Tips to get good photographs on the street

In preparation for the Street Shooters NG’s first photo-walk holding today, I’m sharing these tips on how to get good photographs on the street.

1. As evident as it might seem, always have your
camera ready in your hand. Not in your bag, not
hanging on your shoulder, but held firmly in your
hand.

2. Get the shot at all cost. Shooting in the streets involves a certain amount of adrenaline as it is never easy to intrude in a stranger’s life. Leave all fears aside and go get the shot, even if it involves being yelled at, crossing a road, climbing on a bench or crawling on the ground.

3. Don’t get frustrated. The odds to stumble on a
great scene during the few hours you’ll dedicate
weekly to shooting are pretty low. Don’t fall to
frustration and “click addiction”. Patience is also
part of the game, so accept it. Time spent on the
streets is the variable that most impacts your keeper rate. Technique and talent only come afterwards. In the end, it is probably better to come back home with a few average shots than dozens of lousy ones that will just increase your frustration level.

4. Avoid unwanted elements in the background.
Don’t get obscured by the subject. What happens behind the main elements of your scene is often what will make a shot go from good to great. You can detect an amazing scene but ruin it as soon with the elements in the background, be it a back pack, a passer-by, a car, or a badly positioned street lamp. Therefore once you have spotted a good scene, pay at least as much attention to the background than to your main subjects.

5. Watch out for your own shadow.
In general, it is easier to shoot with the light coming from behind you, but that also means that a little friend will always follow you: your shadow. Even at times when you think it is not there anymore, it will suddenly appear over your subject just as you raise your camera. To avoid it, make sure your shadow is never in the 90 degree radius of where you point your camera towards. Your shadow can take many forms, don’t let it fool you.

6. Keep an eye on the elements about to enter your frame.
You are ready to snap and suddenly a big truck
enters the frame as you click. Shot ruined. All your
senses need to be ready, not only for what happens within the frame, but also what is around it. Use your left eye and even your ears to anticipate these intrusions.

7. Don’t be a butcher.
The parallax and inaccuracies of the frame-line
system of range-finders might lead to cut feet, arms or even heads, which are important parts of the picture. Ways to avoid it is either to frame wider (and crop in post processing) or to adjust your position to offset the parallax and frame-line inaccuracies.

8. Make sure there is enough light on your subject.
This is one of the most recurrent mistake on
street photographs, i.e faces that are partially in
the dark. It is obviously not always a given to have
the perfect light condition for a scene, but faces
covered with shadows will usually ruin a picture. Try to move around so when your subject finally enters or looks towards the adequate light zone, you are ready to trigger.

9. Avoid fundamental mistakes like over/under exposure and loss of focus. You might not have to worry about over/under exposure if you are shooting in RAW because it can be corrected in post-production. Also shooting in auto focus means the camera does the work of focusing for you, so you don’t have to worry about that too. For those on manual focus, the use of the zone focus technique will minimize the risks.

10. Always shoot RAW. Apart from the reason mentioned above, shooting raw also makes editing and correcting mistakes easier. But the main advantage of a raw file is that it is larger than JPEG and hence allow for ample enlarging of the image. You never know which of your photos might need blowing up to billboard size, so it’s always adviceable to shoot in raw.

11. Finally, pick those points whose trap you constantly fall into (and the ones that might not be included here) and think about them before every single shot you take (I often tell myself buzzwords
like “depth” or “background” before I click). Do it
again and again, until it becomes second nature
and intuitive. Obviously, these points represent
generalities. Rules are made to be broken and one
might use distortion, over-exposure or, why not, his own shadow as part of a style.

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