Settings for Street Photography
I often get asked what camera settings I use for street photography, so I thought it might be fun to lay out my basic camera settings for my particular style of street photography. I prefer to shoot on clear bright days so these setting reflect that type of shooting environment as well as the final image output which tends to be bright and colorful. These setting are for my digital cameras which tends to be one of these three: Fujifilm X-Pro1 (my favorite) Ricoh GRii (discreet) and occasionally the XT-2 (great for the flip screen). I prefer to use a 28-31mm (18-21mm in APS-C) for the amount of image context you can capture within the frame without getting the distortion often seen in wider focal lengths. Since these cameras are APS-C the focal length written on the lenses is 18mm (x1.5=27mm). I still shoot work that requires a full frame camera, I also shoot film from time to time(35&120), so working out the 35mm focal length is important for consistency throughout.
Aperture - f/4 & f/8/11
f/4 - Portraits, Candid Portraits, Diminishing Light
f/8/f11 - Larger Scenes, Groups, Urban Landscapes, Fast Moving Busy Scenes
I go back and forth between these two f/stops for the large majority of my photographs taken on the streets, although f/8 is my most popular for street photography. The main reason being is the large depth of field it provides without the camera speed taking too much of a hit from having a smaller (slower) aperture. f/11 is great but I find my speed selection is often compromised with this f/stop. If you ever stop me on the street then chances are my camera will be set to f/8, I will adjust for the scene when needed but always revert back to f/8 in between, ready for any quick photograph that may arise.
Speed - 1/125 - “1/250” - 1/500
My camera speed is always set to 1/250 and it’s rare that I will change it by more than a stop to either 1/125 or 1/500. For myself 1/250 produces a still (sharp?) image without motion blur being an issue. It can freeze a scene whilst showing movement only for the fastest moving objects which helps create a natural scene for viewing. Some might want more movement in there images but we find this just perfect.
ISO - AUTO 200 - 1600
ISO is the least important setting out of the main 3, for myself at least, but that doesn't mean it’s not important because it absolutely is. I just think that the camera does a great job of picking a good ISO having picked the speed & f-stop already. A shot with 64000 ISO likely won’t look too good and so we limit the automatic ISO settings. I like to use the brains of the camera here and set it to automatic ISO with a max of 1600/2000. Basically we set our camera to 1/250, our f/stop at f/8 and we have a native ISO setting of 800, but we allow the camera to change the ISO in order to keep our speed at 1/250 & f-stop the same. Auto ISO is set to 200-1600. This represents a 4 stop variance, plenty for most situations that I find myself in.
Focus point - Center Spot
Metering - Overall
Exposure Compensation - + ⅔ stop
White Balance - Auto
Being in tune with your camera and knowing how to use it for varying conditions in key to becoming a competent street photographer. If you don’t understand your camera settings and how they present situations differently then you are playing a guessing game with your photographs. I haven’t got anything against auto mode, in fact auto mode these days can usually produce better images than a manually controlled camera in the hands of someone that doesn’t understand how to use it. By taking control and understanding how it works for each scene will enable you to create better images, ones that have a personal touch. Taking control of your camera goes hand in hand with pre-visualization. If you can pre-visualize a photograph or an upcoming scene then you really need to know your camera and how to photograph the scene to make that vision a reality.
The Image Guide offers Street Photography Tours for all levels of photographer. So if you’re struggling with your camera and feel you’re not really getting as much as you can from it, don’t invest in more gear but rather invest in education to learn how to master your camera and the scenes that come your way. For more information about our Street Photography Workshops click here