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How to get started with Street Photography?

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Equipment
  3. Ethics & legalities
  4. Developing an eye for Street Photography
  5. Capturing candid moments
  6. Light & exposure
  7. Composition
  8. Editing & post-processing
  9. Community & confidence
  10. Conclusion


Street photography is an exhilarating and captivating genre of photography that allows you to capture the vibrant essence of everyday life. It’s all about documenting the moments, stories, and emotions that unfold on the streets. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced photographer looking to explore a new avenue, this guide will provide you with valuable insights and tips to get started with street photography. Let’s dive in!

Equipment for Street Photography

Before you hit the streets, it’s crucial to have the right gear at your disposal. Or is it? Here are some considerations for choosing equipment for street photography.

Camera options

Street photography can be pursued with basicall all types of cameras, including DSLRs, mirrorless cameras, or even smartphones. Each has its own advantages, so consider factors such as portability, image quality, and usability when selecting your camera.

This is very much about your personal preference. In fact, I’ve been shooting street photography with older digicams recently and absolutely love it. You’re inconspicuous, and the camera fits right in your pocket. You basically blend in as a tourist.

On the other hand, you might prefer the versatility and advanced controls of a DSLR or mirrorless camera. Maybe you enjoy shooting analog and/or with manual lenses. This is something you will figure out along the way, and none of your decisions ever have to be certain.

Camera collection by Karin Majoka – Artist at PortraitMode

However, it’s important not to let your gear limit you from going out and shooting street photography. At the same time, I understand that certain gear and cameras can encourage you to pursue street photography more often.

Ultimately, if your phone is the only camera you have at hand, it’s the camera you should get started with. In other words:

“The best camera, is the one that you have with you” – Chase Jarvis

Lens considerations

The choice of lens greatly influences the results you can achieve in street photography. Prime lenses with fixed focal lengths are popular among street photographers also due to their compact size. Common focal lengths used for street photography include 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm.

Zoom lenses provide versatility, allowing you to frame your shots at various focal lengths without changing lenses.

However, for beginners, I would suggest starting out with prime lenses.

Samuel Lintaro Hopf - Munich, Germany

Prime lenses force you to physically move to frame your subject, removing the additional complexity of framing your shot through the lens. This can be especially beneficial in street photography, where the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the environment can already be overwhelming.

Vedran Peruničić - Zadar, Croatia

Ethics & legalities

As a street photographer, it’s important to be mindful of the ethical and legal considerations that come with photographing strangers in public spaces.

The information provided here is not legal advice, and it’s important to note that laws can vary greatly from country to country. Therefore, it’s crucial to do your own research and familiarize yourself with the specific laws and regulations of the location where you plan to engage in street photography.

It’s important to be respectful. Street photography thrives on capturing spontaneous and genuine moments. However, it’s crucial to strike a balance between capturing compelling images and respecting the subjects you photograph.

Try to be aware of the situation & consider how your presence and actions might affect the environment and the people around you.

Even if you are proactive through your gestures, facial expressions, and body language, there might come a time when you face a confrontation on the streets. If that happens, it’s always a good idea to remain calm and try to de-escalade the situation. Take a moment to explain what you’re doing and why you are taking photos of strangers in the streets.

It can be helpful to pull out your phone to show them your PortraitMode or Instagram portfolio. By showing them examples of your work, they can gain a better understanding of your artistic intent and hopefully ease any concerns they might have.

Observing & developing an eye for Street Photography

Becoming a skilled street photographer involves more than just technical proficiency. It requires the ability to observe and anticipate moments, identifying interesting subjects, and effectively composing your shots. Here are some tips for developing an eye for street photography.

Observe & anticipate moments

Street photography is all about capturing fleeting moments that tell stories. Train your eye to be observant and aware of your surroundings. Look for interesting interactions, gestures, expressions, and environments. Anticipate and be ready to capture those decisive moments that may only last for a split second.

