THE BLOG
03/25/2016 01:47 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A dozen tips to get you started on Street Photography

As with most things in photography the definition of street photography will vary depending on whom you ask.

For me, whatever catches my attention in a public place is potentially a subject for street photography. Obviously, Studio shoots are not covered in this definition and neither are shots of mountains and rivers, trees and flowers, moon and stars (you get the idea!)

If you don't agree with this you are more than welcome to try Google or Wikipedia.

Very next topic, I want to put past us, is whether it's legal to shoot (you know what I mean) people in public places.

Again, there are numerous websites and legal advice available for you to go through if you really want to read and educate yourself.

I am neither a lawyer nor have the resources to do an in-depth analysis of this complex topic.

So I will just say that you should read local laws applicable in your country.

For us here in America we give a lot of emphasis on freedom of expression and street photography is arguably a form of that. As long as you are legally in a public location and your subject is also in a public location and no one is asking you to put your camera down you should be ok. If the subject or a cop asks you to stop taking pictures, please be respectful at the least.

Ok, so now we can get to the actual reason why I started this article.

Well from my experience taking pictures on the streets of San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles I wondered if it would help budding street photographers if I try to put in words all that I learned so far and mind you I consider myself a student and am learning every day.

Let's get started.

#1. First of all, if you don't have a camera you can't really get a shot. Can you?
Try to carry your camera more often and in cases where you can't, you still have that smartphone don't you? Phone cameras have gotten better and if nothing they can be used to practice till you gain enough courage to carry your real camera on the streets.

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Streets of LA - Los Angeles, CA
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: I shot this while going for lunch and it just happened that I had my camera with me that day. By the time I came back the sofa was gone.

#2. What good is that camera if you can't fire it up to take that shot before the subject disappears?
Know your camera and its settings. The reason being that on streets scene change at a fast pace and you don't want yourself fumbling with camera setting while that someone walks past you. So yes learn to shoot fast. Also, don't run out of memory if shooting digital or film if shooting film (what is film you may ask and I won't judge you)

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Catching the Skyline - San Francisco, CA
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: I had very little time to capture this shot while the girl still had her camera up.

#3. Street photography is mostly about telling a story and it often helps if you get close to the action.
I am not saying that there aren't great street shots from a distance, but I am just saying that more often than not, being close will get you a good chance of catching great action or story.

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Life is Good - San Francisco, CA
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: Happy feeling conveyed by faces and body postures here might be difficult from a distance.

#4. Again telling a story is what this is about so look to find something that excites you.
It's self-defeating if you shoot things that don't excite you (unless you are forced to do a story you don't believe in and the results will show in such cases). As with shooting anything, be true to yourself. If something makes you jump up and get that camera out of its resting place go for it.

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The Wait - Boston, MA
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: I liked this scene as it did have bright colors yet there was a sense of stillness and wait. It was not happy, but neither was it sad. Yet somehow it made you feel for the person.

#5. The biggest hurdle I faced was getting over the fact that I am taking pictures of people who may or may not like to be photographed.
Getting over is not always easy. If it bothers you a great deal, please don't hesitate to approach the subject and ask them for permission to shoot, but always know that someone knowing that you are shooting is not exactly same as when that someone is doing stuff not aware of the camera. You can still get great shots, though, but not the same.

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Sounds of Subway - New York, NY
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: As soon as he saw my camera he got a bit conscious.

#6. Make yourself invisible. Well, at least, try to blend in and avoid undue attention.
There are simple things you can try like maybe dress like most folks on that street or like a tourist taking pictures of random stuff. If you are comfortable and experienced you can try shooting from the hip or anywhere else except the eye, but mind you it needs practice and you may not be able to frame the shot that well. Oh, and keep those LCD display screens off.

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Good old days - Barcelona, Spain
source: http://europe.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: Why would anyone even think of distracting them from enjoying a lovely day at the square.

#7. Looking back can be a good thing.
Sometimes interesting things might be happening behind your back.

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Looking around - Amsterdam, Holland
source: http://europe.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: I felt like someone was watching me as soon as I passed that pole.

#8. Anticipate a scene.
Sometimes you can sense or judge an action that's about to take place.
During these times, you can pre-focus at the center of the action and wait for the subjects to jump in the frame.

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Star Struck - Hollywood, CA
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: This was rather easy. Hollywood Walk of Fame is always teeming with action.

#9. Know your routes.
It might be fun and exciting to get lost, but it may be harmful to your health if you wander into areas you would rather not.

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Lost - Boston, MA
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com
Photographer's Note: I waited for the man to come at the corner of the frame and he stopped there for a few seconds or so it seemed.

#10. Invest in some good street photography books.
..and the most important part, Read them.

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Pissin' off Texas - Anchorage, AK
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com

#11. Don't be self-aware.
You will have to forget that you are doing street photography and get over the fact that there may be people watching you.
I will strongly add that no matter what you do, always be respectful of others. So please don't keep shooting if the subject is uncomfortable and/or wants you to stop.

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Love is.. growing old together - Paris, France
source: http://europe.iamvagabond.com

#12. Just go for it.
Almost last, but definitely not the least and, in fact, this might be the most important tip.
Unless you do it you will never know if it excites you and pushes you further to do even better or it's just not for you.

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Balcony Life - Oahu, HI
source: http://usa.iamvagabond.com

I will give an extra one just cause you have been so good to go thru all 12 above!

This is applicable to almost everything you do in life:
Practice to be happy and smile a lot... hey! not that creepy kind, though.