When you look at the work of great street photographers, it can sometimes seem easy - you just have to be in the right place at the right time.
Although the latter part is true, the reality is much harder than it seems.
In the end, the content of your images is the most important, but when photographing street photos, people quickly notice that their photos look like they can't be seen in the moment.
An important reason for this is that they have not learned that setting up their camera for street photography can differ considerably from most other types of photography.
Every technical conversation about street photography starts with light, and many photographers get confused here.
You must be able to see and understand the light before you can choose the right settings. You must focus on how strong the light is and where the most important light sources come from. After you have evaluated this, you can look at your camera to choose the correct settings.
A lot of street photography is based on moving subjects. Not all of course, but a significant part of it.
Sometimes the perfect person suddenly appears and moves through your scene. This makes your shutter speed vital.
When you want to freeze the movement of a subject, you need a sufficiently fast shutter speed for this. For this reason, I usually shoot with the shutter speed priority, with a shutter speed of 1 / 250th or 1 / 320th of a second. These are my settings to stop people moving.
When the light is very dark, I will go to 1 / 160th or even slower, which will add a little fading, but will still be beautiful. When shooting in sunny areas, I go to 1/400 or 1/500.
The next step is to increase your ISO.
You may have learned differently in the past, but nowadays cameras can photograph with much higher ISOs, with more pleasant results than they had, even five years ago.
Don't be afraid of ISO 1600 or 3200. The newer high-end cameras can even do 6400 well.
When you raise the ISO, you add more noise / graininess to your image, but you can take pictures with a faster shutter speed and a smaller aperture in less than ideal light. Suddenly you can photograph handheld in light situations that you would normally avoid. You will also notice that your images will look better technically, despite the added graininess.
For portrait photography or pure landscape photography I photograph with lower ISOs, but street photography is a completely different situation.
However, unless it is very dark, a higher ISO will allow your camera to shoot with a smaller aperture (f / 8 to f / 16) to achieve a greater depth of field.
This is of course a matter of taste, and images with blurry backgrounds can be very beautiful, but there are some considerations.
Three reasons for choosing a small aperture
- The first is that you often do not know when your subject and moment suddenly appear, and these moments will be fleeting. So if you shoot with a small depth of field and the focus is missing, your photo will more often than not fail. You have more leeway to waste your focus and still take a sharp photo with a small aperture.
- The second reason is for situations in which multiple subjects are equally important in the scene, and at different distances. With a small aperture you can get them all relatively sharp.
- Finally, the context of a scene can be very important for a street photo. Background, settings, and small details can be just as important to the image as the main subject, and blurring can reduce its impact. With a large depth of field, even the smallest details can have a big impact.
Work hard to master the technical tips that are shared here and in the end it will feel like the camera is not even there.
In this way you can best capture the fast-moving scenes in street photography and concentrate most on what is happening in your image.
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