Fanja Hubers - Utrecht, Netherlands

Identify interesting subjects & scenes

Streets are full of life, and there is an abundance of potential subjects and scenes. Look for unique characters, interesting architecture, vibrant street art, contrasting elements, or dramatic lighting. Experiment with different genres of street photography, such as street portraits, urban landscapes, or candid documentary-style shots, to find what resonates with you.

Samuel Lintaro Hopf - Cologne, Germany

Compositions & framing techniques

Composition plays a crucial role in street photography. Experiment with different composition techniques like the rule of thirds, leading lines, framing, and negative space. Explore different angles and perspectives to add depth and visual interest to your images. Remember that in street photography, you often have limited control over the environment, so being able to compose your shots quickly and effectively is a valuable skill.

Munya Chawora - Sydney NSW, Australia

By developing a keen sense of observation and honing your compositional skills, you’ll start to notice the beauty and uniqueness in everyday moments, allowing you to capture compelling street photographs.

Capturing candid moments

Candid moments are at the heart of street photography. The ability to capture genuine and spontaneous moments & expressions is what sets street photography apart. Here are some techniques to help you capture those decisive moments.

Blending into the environment

To capture authentic moments, it’s important to blend in and become part of the scene. Dress inconspicuously and avoid drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. By being discreet, you can observe and photograph without disrupting the natural flow of the environment & situation. Use a small camera or even a smartphone to appear less intrusive.

Chee Hiong Chua - Malaysia

Stealth & discretion

Develop techniques that allow you to photograph discreetly. Consider using a quiet shutter mode if available on your camera to avoid drawing attention. Pre-focus your lens and use zone focusing to reduce the time it takes to capture the shot. This way, you can react quickly when an interesting moment unfolds.

Craig Meakin - Haizhu District, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

Approach strangers for street portraits (optional)

While candid moments are the essence of street photography, occasionally, approaching strangers for street portraits can result in compelling images. This can not only lead to interesting conversations, but it also really boosts your confidence in doing street photography. If you feel comfortable, politely approach individuals who catch your eye and ask if you can take their photograph. Express your admiration for their style or character, and remember to respect their decision if they decline.

Light & exposure

Lighting plays a crucial role in street photography, setting the mood and adding depth to your images. Here are some tips to help you master light and exposure in your street photographs.

Importance of lighting in Street Photography

Observe how light falls on your subjects and the surrounding environment. Take note of interesting shadows, patterns, and contrasts that can add drama to your compositions. Golden hours (early morning and late afternoon) for instance can provide soft, warm light, strong shadows & contrast.

Roman Sokolov - Sochi, Krasnodar Krai, Russia

Make the most out of natural light

Learn to adapt and work with the available light. Position yourself strategically to take advantage of the light’s direction and quality. Experiment with backlit silhouettes, reflections & shadows to create interesting compositions. Being aware of the different color temperatures throughout the day can also make for interesting photographs.

Björn Bremer - Bremen, Germany

Exposure compensation

A well-exposed photograph is crucial for conveying your vision effectively. Practice & experiment with exposure settings to prioritize either shadows or highlights, depending on the mood or atmosphere you want to create in your photograph.

David Vongries - Aschaffenburg, Germany

Experimentation and practice are key to mastering light and exposure in street photography. Continuously challenge yourself to adapt to different lighting situations.

Composing engaging street photographs

Composition plays a vital role in creating compelling street photographs. Here are some tips to help you compose your shots effectively.

Rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a popular compositional guideline. Imagine dividing your frame into a grid of nine equal sections with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Place your main subject or points of interest along these lines or at their intersections to create a balanced and visually pleasing composition.

Thocles Warszawski - Warsaw, Poland

Leading lines

Utilize leading lines in your frame to guide the viewer’s eyes and create a sense of depth. Streets, architectural elements, or even shadows can be used as leading lines that draw attention to your subject or add a dynamic element to the composition.

Craig Meakin - Haizhu District, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, China

Framing & layers

Look for opportunities to frame your subject within the environment. Doorways, windows, arches, or even natural elements like trees can serve as frames that add context and depth to your images. Additionally, incorporating multiple layers in your composition by capturing elements in the foreground, middle ground, and background can create a visually rich and captivating street photograph.

