3 Tips for Great Street Photos

Street photography touches my love of photography like no other genre. It's difficult to explain why. Maybe it's the historical relevance of recording society, although I've never been a big history buff. Maybe it's the rawness or reality of the moment, or maybe it's just the voyeur in me, like all humans that are fascinated with observing others and their environment. Regardless of what genre you prefer, lighting, distance to your subject and the angle you shoot are key ingredients to any great photo. Street photography involves all of these ingredients mixed in with the gesture of the subject at the moment you shoot - a moment that will never be exactly the same again. Below are tips on what I've learned over the years. Take them for what they are - my point of view based on my experience. 

1. Find the Light, then the Photo

Photography is always about great/interesting light. When I venture out to shoot street, or any type of photography really, I'm looking for great light first. I may not even consciously think about it since I usually already have a subject in mind, but more often than not when I raise my camera to take a photo, it's the light on a subject, or the gesture as a result of the light that caught my eye.

Ebisu, Tokyo - Fuji x100s, ISO 400, f/8, 1/420 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Goya, Okinawa - Fuji x100s, ISO 400, f/4, 1/140 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Color Efex Pro 4.

Harajuku, Tokyo - iPhone 6 Plus. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Naha, Okinawa - Fuji X-Pro1, 18-55mm f/2.8-4. Edited in Lightroom and Color Efex Pro 4.

When the sun is low in the sky and sending beams of high contrast light, look around and you'll see photos everywhere. However, street photos are also great during other lighting situations such as rainy days, nightime with street/car lights, and almost any light that's interesting.

Naha, Okinawa - Fuji X-Pro1, 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2, ISO 6400, 1/50 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Naha, Okinawa - Fuji X-Pro1, 35mm f/1.4 @ f/2, ISO 1250, 1/50 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.

In the city, rainy days and a sea of umbrellas as far as you can see make for an interesting scene in Tokyo.

Omotesando, Tokyo. iPhone 6 Plus ISO32, f/2.2, 1/40 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2. 

iPhone 6 Plus, ISO 32, f/2.2, 1/8 sec. Edited in Lightroom.

Above, the lights from nearby buildings, mixed with the wet pavement and umbrellas, transformed an ordinary street scene into something magical. It was the reflections of the lights on the street that attracted me to this scene. The blur of the people walking made it even better.

If you donโ€™t like your photos, youโ€™re not close enough.
— Robert Capa

2. Get Closer. Really Close

Robert Capa, famous for his photos from WWII, among others said "if you don't like your photos, you're not close enough." Yes you can always crop in post, but depending on your focal length, cropping in post may not have the same look and feel as getting closer to your subject to begin with. I have taken countless street photos that never saw the light of day because I wasn't close enough, and cropping didn't fix it.

Nago, Okinawa - Fuji x100, ISO 3200, f/16, 1/60 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Shibuya, Tokyo - iPhone 6 Plus. Edited in Lightroom Mobile.

Shinjuku, Tokyo - iPhone 6 Plus, ISO 32, f/2.2, 1/2000 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Below military servicemen participating in a local Tug of War festival as they assist in carrying the knot end of the rope to connect with the other side. I wish that I had shot this at a lower angle, as this would have helped show the enormous size of the rope and added to the drama of the moment.

Goya, Okinawa - Fuji x100s ISO 400, f/2, 1/30 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.

 3. Angles, Angles, Angles

In real estate, they say location, location, location. In photography it's angle. The angle you shoot a photo can make all the difference. An image can go from ok to wow just by changing your angle. So when shooting, try to shoot the subject from more than one angle. You may be surprised at what you get.

Okinawa - Fuji x100, ISO 6400, f/5, 1/350 sec. Edited in Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2.

Chatan, Okinawa - iPhone 6 Plus. Edited in Lightroom and Color Efex Pro 4.

The following two images are not necessarily street photos, but they illustrate the importance of choosing the right angle. These skyscrapers in Shinjuku, Tokyo are much more interesting shot from a low angle.

Shinjuku, Tokyo - iPhone 6 Plus. Edited in Lightroom Mobile.

Shinjuku, Tokyo - iPhone 6 Plus. Edited in Lightroom Mobile.

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