I got my first camera in high school. I was such a proud self-proclaimed photographer back then. Shooting portraits of my friends and family, taking romantic pictures of my cats, careful planning photoshoots with my best friends as models, and taking a lot of online photography classes, I felt like a real artist. Ah, the naivety of youth. I must admit that I look back on the old times with a dose of embarrassment.
But then, in my early twenties, I discovered a whole new point of view of photography art. Entering the world of street photography changed my way artistic thinking drastically. At first, street photographers seemed to me to be poor imitations of actual photojournalists. Just a bunch of people running around with their cameras without purpose. It was like that until I fell in love with one and became determined to get to know what it’s all about.
Street Photography Rules
Even though this photography genre gives you great freedom and sounds a little rebellious, it still has its own, distinctive rules such as. Here are the key street photography guidelines:
1. Be invisible
You don’t want to interfere in the environment you’re photographing. You’re not the element of it, you have to become a part of the blurry background people are passing every day without noticing any details. Only being invisible you can capture the purest and most honest moments and emotions of the daily life of the streets.
It happens that street photographers — in order to fulfil their particular artistic duty — either take pictures illegally (e.g., the legendary photos from North Korea) or want to capture a suspicious situation in a dangerous area (adrenaline is also a significant part of the genre that stole my heart immediately!). In such risky situations, you definitely want to pass unnoticed.
2. Think quickly
Making decisions while taking spontaneous pictures must happen in double-quick time. It’s usually a matter of a couple of seconds either to succeed or to miss just the perfect, unique shot. It doesn’t mean that you want to shoot fast and randomly. It means that you should master the art of composition and heighten all your senses.
3. Stay respectful
Street photography is about real life and people as they are. Although there are situations when you shouldn’t try to get a picture at all costs. If you can see there’s happening something harmful — hide your camera and call relevant services. Be a decent human being! If someone refuses to get photographed — accept it and move on. With your art, you want to make people understand the world better. Being extremely intrusive and importunate will only harm the whole community of photographers!
The Best Camera for Street Photography
I wish there was one answer. The truth is you’ll probably need months or years of experience with different cameras to find the ultimate ones that will fit your needs. When you’ll be at a store, touch the cameras, try them on as if you were shopping for clothes! The chosen camera should be like an extension of your hand and make you feel comfortable while moving and changing positions.
The only general tip I can share with you here is that the size of an appropriate camera for street photography should be possibly small. Showing off your lenses collection of the longest focal lengths won’t necessarily help you stay unnoticed.
The body sizes of DSLR camera are very various, so you can easily find a good compact-sized one. For street photography, you could also consider getting a mirrorless camera. It takes pictures of a slightly worse, digital quality and you can’t change the lens, but it’s definitely lighter and smaller. Try to keep in mind that the philosophy of this kind of photography is to capture the right moment, not to take the absolutely perfect shot of excellent quality.
Put Your Perfectionism Aside
That leads us to the last point — the perfectionism issue. I used to think that a good photograph has to be of crystal clear quality, perfectly cropped, and to have the perfect contrast balance. Nothing more wrong. You can read the best street photography books and still fail to grasp what makes this genre so different.
Street photography is far away from perfection. You want to tell stories with your art. Real stories. You want to show the world as it is, not all dressed up and perfumed.
I realised that street photographers are not poor imitations of photojournalists. They are documenting our reality, day by day, without fancy tricks. Street photography will bear the truth of our times for future generations. Don’t hesitate and become a part of it!