Jens Held - 6900 Bregenz, Austria

Negative space

Don’t be afraid to leave empty space in your compositions. Negative space can provide breathing room and draw attention to your subject, making it stand out. Embrace simplicity and minimalism in your street photographs by using negative space effectively.

Maik Kroner - Wolfsburg, Germany


Look for reflective surfaces like glass windows, puddles, or shiny surfaces that can add a layer of visual interest to your composition. Reflections can create unique and dynamic compositions, offering a different perspective and adding depth to your street photographs. Experiment with different angles, viewpoints, and compositions to incorporate reflections creatively into your images.

Kevin W. - London, UK

Remember that composition guidelines are meant to be broken. While they provide a solid foundation, don’t be afraid to experiment and develop your own unique style of composition in street photography.

Editing & post-processing

Editing your photos in Lightroom or CaptureOne, for instance, can help you bring out the best in your images. Here are some considerations when editing and post-processing your street photographs.

Sorting & selecting

After a street photography session, import your images to your preferred editing software and begin the process of selecting the keepers. Be critical and choose images that best capture the essence of the moment or tell a good story. Aim for quality over quantity.

Exposure, contrast & white balance

Fine-tune exposure, adjust highlights and shadows, and correct white balance if necessary. A good photograph typically doesn’t need much editing. Keeping the adjustments nice & subtle is key. Boosting contrast can add punch and definition to your street photographs.


Especially when working with RAW images, it’s easy to go overboard with your editing. Personally, I prefer to embrace the color science of the camera I’m shooting with and often stick to the picture profiles and film simulations provided by the camera manufacturer. However, adjusting color, hue, and saturation is where you have complete artistic freedom.

Black & white conversion

Consider experimenting with black and white conversion for your street photographs or dedicate a day to shooting exclusively in black and white. When working with black and white images, pay careful attention to contrast, tonal range, and texture.

Additionally, even if you initially shot in color, you may find that certain photos & compositions work better when converted to black and white.


One powerful tool in post-processing is cropping, which allows you to refine the composition of your street photographs. Cropping can help eliminate distractions, emphasize the main subject, and create a more balanced and visually pleasing image.

You can’t save a bad image

This is important. Post-processing can only enhance and refine your images, but it cannot magically fix a poorly composed or boring photograph. Editing should be used to fine-tune & enhance the strengths of an already well-captured image.

Don’t overdo it

Keeping the adjustments subtle is key when editing your street photographs. Remember: it’s about enhancing your image and not transforming it into something completely different.

It’s important to maintain the essence of the original scene. Strive for a balance between enhancing the visual impact of your photographs and preserving the authentic atmosphere and mood of the street.

Check out our Straight out of camera (SOOC) category on PortraitMode for inspiration.

Build confidence & engage with the community

Street photography can be an exciting but challenging genre. Here are some tips to help you build confidence and engage with the street photography community.

Practice, practice, practice

The more you practice street photography, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become. Make it a habit to hit the streets with your camera regularly. Over time, you’ll develop your own style and instinct for capturing captivating moments.

Embrace rejection & disappointment

Street photography involves photographing strangers, and not every interaction or photograph will be successful. Embrace the possibility of rejection, as it’s a natural part of the process. Moreover, it’s important to stay resilient and persistent, as it may take time before you actually capture a photo that you truly admire.

Remember to focus on the journey itself and being fully present in the moment. A good photo is the cherry on top.

Join us at PortraitMode

PortraitMode is a dedicated photo sharing platform for street photography that allows you to showcase your work, gain inspiration and engage with a supportive community of like-minded photographers from around the world.

PortraitMode is 100% free and available on IOS, Android & the web.


Congrats! You’ve now been equipped with valuable insights and tips to get started with street photography. Remember, it’s a journey of exploration, observation, and storytelling. Embrace the serendipity of the streets and capture the moments that unfold around you. Keep practicing, refining your skills, and most importantly, enjoy the process.

📸 Happy shooting!


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