Make the most of the city with your digital camera – 3 of the biggest names in street photography, David Solomons, Matt Stuart, and Nick Turpin offer their best street photography tips on everything from getting close to when to turn your camera off…
Fantastic street photographs are readily available in every public space, but over-familiarity with our environment means we often miss out on special moments and scenes unfolding in front of us.
These street photography tips will help you see those decisive moments and learn to trust your instincts. Once you’ve picked up the confidence to get close to your subjects and you’ll be able to use your camera as a mirror of society and come away with unreal, witty and dramatic-looking shots.
Street Photography Tips from Matt Stuart
Before he discovered his passion for photography, Matt Stuart was a professional skateboarder and also indulged in a brief, ill-advised affair with Kung Fu. Matt’s father, keenly aware that his son wasn’t going to be the next Bruce Lee, introduced him to photography. Matt lives in London and makes his living shooting on the streets. More of his work can be found on Matt Stuart’s website.
1. Plan a street photography route
I have a street photography route. It’s made up from the places in London that are most fruitful – these are the places with the most people and also where the pavements are widest so there’s more room to work. Every now and then I’ll go ‘off-piste’ and try somewhere new.
2. When NOT to take photos on the street
The key to not interrupting a scene is to be quick. The longer you’ve been shooting street photography, the easier you’ll find it to take what you want and leave. It’s important to know if an image is worth taking, though. Ask yourself if it’s worth the hassle – for example, taking a picture of someone wiping a baby’s bottom is bound to get you in trouble, as is photographing a drug deal. I have a gauge of the people I’m going to photograph and if it’s worth it. I used to try to photograph fights when I saw them but I don’t now – it’s not worth aggravating two people whose adrenaline levels are soaring. All the attention can easily be turned to you, the person with the camera.
3. Street photography and the law
Whether or not you should worry about including commercial elements in your shots depends on what you’ll end up doing with them. If you sell them on to a stock library you may need to make sure that the image within the image is cleared. I don’t sell my pictures to stock libraries so I worry less about these issues. I’ve had a few run-ins with the police when I’ve been photographing on the streets – I stay polite and try to explain to them what I’m doing.
4. What to do when confronted
When people spot you taking a picture of them, smile – it works! Sometimes just looking at anything but the person you’re photographing is good too. A switched-off iPod is useful as if people ask you what you’re doing you can pretend to be listening to music.
5. Do I need permission to photograph people on the street?
I don’t get permission. I don’t interact with the people I’ve photographed. You only need permission/releases if you’re going to sell the picture for commercial use. I can’t imagine asking the people I photograph for releases, as it would take forever and probably be quite awkward.
6. How to avoid being spotted when shooting street scenes
• Wear dark clothes. Bright colours will make you stand out.
• Keep your elbows in when you’re shooting.
• Have the camera set. Don’t play around with exposures too much. Be ready to shoot and go.
• If you wear the camera around your neck, keep the strap high so there’s less movement between bringing the camera up to your face.
• Take the camera with you everywhere. Get so used to the camera that it feels like a second skin.
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