Street Photography

Street Photography Camera Settings

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.

street photography settings-107.jpg

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.


street photography settings-107-2.jpg

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.


street photography settings-107-4.jpg

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.

street photography settings-107-3.jpg

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





Candid Street Portraits - Street Photography Workflow

 
 

Candid Street Portraits - Street Photography Workflow

Approaching people on the street for a portrait, or photographing people candidly seems to be a struggle for a lot of photographers, especially those that are newer to street photography. It doesn’t matter that you can competently photograph people you know very well, or that you can photograph and direct models, when it comes street portraits you freeze. Does this sound like you, a little?

Why Candid Portraits are better than asking for a posed portrait

You see a person and you ask for a photograph, they say yes and then proceed to do some crappy pose and give you the high school photo smile that is totally unnatural and was the last thing you wanted from the photo. You wouldn't have asked if you knew this would happen but you proceed to take an image that you DO NOT WANT anymore. They ask if they can see it and you reluctantly show the image to them. Then they complain and say that they look terrible and that you should take another one to get a better angle of them. You end up being stuck with this person for 3 very long minutes (feels like 20mins) and now you have these images that they want digital copies of and all you want to do is forget and delete them. This is the reason why we think that when it comes to people you don't know, you should aim to shoot candidly. Candidly doesn't have to be fleeting, it can be well composed and look almost like it was set up if you do it right.

Here is our workflow for candid street portraits

Check for flaws in the scene

(5-15 seconds)

You spot a subject that you want to photograph. First thing you will want to do is check the scene for any flaws or dangers that would have a negative impact on the final image or land you in trouble. We often see a subject that looks worthy of a photo but after quickly assessing the subjects surrounding and how the lighting is, we find that it’s just not worth it and we move on from the scene or we re-compose from a different angle and check for flaws once more. This is a fast process in itself and we don’t dawdle. This is all done with the camera down, slung or in the pocket, we asses with our eyes and mind only. Remember bad light is bad light and no matter how good your camera is bad light sucks, it’s not worth it.

Configure your camera settings

(5-15 seconds)

Assuming the scene has no flaws or the flaws are acceptable enough for you to proceed. You now need to figure out how you will frame the shot and what setting are best suited for it. We like to maintain a level of control for these images so we set our camera to shutter priority and set the shutter speed for a sharp image. 1/250s - 1/500s is great but it depends greatly on your environment and your personal preference. We have our ISO set around 800 and let the camera pick the matching aperture. As a preference our exposure metering is set to center weighted and the exposure comp is +⅓ stop

Position yourself correctly

(5-15 seconds)

We position ourselves in the spot where we intend to take the photograph from or close to it. At this point it is important that we don't directly face the subject instead facing our body to the left or right of them, this way we don’t draw as much attention to ourselves. You might want to tie your shoelace, stop to make a “answer” a call or look at something in the distance, anything to ensure the subject thinks you’re there for that reason only. The subject may glance but since you’re not facing them directly and you seem to be doing something else, like talking to nobody on the phone, they don’t fuss.

Take the shot

(5-15 seconds)

You’re in position and all that is left is for you to take the shot. You have one last choice to make. Do you want the subject to look at the camera or not. If the latter then quickly take the shot and move on, no harm done and the subject is non the wiser. If you want eye contact in your image then simply wait with your camera ready and in focus at the eye (or if using a flip screen), soon enough they will notice you and look directly at the camera lens this is when you release the shutter. Swiftly give them a thumbs up, smile, and walk away. Trust us they won’t do anything beyond looking confused and it will have all happened far to quickly for them to really process their thoughts. You could hang around and pretend you’re taking a picture of something else, which will give them time to assess you and what you just did and will likely result in them asking why. You could straight up tell them afterwards, but will get varied responses doing that. Its best to be on your way.


