5 easy street photography tips

by Stacey Vukelj

My two year old son thinks it is a novelty to ride in a car yet he knows which subway line will bring us home. He is well acquainted with the art of chasing pigeons, the boat traffic along the Hudson River and the guy who delivers our Thai food. I’m not sure I could have predicted that we would be raising our kid in New York City but here we are, and if you could find me an extra closet I’d even go so far as to say we love it.

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Living here and documenting our son’s adventures has also ignited a love affair between me and street photography. It is a fascinating and diverse genre that I cannot give justice to in a short blog post. Nor do I purport to be an expert in the field. However, I can’t get enough of it and would encourage anyone with an interest to get out there and give it a try because it is an extremely freeing form of photography.

5 easy street photography tips photo

And while I do not believe that there is one “right” way to go about it, urban spaces are dynamic, bold and teeming with interest. Here are a few of my suggestions for getting images that are all of those things as well.

1. Plan Ahead

Think about what you intend to shoot, where you plan to go, and what gear you want to bring.  Tripods are great for night shooting. Wide angles are fantastic for cityscapes. You might want a prime for portraits.

5 easy street photography tips photo

I recommend toting around no more than two lenses though I try to stick to just one. If I am not sure what the day will bring and really want the versatility (and have the stroller to carry my load), my favorite combination is my 16-35mm and my macro. Importantly, use common sense, especially if you are in an unfamiliar location. Be aware of your surroundings and consider the safety of yourself, anyone traveling with you, and your gear.

2. Keep it in Perspective

5 easy street photography tips photo

When out with my camera, I usually wear darker colors and it’s not because I am a trendy New Yorker. If you want to get an interesting photograph of your kids with the city around them, or the harsh shadows on a building or any number of other eye-catching subjects, you may need to get up close and personal with the streets themselves. Obtaining the correct perspective can really make or break a shot, and often, if size is what you wish to convey, you need to get low.

5 easy street photography tips photo

Then again, you may also need to climb tables or railings, or do any other number of things to get the right angle to achieve your vision. Cautious photographs often end up looking like snapshots so check your embarrassment at the door and move with confidence – eventually you stop caring if other people think you’ve lost your mind. Besides, you’re probably building up your immune system.

5 easy street photography tips photo

3. Choose Your Approach Wisely

If you are particularly outgoing, ask people who interest you if you can take their pictures (I usually draw the line right about there but many street portrait photographers ask their subjects for permission – or use a really long lens).

5 easy street photography tips photo

If you photograph street musicians or other performers, be nice and leave a buck or two. They are also working for their art. (Side note: be aware that if you intend to use any of your images for certain commercial purposes, you may need model release forms from your subjects or property release forms in the case of businesses being visible in your shots.)

5 easy street photography tips photo

Of course, although you may choose to be bold in certain situations you will want to tread lightly in others. Shooting from the hip is a great way to get interesting shots without attracting attention to the fact that you are taking photos of total strangers. And even then, consider your subjects carefully in order to avoid altercations.

5 easy street photography tips photo

4. Be Prepared

I usually meter off the sidewalk at zero (in the same light as I’m shooting into) and get my settings where I want them to be so if I see a shot, then I can frame and shoot. When shooting from the hip, I hold my camera reasonably straight at around waist-level and fire away when I see something interesting.

5 easy street photography tips photo

I often go with a narrower aperture and higher ISO to get more of the scene in focus. I keep an eye out for interesting motion and try to be aware of my composition as I aim to fill the frame and I move quickly to change settings if I decide I want motion blur or panning.

5 easy street photography tips photo

Using a wide angle lens will give you more room to crop after the fact and converting to black and white in your post processing will give your photos a timeless feel that will help you out when you get home and discover that someone’s orange Crocs made it into the frame.

5. Anything Goes

When you’re out there, be creative, have a great time and keep your expectations low. Like any type of photography, bringing home keepers takes practice. You are guaranteed a lot of junk but much of the fun is in the trying. Play with shutter speeds, depth of field, perspective and subject matter. Try using only manual focus.

5 easy street photography tips photo

Be thoughtful about composition and what goes into the frame. The city is filled with leading lines – be led! Take pictures of your family interacting with the environment, not just posing in front of landmarks.

5 easy street photography tips photo

Finally, only take pictures of things that actually interest you. Then return home with a full memory card and go treasure hunting. I am certain you will find some gems.

