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The Art of Street Photography: Images of City Life

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Street photography is a type of photography that captures the realness and diversity of city life.

With the following tips and techniques, you'll understand and learn the art of street photography and capture candid, authentic moments.

What is street photography?

This style of photography captures candid moments of the everyday life of people and events in public spaces. Street photographers often try to document social and cultural issues, as well as capture images of everyday life. It is also called candid photography, as off-guard images are captured without the subjects' knowledge.

Why you should shoot street photography

The goal of street photography is to create timeless images, making them as real and true as possible. This form of photography often looks to capture the underlying vibe of daily living, highlighting events that are overlooked in the frenetic activities of everyday life. Street photography can range from capturing the unexciting to normal to strange and exotic to almost any random activity. The images captured in this style are once in a lifetime and unique to each moment.

What is the best way to approach street photography?

Street photography is normally taken from the photographer's POV, but it commonly utilizes the subjects in the frame. It requires experienced knowledge of composition and timing. It is important to be aware of the surroundings and to anticipate the subjects’ movements in order to get the best shots. Street photography is often done with a lightweight digital camera or rangefinder camera, but a few photographers who desire a unique look, prefer to use a film camera. When it comes to technique, it is important to be aware of the light, shadows, and backgrounds that are available in the area and be aware of the colors and textures of the street. It's also important to be aware of the people and their expressions, as this can add emotion to the shot. Street photography usually requires very little to no editing. The reason is that the goal of street photography is to capture the moments as they happen, without altering the image. If editing is necessary, it should be done in a subtle way that does not take away from the natural occurence of the scene. Street photography is an art form that requires patience, practice, and creativity. It is a unique way of capturing the human experience, and it can be a very rewarding experience for photographers. With the right equipment and technique, anyone can become a street photographer and capture amazing moments in time.

What do I need to get started?

1. Prepare Your Gear: Make sure you have all the necessary equipment, such as a camera, lens, memory card, spare batteries, and a tripod if needed.

2. Find Good Locations: Street photography often involves photographing strangers and their environment, so choose a location with interesting people and activities.

3. Get to Know the Area: Take time and explore the prospective area and get to know the locals. This will help you to understand the demographics and vibe of the area and give you a clearer understanding of what kind of sights and sounds you can expect to find.

4. Be Discreet: Street photography can be obtrusive, so be respectful of your subjects and try to remain as welcomed as possible.

5. Shoot from the Hip: Try to react suddenly and deliberately without drawing attention to yourself.

6. Look for Interesting Subjects and Scenes: Look for interesting people, stories, and moments that you can capture.

7. Get Close: Get close to your subjects to add more impact to your photos.

8. Use a Wide Lens: A wide-angle lens will allow you to capture more of the environment in your image.

9. Use a Fast Shutter: A fast shutter speed will freeze your subjects in motion and avoid blur.

10. Experiment: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles, perspectives, and techniques to find what works best for you.

11. Follow the Rules: Be cognizant of local laws or customs regarding photography and follow them accordingly.

12. Have Fun: Most important part to remember for both photographer and subject, is to have fun and enjoy the process!

Tips for successful street photography

-Be discreet and respect people's privacy.

-Get close to your subjects to capture facial expressions and real emotions.

-Pay attention to the light and use it to your advantage.

-Look for patterns, textures, and interesting compositions.

-Experiment with different angles, exposure settings and perspectives.

Ethical considerations in street photography

-Street photographers must be aware of and respect the privacy of their subjects.

-It's important to ask for permission before photographing people, especially if you plan to publish the photos.

-Be aware of local laws and customs regarding photography in public spaces

Top subjects to capture using street photography

1. Urban Life – Capturing the hustle and bustle of a city street, from commuters to street performers.

2. Cityscapes – Capturing the architecture and beauty of a city skyline.

3. People Watching – Capturing candid moments of everyday people living their lives in the city.

4. Graffiti Art – Capturing colorful street art in its various forms.

5. Street Markets – sights and smells of street vendors and their wares.

6. Street Performers – musicians, dancers, and other types of performers.

7. Political Demonstrations – Photographing the energy of protestors and their causes.

8. Street Food – Snapping the variety of delicious dishes being served on the street.

9. Street Portraits – get shots of the unique features of passers-by.

10. Street Art – Shoot the creative works of street artists.

11. Protest Signs – Imaging the messages of protestors and activists.

12. Homeless Life – Get a glimpse into the lives of those living on the street.

13. Skateboarding – Show the skilled tricks and stunts of skaters.

14. Street Vendors – Record the bustling trade of goods and services.

15. Street Races – encapsulate the speed and excitement of street racers.

16. Street Fights – Capturing the drama and danger of street brawls.

17. Street Kids – Capturing the energy and resilience of street kids.

18. Street Scenes – Capturing the diverse sights of city streets.

19. Street Music – Capturing the sounds of street musicians.

20. Street Parades – Capturing the spirit of festive parades.

Popular places to display and sell your street photography images

2. Flickr

3. 500px

6. Etsy

10. ArtPal

Examples of great street photography

This image uses both foreground and background elements to help frame the focused subject. It captures the daily life of commuters and the curiosity of this young child.

This image applies the "rule of thirds" to highlight the rickshaw driver as he protects himself from the weather. The photographer captured the daily issues faced by these taxi operators.

The subject is framed by the architecture of the cafe. Strong attention is placed on the dining subject with an application of the rule of thirds both vertically and horizontally. A perfect example of everyday street life.

This image uses the leading lines of the cement slab, foreground blur, and background blur uses a wide aperture, and composed the subject on the left 3rd of the frame. It shows a pre-adolescent boy in his neighborhood and what his environment is like.

This photo was composed by using the shrubs as a leading line and a foreground element to frame the subject and draw attention to the gentleman sitting on the sidewalk.

Street photography can be a fun and rewarding venture. These candid and unscripted images document life as it happens and the photographs can tell many stories. Street photography can capture the beauty of architecture, nature, and human activity. So go out and try some street photography for yourself and remember to respect the rights and privacy of others and obey all laws regarding public photography. Always keep an eye out for interesting subjects to shoot. Apply the basic principles of composition and you will capture some amazing photos that will make you fall in love with street photography.

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