Street Photography Shooting Techniques

There are plenty of different Street Photography techniques that photographers use to capture dynamic Street Photography.  I listed some of the more frequently used techniques below.  Whether you’re afraid of confrontation or not there is a technique for you.

Approach Your Subject

Approaching your subject before taking their photograph is still Street Photography, there is no fast and hard rule that says your shot has to be 100% candid for it to qualify as Street Photography.  Though some could argue that people who approach their subjects before photographing them are really just Portrait Photographers that take photographs of strangers.  Either way, it’s an approach and if it makes you comfortable then I say go for it.

Shooting From The Hip

It’s exactly what it sounds like…  Well, actually there are a couple of variations.  You can hang your camera from your neck strap and subtly snap some shots without lifting the camera to your face.  You’ll need to pre-focus the camera so your images will be sharp.

The other variation is to actually hold the camera in your hand, down by your side (usually with a wrist strap).  I’ve done this before but the images usually suck.  You need to practice quite a bit to know how to hold your camera, you may think you’re pointing it one direction but when you review your shots you’ll find that you may have cut the subjects heads off unintentionally.

You’ll take more photographs this way and yield less good results.  This is my least favorite technique for Street Photography, my advice would be to skip this technique and just own the fact that you’ll make people uncomfortable from time to time.

Know Your Camera And Be Fast

How fast can you lift your camera to your eye, focus, and take a photograph?  This technique involves only lifting the camera to your eye when you know you want to take the shot.  This does not mean lifting the camera to your eye and walking/standing around with it attached to your face like the Borg from Star Trek (shame on you if you don’t get that reference).

This is where the name DecisiveShot came from, it’s a play on the Decisive Moment.  The Decisive Moment was coined by Henry-Cartier Bresson to describe that split second where something happens to make a photograph interesting.  You’ve got to see the moment coming and be fast enough to lift the camera and capture the shot.

For this technique it helps to pre-focus the camera (sometimes called zone focusing) and know what distance your subject needs to be at to achieve a sharp image.  Try using a narrower aperture (f/5.6ish) and more of your image will be in focus.

The Fake Set Up

Set your camera up on a tripod or stand in a position where subjects will pass in front of your camera, preferably in front of an interesting background.  You can pretend as if you’re adjusting your camera and when a subject passes in front of your camera you can snap the shot and steal their soul.  This is a great approach if you’re still worried about upsetting subjects.

20 Degree Rule

I never knew the name for this approach until I recently watched a video by John Free, he coined it the 20 degree rule.  This is where you approach your subject from an angle (about 20 degrees) so it looks like you aren’t taking their photograph and then re-frame so they are in the shot.  This is another great approach if you are afraid of confrontation with a subject.


Another version of this is where you look through your subject…  Approach a subject but pretend like you are more interested in what is right behind them.  Act as if your more upset about them being in the frame than they are.  Dang tourists!

Shoot Their Back

There is no shame in photographing a subject from behind.  There are some really great shots where all you see is the back of the person’s head or body.  This is a great way to start to build your courage to approach subjects from the front.


Shoot From A Distance

This is the stepping stone to closer, more personal, Street Photography.  You’ll hear other Street Photographers condemning the use of a telephoto lens and I get it, it looks weird if your walking through the city with a large lens jutting off the front of your camera.  But hey, I say if that’s what makes you comfortable then go for it.  I’d encourage you to work on getting closer to your subjects and working your way up to a wider angle lens over time, as you get more comfortable.


The reason Street Photographers will give you a hard time about using such a large lens is because it will make subjects feel awkward if and when they do see you.  Think about how you’d feel if out of the corner of your eye you saw some guy (or girl) snapping your shot with a massive camera like you were a water buffalo taking a dip in the Serengeti.

Did I miss a technique?  Feel free to let us know what technique you like to use in the comments below or on our Facebook page.


1 Comment

  • Pradeep P says:

    LOL!! Awesome write up!

    Glad to see some of the techniques I use mentioned here, esp the 20 degree rule (love that name btw) and shoot the back.

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