5 easy street photography tips photoStacey Vukelj, New York
CMpro
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Stacey Leece Vukelj spends her time being a mom and a lawyer and wielding a heavy camera around the streets of New York. She loves cities (hers and others), cheese, and the company of friends and loved ones, particularly when they bring wine to go along with the cheese. She is thankful for the boundless support of her husband, who kindly refrains from commenting on her growing lens collection, and is highly amused that her brother has unwittingly become a heartthrob for a certain subset of Clickin Moms. Should you come to town and find yourself in need of a friendly face, give her a shout.

Thank you Stacey for sharing this amazing information with us today!

Have you given street photography a shot?  Would you like an excuse to?  Come join us for the second annual ClickinWalk being held later this month!  Find a location and register for a photo walk near you here.

And a special thank you to all the incredible sponsors for this year’s Walk!

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52 Responses to “5 easy street photography tips”

  1. Sep 05 2012 at 11:03 am #

    So excited to see you on the blog! Wonderful article.

  2. Colie
    Sep 05 2012 at 11:10 am #

    This is fantastic!!! Thanks so much for the tips.

  3. Aimee McNamee
    Sep 05 2012 at 11:18 am #

    Excellent post, Stacey! I love your work!

  4. Emma Wood
    Sep 05 2012 at 11:20 am #

    Stacey, these are awesome tips, and I love your images. THank you so much for sharing your thoughts on street photography, you've inspired me to want to try it. <3

  5. Sep 05 2012 at 11:21 am #

    I am a huge fan, Stacey! Beautiful work :)

  6. Justine
    Sep 05 2012 at 11:23 am #

    Great article Stacey!!! Cant wait to hit the street again with you!

  7. Sep 05 2012 at 11:48 am #

    Stacey, I am going to try to refrain from gushing but I adore your work! Authentic, captivating, vibrant… you are fabulous! I can’t wait to see images from your ClickinWalk! Fab article and images!!!

  8. Julie Kiernan
    Sep 05 2012 at 11:58 am #

    Great article and images, Stacey! They make me want to visit you in NYC. At the very least, I am going to start shooting from the hip:)

  9. Sep 05 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Love your images and your article Stacey!! And your bio comments gave me the giggles

  10. teamhumphries
    Sep 05 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    Aw Stacey this was a fantastic article. Your humour and articulation marry so well with your stunning photography. I am in awe. <3 <3

  11. Sarah Zalan
    Sep 05 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Love your checklist!…especially checking your embarrassment at the door, and improving immunity! Entertaining read Stacey. Totally made my day. :D

  12. Sep 05 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    Yay !! Thank you for this fantastic article, Stacey. Now I want to try shooting from the hip.

  13. Sarah Murchison
    Sep 05 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    Stacey you rock! what an honor to know you in person!!! love your photos and the article!!!!

  14. Sep 05 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    I am in love with your street work!!!! :hp

  15. Liz
    Sep 05 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    This is awesome! Thank you :)

  16. Julie Mak
    Sep 05 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    Great tips! This is great!

  17. Julie Mak
    Sep 05 2012 at 3:16 pm #

    Oops hit send too soon. This is beautifully written and I learned a lot from it!

  18. Jodie
    Sep 05 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    This is my favorite blog post yet. Thank you so much for sharing. Your images are fabulous!!

  19. Erica Collins
    Sep 05 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Awesome, Stacey!!

  20. Sep 05 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Such gorgeous work and a great lesson on street photography.

  21. catherine r.
    Sep 05 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Great tips! I am looking forward to taking it to the streets, too! Love your work!

  22. Sep 05 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    Great article and inspiring images!

  23. Kim
    Sep 05 2012 at 6:11 pm #

    Stacey, awesome suggestions! I find that sometimes I am so rigid in what I am trying to accomplish that I don't just let go and loosen up. This is a great reminder to do JUST that!

  24. Danika
    Sep 05 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Stacey, these tips are awesome!! Thank you so much for sharing and I can’t wait to try some of them out. If only I lived somewhere cooler… :)

  25. Genesis Bowen
    Sep 05 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    This is a great article, Stacey! I have always been drawn to street photography and had no idea how to tackle it. I love your work. You are my new photog crush!! :o)

  26. Sep 05 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Great images and great article, Stacey!

  27. charmypix
    Sep 05 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    I LOVE this article, thanks so much! Going to have to visit the city to have a go at this!

