So, you want to try out Street photography. Street photography is an ode to the common, the usual, the things that happen everyday at plain sight.. It is documentary, shows reality through your eyes, and therefore is a way of expressing what you see to the world.
My first and main suggestion is don’t be afraid to go out with your camera everywhere. Try using a prime lens on a small camera as large cameras are intimidating and attract attention, and use it whenever you see something interesting.
Street Photography is about the place and the moment, be in the right place and shoot at the right moment. Carrying your camera all the time is the best thing you can do to be ready for the moment.
Prime lenses and zone focusing are your friends. Autofocus is not perfect and might get in the way more than help your cause. On cameras with slow AF systems (e.g. EP-1), having AF on is a no-go for street photography, so knowing how to handle the DOF is vital knowledge for the situation.
Longer lenses do benefit from AF a lot. Try to avoid telephotos, only if the subject is too far away to go or is too busy doing something , and might be disturbed by your presence, use the tele.
Sharpness is a bourgeoisie concept. — Henri Cartier-Bresson
Ironically, you will probably be using the sharpest of the apertures of your lens most of the time. If you want to avoid focusing, have as closed aperture as the light will allow, and still have a fast enough shutter. Recommended values range from 1/250 upwards and near f/5.6~8 depending on weather. If needed pump up the ISO: noisy pictures can be fixed, but motion blur is unfixable.
decide if you want it to be candid or posed. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
Choosing posed feels safer, but the ‘barrier of entry’ is higher, as you need to approach the person and talk to them before taking the picture. Try to talk to the people instead of just shooting and leaving. There is a great project called 100 Strangers which is all about that. For posed, the best tip is saying “I know it’s gonna sound strange but I can I take your picture” (saw it on a thread at reddit, and it works as a charm).
As for Candid, try to be as less intimidating as you can be, smile a lot and look like you are having fun. I have a serious looking face, but when I go out shooting, I try to cheer myself up (listening songs or reading jokes to get in the mood), you can note a real smile on the eyes so try to be really happy, a fake smile looks creepy. Try a prime lens, you can learn to shoot without looking and get some nice shots by knowing the framing by heart. Shooting from the hip is quite discrete, but you might get better compositions when looking, find the balance on shooting from the hip and looking with the viewfinder.
Depending on the area, candid might be as safe as posed. Still it’s good to remember: it might be legal, but that does not mean to be a jackass about it. I delete pictures when someone asks me to (which is not too common, but not unheard of). Still, while most people will avoid you or go away instead of being confrontational, be as polite as you can be and don’t be a jerk.
Specially when shooting candid, try to compose pictures. The best way to do so, is by seeing before shooting, shooting like mad will only bulk up lots of crappy pictures. See, then shoot.
Avoid shooting a person’s back, most of the time they are boring and don’t say enough of who you want to capture. Being sidewise helps if you don’t want to shoot directly into the persons’ field of view.
Get a companion! Find some else to join you, if you’re a guy try to get a girl, that instantly reduces your “creepyness” a lot (don’t ask me why). If you’re going out with a guy it also reduces the chances of you getting mugged. The ideal is having both a girl and a guy friend. (at least, street photo is a hobby that lends itself well to groups)
Avoid getting mugged by always being vigilant, so even though I love shooting when listening to music, I’d advice otherwise for safety. If you think you might get mugged, try to look as ready or alert as possible (I do lots of eye contact, friendly with non-suspicious persons, and stern with suspicious).
- Shoot a lot, take your camera everywhere (whenever possible)
- Look before shooting, try seeing the scene before pressing the shutter
- Stay safe, be always on the lookout, bring company if needed
- Know your controls by heart, keep your focus and exposition ready, so you only have to worry about the composition
- Be friendly and don’t be a jackass
- Have fun