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Beginner street photography

Street photography is a fascinating genre that features subjects in candid situations within public places. Greg Sullivan from the Canon Collective is a passionate street photographer and shares his secrets for beginners.

Capturing people in their daily life through photography is fun, challenging and often insightful. Street photography is the art of looking around you and communicating your interpretation of that particular space and the people who inhabit it. 

1. It's all about location

When you're looking to capture some amazing street photographs, the first thing you need do is find a good location because composition is very important. 

Scott Stramyk Street Photography 1
Image by Canon Photographer Scott Stramyk

2. Tell a story

This is probably the most important design requirement. Photography is a communication tool so setting up a shot gives you the opportunity to talk with the subject and you can learn about the subject, putting your heart into the image.

3. Try black and white for greater emotion

Switching your camera from colour to black and white in your camera's picture style's menu is a great trick to reveal the hidden emotions of the photograph and the subject. 

I look for really interesting textures such a location that is nice and old that provides beautiful credibility. Once you've found something that'll be good for your composition, I like to stay there a while and watch it. If I wait long enough and I'm patient, the composition will come to me.

4. Take more control in manual mode

Shoot in manual to take control of your exposures. Shooting at 1/200 sec is good if you want to freeze the moment in time without needing a tripod. Put your aperture to at least a f/5.6 for enough depth of field to get everything in focus from the front to the back. 

Scott Stramyk Street Photography 3
Image by Canon Photographer, Scott Stramyk

5. Adjust your ISO

You can choose to adjust your ISO manually, but your DSLR can also do the work if you put it in auto. Remember, quite often, the most obvious shot is not always the best shot. Sometimes, you really do need to go searching for your photograph. 

6. Be open to opportunities to capture the moment

Give yourself a fast enough shutter speed to freeze a moment in time, around 1/400 of a second. Your primary consideration is to take internal light meter readings and determine how much light you have to work with. Aperture, shutter and ISO choices can then be made to maximise your ideas or alternatively rethink and recreate your ideas working with the light conditions available.

7. Use movement blur for mystery

Fast or slow moving traffic or people illustrate your feeling of the city and can dictate how you read the pace of the place. Busy, isolating, fast, slow, happy or melancholy. These ideas give you insight into light colour and direction, monochrome renders and where to position yourself to capture the movement from a street or other vantage point.

Scott Stramyk Street Photography 1
Image by Canon Photographer, Scott Stramyk

8. Always be respectful

Please keep in mind that not everybody wants to feature in your street photograph. Be respectful of people and property very quickly, especially when they become recognisable in your photo. 

Part of being a street photographer is to document the human condition, but sometimes that condition comes to you. But street photography is also an intuitive craft where patience and consistent practice is required.

Greg Sullavan
Image by Canon Photographer Greg Sullavan.