  28. Angie
    Sep 05 2012 at 9:00 pm #

    Great post! I love your work.

  29. Mara Vaughan
    Sep 05 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    One of my favorite blog posts so far! This is such awesome, concrete advice, and your images have such unique composition! Totally inspiring.

  30. Jennifer James
    Sep 05 2012 at 10:06 pm #

    I love this article. As a fellow city-dwelling mom I really need the push to use my camera more boldly. Thank you for sharing both your tips and beautiful images.

  31. Sep 05 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    Stacey this couldn't come at a better time -I'm inspired to get out in the city pronto – please consider coming to DC for a private tutorial! :)

  32. Sep 06 2012 at 12:59 am #

    What a great informative and fun read! I have loved getting to know you in EOD this past month. Thank you for sharing so much info today. I would love to street shoot and have never had a chance.

  33. Sep 06 2012 at 10:33 am #

    Fantastic article Stacey! Loved all of your tips! Thanks for sharing.

  34. svukelj
    Sep 06 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Thank you, all! I'm so glad it was helpful.

  35. Sep 06 2012 at 11:05 am #

    Fantastic, Stacey! Thanks for sharing :)

  36. Kelly
    Sep 06 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    Yes! Terrific article, Stacey! This morning we took our son on the subway to his first day of Kindergarten. I went with iPhone in tow, snapping photos on the way. I got a photo of him entranced with a fiddler, busking for loose change. It did not even occur to me to ask the musician if it was okay, but we did give him a dollar. Great tips – you have inspired me to flip the switch on my lens to manual the next time we brave Manhattan.

  37. Kristin Dokoza
    Sep 06 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    What a fantastic article! I love the tips you've shared — your street photography and the way you are documenting your son in the big city is inspiring. I'm a fan :)

  38. Lauren
    Sep 07 2012 at 9:31 am #

    Thank you for this great article, Stacey! I visited NYC last November for the first time, and that was the first time I had really experimented with street photography. I loved it, and of course there is so much subject matter around the city! I am visiting again in a few weeks…now that I have a wide angle lens, I want to get some great city-scape shots from high up. I plan to go to the empire state building for sunset shots, but they don't open early enough for sunrise photos. Do you have any suggestions for places to get great views of the city at sunrise? Would love to hear your suggestions!

    Thanks again for the tips. Can't wait to put them into practice!

    • svukelj
      Sep 08 2012 at 11:53 pm #

      Lauren, off the top of my head I can't think of any high public buildings that are open at sunrise. However, you could probably get some amazing shots from the bridges on the East side – Brooklyn, Williamsburg or 59th St. Bridges all have pedestrian access. Have a fantastic trip!

      • Lauren
        Sep 11 2012 at 9:32 pm #

        Thanks Stacey!

  39. Heidi G
    Sep 07 2012 at 11:22 am #

    My goodness. I love your work! I live in a rural area and am in awe of the beauty you capture in the big city. Your work is very distinct. Love looking at it in the Daily Project. This is a fantastic post!

  40. Syreeta
    Sep 07 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    I love this, I live and grew up in London, there are so many things that you get out of living in a massive city. I am trying to make sure that my daughter gets to enjoy them all, just as I did. It's really cool to be able to document this and I think you have chosen a great way to do this I am sure your son will thank you for this when he's older.

  41. pam
    Sep 07 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    Great article! Love these tips and your city!

  42. Oct 15 2012 at 11:51 pm #

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thanks, However I am having troubles with your RSS. I don’t know why I cannot join it. Is there anyone else having the same RSS issues? Anybody who knows the answer can you kindly respond? Thanx!!

  43. Jan 24 2013 at 10:54 am #

    I love this post – I am in NYC all the time – I live on Long Island.
    love the way you capture the city.

  44. Samantha
    Jun 21 2013 at 6:26 am #

    Hi Stacey!
    I just wanted to thank you for this inspiring article and congratulate you on your brilliant work!! I am a 23 yr old, currently living and working in Madrid and I often get made fun of for my snapping habits and then even more so for touching up some of the shots later. But then these same critics rave about these same shots later which often leaves me with torn emotions and wondering if I might just be a little “too” addicted to the treasure hunt. Anyway, thank you for letting me know someone else has faced a similar struggle. I wish you the best and thank you again for the article!! It was wonderful!

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