.
The main thing to watch out for is how people react to the camera. Don’t be confrontational, but also don’t skulk around in the shadows, as both approaches can cause problems.
Just be open and reasonable when dealing with people, and don’t push your luck if someone objects to you taking their picture.
For both distant and close-up candids, it also helps to take lots of pictures of other things first – this not only makes people aware of your camera, but also gives the impression that you’re interested in shooting everything around you, not just them (even if you’re not!).
This has the added advantage of making them feel less self-conscious, which will result in more natural-looking portraits.
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