5 Tips to Improve Your Street Photography
Street photography can be a hobby or a part of your career, but either way, it ought to be a passion if you hope to create stunning works of art. If you have a feeling your street photography just isn’t turning out right, that there’s some intangible thing it’s lacking, try taking your camera back to the street after internalizing a few tips. The more you practice, the more likely you are to be happy with your photos.
Enroll in Classes
See if there are local photography colleges or online photography courses in which you can enroll. Having instruction from a professional, along with one-on-one critiques of your current work, can improve your technique in just a few short months or even weeks. Classes will require you to practice your technique and may provide opportunities for you to focus on your art that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to include into your busy schedule.
Shoot From Lower Angles
One of the culprits behind less-than-satisfying street photos may be so obvious once you think about it; you won’t believe you didn’t realize it sooner: You may be shooting from too high an angle. One of the most characteristic aspects of street photography is how it immerses the viewer in the moment. It’s difficult to accomplish that if you stand at your normal height and snap a picture from your point of view. The most stunning street photos come from lower angles. Get down and get your knees dirty, or if you don’t want to seem so obvious — a good idea when you want to capture a shot without that “staged” feeling — just hold the camera in front of your abdomen and snap the picture. After a little practice, you’ll get used to not looking through the viewfinder as you take photos and just focusing on the scene before you.
Pre-Focus Your Lens
Because effective street photography comes from multiple shots taken on the fly, you won’t have time to stop and adjust the focus on your camera for each shot. Plus, if you did, you’d call attention to yourself and may not be able to capture the candid shots you want. Also, if you’re taking the photos from your waist, you won’t even be looking through the viewfinder. Pick a certain distance-and-zone focus before you begin. As you take the pictures, you’ll learn to remember your camera is set to capture the scene a few yards away. Don’t waste time shooting things both near and far in the same session.
Consider Your Subject
The number of photos you can take may be fairly unlimited, but that doesn’t mean you should waste your time taking photo after photo without even considering your subject, hoping a gem will appear. Stop to consider your subject before you start snapping. Sit on a bench, or even better, on a patch of grass, so you can look up and examine the environment around you from a lower angle. Consider what’s around you that you’d like to see in a photo and move to snap a few pictures. Once you’ve gotten snapshots of one scene, stop to consider your next.
Search Out the Ordinary
The exotic or touristy grabs everyone’s attention — but as far as street photography goes, they’re not suitable. Street photography is about capturing the ordinary, the things passing by on the street that people might not otherwise stop to examine. Street photography can also be about taking commonplace scenes and asking a viewer to look at them from a new angle — literally. Some ordinary things you’d find on the street that might make a good subject include:
- Businesspeople walking to and from work in a hurry
- Young people having a good time as they walk
- Elderly people shuffling along
- Garbage cans, especially when overflowing with garbage
- Streetlights, crosswalks and traffic
- Dogs, squirrels, birds and other animals
Five effective tips for improving your street photography include: enrolling in classes, shooting from lower angles, pre-focusing your lens, thinking about why you choose your subject and searching out ordinary subjects. Even implementing one of these tips into your technique will result in improvement, and you may soon find yourself the photographer behind gallery-worthy pieces.
About the Author: Gerardo Marengo is a contributing writer and professional photographer. He recently got his MFA in photography from an online university.
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