13 Tips for Street Travel Photography

Brick Lane Street Sign Poplar, East London
Brick Lane Street Sign Poplar, East London Click on the image for a larger view and for other options

In Tips to Photograph People while Travelling I said that some of the most interesting subjects can be people going about their normal day.
I would also add to that the environment that surrounds them as well.
In this article I will give you 13 Tips for street travel photography.

Street Photography

 Before we begin , what is street photography?

Interpretations and definitions of street travel photography abound.
My take on it is that it’s photography that captures the moment in settings that are predominantly man made like cities, towns and villages.

So now we have rough idea of what it is, let’s get into my 13 tips for street travel photography

1. Being Organised

I’ve mentioned in articles like Planning and Preparation for Travel Photos or The Travel Photographer Destination Guide Part One, about the benefit of planning and organisation. I’ll repeat it here again. Doesn’t matter what type of travel photos you wish to take, being organised is the single most important facet of travel photography.  Particularly if you want to give yourself the best opportunities to take home some great photos.

2. Have a Plan

By plan I mean know what sort of street travel photography you want to practice.
Are you looking for a certain type such as people looking at their mobile (cell) phones? Maybe you want to get images of people working in café’s and the café’s themselves.
Whatever it is, focus on that and find the right location/s.
It’s no good wandering down a suburban street looking for cafés.

Brick lane cafe, Poplar London, England
Brick lane cafe, Poplar London, England. Click on the image for a larger view and for other options

3. Have Patience

In How I took this Travel Photography Image I took quite a good picture of 2 guys laughing outside a bar.
I ‘camped’ in one place to take advantage of any possible photo opportunity.
Sometimes you must be patient and keep your eyes open.
In most areas something will turn up. It’s not much different to taking wildlife.
Wildlife doesn’t pose or turn up when you want it to, you have to be in the right spot and wait to grab that picture.

4. Batteries and Memory

Ensure you have the camera battery and your spare (you have a spare don’t you?) are fully charged.
Also make sure your memory card has plenty of capacity.
If it’s nearly full, change it NOW for an empty one. And of course, make sure you have at least a couple of empty spares.
32GB is a good size these days. It’s not just memory you are after. Sometimes memory cards play up or fail, so a backup or 2 is essential
Can’t do street travel photography without battery power and spare memory cards
In the case of smartphones, most modern smartphones don’t have the option to change batteries. But you can have a mobile power bank to keep it charged. Similarly, with memory if your phone has the option of micros SD cards or if not, flash drives, it’s worth investing in either.

5. Have the Camera Switched On

One reason for having plenty of battery power is that you should always have your camera on.
If you have a smartphone then make sure the camera app is open and if possible turn off the lock or adjust the time to turn off the app.
Street photography is very much about being ready and in the moment. If your camera is off, then you will miss opportunities that you would get with the camera on.

Shoeshine carts, Guadalajara, Mexico
Shoeshine carts, Guadalajara, Mexico.
Click on the image for a larger view and for other options

6. Have that Lens Cap Off

Leading on from the last point. Any extra step you have to take to have your camera ready can be one step too much. Use a lens hood instead if you are worried about damaging the lens.

7. Get Close In

When you have a telescopic lens, there is the temptation to position yourself away from possible subjects.
Now there are times when this is a good idea. But some of the best street photos have been taken whilst close in.
That’s not to say you need to be in someone’s’ space with a camera up their nostril.
No, that’s not what I mean.
For example, if you are taking a picture of some street art, don’t try and get it all. Pick some small parts and concentrate on that. For more on that see The One Big Creative Travel Photo Idea

8. Be Respectful

Taking pictures of people can be done quite close without them knowing.
If you are going to have people as your subjects, be aware of any cultural sensitivities. Always ask when it’s a situation where it’s pretty obvious that you want to take their picture.
For more on that go to my last article Tips to Photograph People while Travelling

Leaning Mexican Cowboy, Guadalajara, Mexico
Leaning Mexican Cowboy, Guadalajara, Mexico.
Click on the image for a larger view and for other options

9. Use your Flash Sparingly

If you have the on camera flash on auto – turn it off!
On camera flash should only be used as a last resort. Much better to jack up the ISO and have some grain or noise than have that “rabbit in headlights” look.
As you can see, I don’t use it. 

If you do have off camera flash then use it.
You don’t have to have an arm with a flash hanging off your camera to have off camera flash. There are lots of ways of lighting a subject without flash. Having someone shine a torch (flashlight) onto the subject can work as well.

10. Be Imaginative

Street photography is an open ended opportunity to take photos. You have permission to take pretty much anything. Regulatory and cultural sensitivities permitting, of course. So you have an opportunity to be creative and imaginative.
Take something you’ve never seen before, use different angles, heights and positions. Often, we get stuck in the standard position of holding the camera at our standing height.

11. Shoot in Shade.

On sunny or bright days then it’s best to try and reduce contrasts.  Unless you are taking a photos that highlights light e.g. backlighting or individual light falling on a subject.  If you’re in an area with lots of reasonably high buildings that shouldn’t be too hard and makes for a more even exposure. Getting a great photo of a subject only to find some of it is badly overexposed can be disappointing.

12. Shoot from the Hip

There will be times when you want to grab a shot without being seen. Whilst you can do this with a telescopic lens, you may not be in the right position to use it.
A technique, which takes a bit of practice, is to shoot from the hip.
That is have your camera hanging down by your hip, with your finger on the shutter button. I would also suggest you have the rear LCD screen set on live view, so you can get a rough idea on what sort of photos you are taking. 

If you have a reticulated screen on your camera, one that can be manipulated at angles away from the camera body, then that’s even better.

13. Convert to Black and White

Lastly, whilst not compulsory, street photography seems to lend itself to black and white. Most cameras allow you to shoot in black and white. I would suggest that you don’t do that. Instead choose and convert the photos that you think will look good in black and white with your post processing software. Whilst you can take photos in black and white, you want to have the choice about whether colour or black and white is better for a particular photo.
Of course, there’s nothing to stop you challenging yourself and shooting everything in Black and White. In other words, don’t worry about whether it would have looked better in colour.

Le mouffetard bar on Rue Mouffetard, home to one of Paris's many markets.
Le mouffetard bar on Rue Mouffetard, home to one of Paris’s many markets.
Click on the image for a larger view and for other options

Summary for 13 Tips for Street Travel Photography

1. Being organised

2. Have a plan

3. Have patience

4. Batteries and memory

5. Have the camera switched on

6. Have that lens cap off

7. Get close

8. Be respectful

9. Use your flash sparingly

10. Be imaginative

11. Shoot in shade.

12. Shoot from the hip

13. Convert to black and white

You’ve got this far and I appreciate that.

But there must have been something that piqued your interest.

Is it that you see yourself taking some great travel photos that you can share or display? 

Or is it you can see yourself reliving your travel experience by bringing home some emotive travel photos?

Maybe you aspire to getting your travel photos published.

If one or all of these is YOUR goal, I can help.

If you sign up in the box below you’ll get my free eBook “9 ways to improve your Travel Photography”. At the same time, you will also subscribe to my Travel Photo Tips Newsletter.

Remember if you want to take great travel photos 

• that you can share and display.

• that help you relive your travel experience

• give you a chance to have your travel photos published

then sign up below and subscribe to my Travel Photo Tips Newsletter and for your trouble get my eBook “9 ways to improve your Travel Photography”

Any questions then please write your comments below or contact me here and please say hello at these places:


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Brick lane signs, Poplar London, England
Brick lane signs, Poplar London, England
Click on the image for a larger view and for other options
Categories: How to, travel photographyTags: , ,

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