Street Photography – What Makes a Great Photo
Always on the lookout for a great street photography shot. What makes a photo stand out from the rest? In street photography this is about timing and framing. You can be in the busiest location and suddenly you look and you see your subject. They are there…not moving…just perfectly positioned for you to come in and get the shot. This is all about anticipation and you are drawn towards the subject as you can already see the composition forming as you visualise the scene. When I set out for a day of street photography, I never know what I will find. I like to go to new locations to keep myself fresh and responsive to the scene. As a photographer it is always important to be flexible as things may just not pan out the way in which you thought it would. Flexibility and being responsive to the scene, location and change is how to start taking great street photos.
How to Set Your Camera for Street Photography
In street photography it helps if you know your way around your camera. You don’t need the biggest camera or the most expensive lens. In fact the opposite is true. Small camera and small lens is best. This keeps the equipment light and unobtrusive. In this shot I used a compact system camera with a 20mm pancake lens (equivalent to 40 mm on a full frame.) When I set out in the morning the light was nicely filtered, great for my digital sensor and especially good for black and white street photography. Filtered light minimises highlight burn out and maintains tonal contrasts in the scene. My camera is set to shutter priority with a shutter speed fast enough to ensure sharp shots. I usually use an aperture of f8 as this gives me leeway in focal distance should a subject move from the point of focus. In this photograph I get up close to the subject (you have to with 40mm) Getting in real close is great as it puts you, as the photographer, right in the scene along with your subject. The man has his eyes closed and I take the shot and move away.
In this photograph what is central to the candid street photograph is the placing of the subject and the design of the composition. The deck chairs act as a frame within which to view the man. There is a social context here too as we view deck chairs with summer, sand and fun at the beach. Lazing around on a sunny afternoon – here our subject is asleep and there are flies on his leg. He has been there for some time as he perhaps has nowhere else to go. It is contexts, framing, keeping your eyes open for a unique moment and setting up your camera beforehand contributes to making a street photograph great.
Lou Smith is a Fine Art Photographer with over 25 years experience in the visual arts and teaches Street Photography techniques in London. If you would like to learn essential street photography skills, check out our photography courses page. See you soon.
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