CANDID STREET PORTRAIT IMAGE EXAMPLES

 
 
With this one I would have been happy with a shot of him reading the newspaper, but he looked up when i had the camera facing him. The street was pretty empty so he noticed me pretty easy. Still as soon as he looked I was ready and release the shutter once more, and once more I left the scene swiftly after giving thanks by the way of a nod of the head and a smile. If the crutches are anything to go by he was pretty grounded but i did look back a few feet ahead to see him back ready not really giving extra thought to what happened.

With this one I would have been happy with a shot of him reading the newspaper, but he looked up when i had the camera facing him. The street was pretty empty so he noticed me pretty easy. Still as soon as he looked I was ready and release the shutter once more, and once more I left the scene swiftly after giving thanks by the way of a nod of the head and a smile. If the crutches are anything to go by he was pretty grounded but i did look back a few feet ahead to see him back ready not really giving extra thought to what happened.


 
 
This image was easy as the person was focused on fixing his guitar strings whilst wearing a wide brimmed hat. I had plenty of time to compose the shot and get it right. I took two images altogether. This one and another from a few steps further back. I was there for about 6 seconds total and he was not aware of me in the slightest.

This image was easy as the person was focused on fixing his guitar strings whilst wearing a wide brimmed hat. I had plenty of time to compose the shot and get it right. I took two images altogether. This one and another from a few steps further back. I was there for about 6 seconds total and he was not aware of me in the slightest.


 
 
With this Candid Street Portrait I had very little room to move, my back was pressed up against a parked car on the curbside. The street was very busy so I had to wait for clear shot. He was looking down at his hands as I was waiting for the street to clear, just as it did he noticed me and looked up and right into the camera at which point I released the shutter. A split second later he looked puzzled but I already was on my way after a quick peace sign and a smile. He wasn’t going to leave his goods alone. I was standing still for about 5 seconds.

With this Candid Street Portrait I had very little room to move, my back was pressed up against a parked car on the curbside. The street was very busy so I had to wait for clear shot. He was looking down at his hands as I was waiting for the street to clear, just as it did he noticed me and looked up and right into the camera at which point I released the shutter. A split second later he looked puzzled but I already was on my way after a quick peace sign and a smile. He wasn’t going to leave his goods alone. I was standing still for about 5 seconds.

 
 

This guy was in a day dream. I saw him from a busy street corner about 10ft from where I took the shot. He was in his own little world sat on a very busy street with people walking all around. I pretending to shoot at something down the street and each time a nice opening occurred I would turn my camera to take the image. I took 3 images but they just didn’t really cut it, on the 4th attempt I took this shot which I’m very happy with. Maybe about 10-12 seconds total in this position.

This guy was in a day dream. I saw him from a busy street corner about 10ft from where I took the shot. He was in his own little world sat on a very busy street with people walking all around. I pretending to shoot at something down the street and each time a nice opening occurred I would turn my camera to take the image. I took 3 images but they just didn’t really cut it, on the 4th attempt I took this shot which I’m very happy with. Maybe about 10-12 seconds total in this position.

 

 
For this candid street photograph I knew a side profile would work best, the light was ideal and the depth was nice. This made it easy for me. I sat down to tie my laces in position about 15 ft away. He looked at me whilst I did that, but soon went back to staring ahead at which point I quickly took this photograph, and off I went again.

For this candid street photograph I knew a side profile would work best, the light was ideal and the depth was nice. This made it easy for me. I sat down to tie my laces in position about 15 ft away. He looked at me whilst I did that, but soon went back to staring ahead at which point I quickly took this photograph, and off I went again.


 
 
 

tijuana street photography guided tours

The Image Guide offers street photography tours in Tijuana MX designed for street photographers of all abilities. We take you in the best areas to practice and thrive at street photography. We are ready to offer technical and creative advice to those that need it. These group sizes are kept small to provide discreet shooting environment for all here on the streets of Tijuana & Playas De Tijuana

For more information click STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TIJUANA