DIY Travel Photography: Street shooting

Location: A busy street corner full of people

Street photography refers to taking photographs of people out in public places, in situations that are natural and not set up. When you’re on a holiday this is actually pretty easy to do, since it’s harder to take a photograph of a famous landmark without people in it, than it is with people in it. However, there is an art to capturing a good street shot that is both intriguing and tells a story. Now we’ve talked about using your camera phone to take your travel snaps, and last week I gave you some tips on taking landscape photography; this week I’ll give you some easy tips on taking great street photographs.

1. Scout out the area. When you’re in a new environment it’s natural to be dazzled and distracted by everything, so firstly allow yourself to be a tourist, and take note of things that catch your eye. Are there interesting people around the area? Is there a particular landmark that you like the look off? Once you’ve done that and the initial excitement has passed, you can return and linger in these spots that you’ve scouted earlier and wait for your shot.

Sapporo temple visitors

2. Blend in. By blending in with your surroundings you’ll be able to capture spontaneous moments as you won’t disrupt your subjects, so don’t wear attention grabbing clothing, or cause a scene with what you’re doing. I like to think of it as being on the fringe of the image, you’re quietly loitering around the edges waiting for the moment when it all comes together. I do this by sitting in a cafe or on a bench looking relaxing, with my phone or a book, and the longer I stay the more I blend it with the scenery as I watch people come and go.

3. Try to get close to your subject. This is usually easier with a small and unobtrusive camera that doesn’t scare or distract people, and I recommend using a prime lens such as a 35mm or a 50mm.

4. Be respectful. I personally avoid photographing people who are down on their luck, and I encourage you to pluck up the courage to approach someone and ask for their photograph. Manners go a long way when you’re traveling, and just by being polite and showing an interest in what a person is doing, more often than not they’ll accommodate your request. If it’s a street performer, give them some change for taking a photograph and if you say you’ll send them a copy of the photo, make sure you fulfill your promise.

5. Use the environment. Street shooting isn’t just about people, you can and should use the surrounding environment to add interesting elements to your image such as framing, leading lines and a focus point. Also, by using the surrounding environment in your street shooting, you’ll add greater context to your images, so the viewer will gain a greater understanding of the subject and the location of the shot.

Crossing Shibuya in Japan

6. Experiment with details. When you travel you always notice the small details of things that are different to what you know, so why not try shooting these details for something a bit different. Not every street image has to be a full body shot! Sometimes the interest is in the details, so highlight them every once in awhile.

7. Off angles. Get a little abstract. Think outside of the box. Tilt your camera or shoot from the hip and see what you get. Off angles are great at showing an uncommon perspective of your subject, and can be just as interesting as being completely straight.

8. Capture the irony in everyday life and everyday people. Irony, humor and the everyday all help to convey mood, themes, a story and feeling in a photograph. By looking out for irony or by juxtaposing people with objects in the environment, you can add more depth to your travel snap and be able to tell a story with just one photograph.

A tired hiker at Daisetsuzan

People are strange and wonderful all at the same time, and everyone has unique behaviors and facial expressions; and this is what males street photography more difficult than other genres of photography. Excellent street photography comes done to a few things; being in the right place at the right time, being aware of the scene and being quick enough to capture the subject in exactly the right moment.

For many street photography is exciting, unpredictable and most of all greatly rewarding when you get that perfect shot. So on your next trip away, turn the lens on to the people around you and see what you get, it may just be more interesting than another same-same photograph of the Eiffel Tower.

Rainy hong kong street scene

Disclaimer: As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts, this post is apart of an old series I had written in late 2014 when I used to have a photography blog. Even though it’s two years old, I find that the themes and ideas I wrote about back then still apply today. I really hope that these three DIY Travel Photography articles have helped you to capture your holidays in a way that makes you happy.

And remember to let Siu On and I know how you’re going with your travel photography skills – comment on our Facebook page, on Twitter or even tag us on Instagram in some of your photo’s!

Happy travels,
Jelena and Siu On

Photography by Jelena Stipanicev.