Street Photography 101 by Eric Kim

So you want to get started with street photography huh? It seems to be quite popular lately. It is a quite exciting type of photography, as you can go around in public and take pictures of (gasp) strangers! It is also pretty awesome because you don’t need a Canon 1D Mark III with expensive L lenses to get good images. Hell—you can use any camera, your point-and-shoot, your DSLR, your film camera, or dare I say… iPhone?

Anyways, getting started with street photography is pretty damn easy. It literally involves grabbing whatever camera you have and heading toward any place with people. The less you are prepared with street photography, the better. You want to let your curiosity lead you wherever the streets may take you, and feel free to take images of whatever interests you.
So what do I take photos of?

Simple. Take photos of people. If you live in the smog-infested city of Los Angeles, consider yourself lucky. Head to any busy street or area, and look for interesting looking people to shoot.

Try to refrain yourself from shooting just bums or street musicians. Photographs of those individuals (although they can be done tastefully), are typically just images of “exploitation”—in which people assume that taking photos of these individuals make themselves “artsy.”

Anyways I am rambling a bit too much—let’s get back to the subject at hand. Look for interesting looking people doing interesting things. If you see a lady with a crazy old hat, take a photo of that woman.

If you see a dude doing a backflip in the middle of the street—you better capture that moment. See a moment that just makes you go “awww” like a couple kissing? Get close and take a photo of that.

But I’m scared of taking photos of strangers in the streets! How can I overcome this?

Nobody said street photography was going to be easy. Frankly speaking, I would say the most difficult part of street photography is getting over the fear of shooting in the streets and feeling “awkward” in public. But remember, taking photos of people in public areas is completely legal and from my experience, people RARELY approach you regarding you taking a photo of them. I have taken photos in the street for about four years now, and I have literally only had one person approach me and ask me not to take a photo of them.

I will suggest you a few and fun social experiments to get over your fear of shooting in the streets.

[quote] Experiment #1: When sitting on the subway or on the bus, make eye contact with the person in front of you and if they look back, DO NOT TURN AWAY! Stare at them back (not aggressively…but just make conscious eye contact) until they turn away. [/quote]

If they stare back and look mean, give them a big smile (you would be surprised—99% of people smile back).

[quote]Experiment #2: Talk to random strangers in public. See a guy waiting in line at Starbucks? Strike up a conversation with him and ask him how his day is going. Stuck in an elevator and feeling awkward next to somebody else? Introduce yourself and chat it up with that person. I guarantee that these two experiments will help you overcome your fear of shooting in public.[/quote]

Above all, the most important thing is actually going out and shooting people. The more you do it, the less afraid and more comfortable you will be. Do you have any more tips about shooting in public?

Hells yeah I do. Another technique you can try is “Shooting from the Hip.” This entails you holding your camera at waist-level, and aiming up. This is great because you can get candid images of people and you will feel less awkward shooting people in public.

However, make sure you do this with a wide-angle lens (17mm on crop-body and 24mm on full-frame), or else most likely you will have a difficult time actually correctly framing your subjects. When shooting from the hip, don’t walk around looking at your camera, but rather look blankly ahead. People will have no idea what you are doing.

Another tip I love to do is to “Pretend like you are taking a photo of something else.” This means that you have a wide angle lens and get REALLY close to a person (I’m talking to the point that you can smell them). But then after taking your photo, look at something in the distance or behind the person, and walk away.

Most people assume you just took a photo of something behind them, as most people turn around and look at what I’m taking a photo of after doing this technique.

Eric, don’t go yet! I want to learn more about Street Photography 101!

Well you’re in luck. Go to my blog and check out a ton of my articles that I write about street photography. In-fact, I am currently compiling a book on “Street Photography 101”, which will teach you everything you need to know about shooting in the streets absolutely for FREE (in a downloadable PDF). I love street photography, and want to spread my love of it with the world.

[quote]Eric Kim is a street photographer currently residing in Los Angeles. Eric specializes in black and white street photography, and has taken photos from all over the globe, including places such as Paris, Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Prague, London, and Korea.

You can visit Eric’s website here. or you can follow him on Twitter or add him as a contact on Flickr [/quote]

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Comments

  1. NIce post… love your tactics for getting over your fears! I must give it a go the next time I’m out for a wander!!

  2. Brilliant article.

  3. Walking around the Princeton U. campus this weekend with my wife, I saw quite a lot of interesting people doing interesting things. I wanted to take photos (I had my iPhone) but felt awkward. I was worried that these people would thing I was some weird stranger. I’ll keep this article in mind the next time I’m out and around town.

  4. Great article, this is one of my biggest fears and trying hard to get over it. Some great points here I am going to try :)

  5. Great images – I am student of photography and love candid photography of people. I really think this makes a photograph interesting – especially without the distraction of colour. I have tried some street photography but as with most, find it difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I have been to central Oxford and come away empty handed. Its a tough one getting over the fear. I will certainly have a go at some of your techniques so thanks for sharing these. PS your images look really good with great tonal range (learning B&W at the moment) any tips for post processing or camera settings to get this quality.

    Many thanks Jason

  6. “Street Photography 101”, which will teach you everything you need to know about shooting in the streets absolutely for FREE (in a downloadable PDF). I love street photography, and want to spread my love of it with the world.

    dear friends,

    is the pdf-book available, please post a link or send PM on where to find it.

    thx
    thomas

  7. Thanks for sharing! Those are some great tips. Living in NYC there was always something amazing to capture. What do you do with your photos? Sell them? Publish them?

  8. It is a great topic for self expression but doesn’t really go into detail on what limitations there are for how you use the photos afterwards. A candid street photo should not be sold or made available as a stock photo unless you have model releases. Street photography also has an air of journalism implied with it, or of archiving. Books which are published may include dates, or locations.

    I love street photography, and have an installation this summer that includes 1500 photographs, but I respect the fact that without model releases they can never be used commercially. (artistically yes, commercially no)

    BTW there are some rules in place in Quebec due to a misuse of a street photograph sold to a magazine. Google “Gilbert Duclos”…

    Gerry Straathof, 4th year Media and Digital Technologies. ACAD.

  9. I am a beginneer in photo and this article is really nice. I always was interested in street photography. I guess next step for me is learning this kind of black and white rendering but I dont like much hard postprocessing…

    Thanks for the tips, even if I was already using the “I’m shooting something else-don’t be afraid” thing unconsciously before!

    What “cheap” lens do you advice for this kind of photo ? I have a crop-body, a 50mm f1.8 canon which is good for this kind I think but not the best; and a canon 10-22.

    Bye!

  10. nice article..i learned a lot… i may try these techniques with my friends!!.. :)

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