6 Ways to Improve Your Street Photography

Marianne Stenger
1st July 2020

Travel and street photography tend to go hand in hand, because photographing people as they go about their daily business is a great way to capture the sense of a place.  

But whether you’re visiting bustling marketplaces or strolling through quiet side streets in your own hometown, the basic idea remains the same. So here are six tips for improving your street photography.

Images © Gil Ribeiro

1. Get out of your comfort zone

If you’re new to street photography, it can be quite intimidating to raise your camera and start snapping photos of complete strangers. The more you do it, though, the more comfortable it will start to feel, and eventually you won’t even think twice about it.  

So if you want to improve your craft, the first thing you should do is practice getting out of your comfort zone. If taking photos of strangers feels weird to you, start by looking for people who seem friendly and approachable and asking them if you can take their photo.

Most of the time they’ll be flattered and happy to have their photo taken, and the worst thing that can happen is that they say no. Once you get past that initial awkwardness, you’ll be able to focus on being creative and finding new and interesting angles.

2. Less is more

With street photography you want to be free to move around and capture fast action as it happens, so the last thing you want is to be lugging around a bulky tripod or bag full of camera gear.

Wide angle prime lenses are usually best for street photography, but it’s also important that you feel comfortable with the lens and camera you have with you. So if you’re more comfortable using an 18-200mm zoom lens or even your phone camera, that’s fine too.

Images © Craig Whitehead

3. Choose your background first

One trick that many seasoned street photographers employ is to first look for an interesting background or scene and then wait for people to walk by or something to happen. This tends to be a lot easier in a big city or crowded location than a rural village, because you’ll never have to wait long for someone to pass your chosen background.

You can look for things like buildings with interesting patterns and graffiti or leading lines that will draw the viewer’s attention to the subject of your photo when he or she walks past. You could also look for locations where the light is ideal or is casting interesting shadows.

The opportunities are endless, so train your photographic eye and learn to spot potential locations for your street photography.

4. Try out new and interesting angles

We usually see the world from the same angle, so by finding new and interesting angles, you’ll be able to take photos that really stand out.

For instance, you could climb to the top of a flight of stairs or stand on a balcony to photograph a scene from above, or you can crouch down low and photograph people from a completely different perspective.

Images © Gil Ribeiro

5. Learn from others

Street photography is steadily becoming a more widely accepted art form thanks to influential street photographers like Eric Kim, Martin Parr and Yanidel.

If you want to get better at street photography, studying the work of some of the most influential street photographers is a great way to improve your technique and find beauty in the mundane. Start by learning about iconic street photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson or Garry Winogrand, and then look into some of the influential street photographers who are working today.

6. Don't worry about perfection

If you’re too set on capturing the ‘perfect shot’ and waiting for the right moment, you’ll miss out on a lot of great photo opportunities. Street photography requires a bit of spontaneity so don’t worry too much about whether you’re following all the rules and just go with it.

The more you practice, the more your technique will improve, and remember that even most professional photographers who shoot hundreds of photos usually only end up using a handful of them. Photography, like any art form, requires experimentation and can’t be rushed.

Images © Craig Whitehead

Read our interview with award winning street photographer Dimpy Bhalotia or brush up on your photography skills with our essential tips blog.