The Secret Sauce To Better Street Photography

market, vendor, classic, retro
NYC 2015

Lighting.  If I had to put my finger on one of the most important things I’ve learned in Street Photography I’d have to say it was the artistic use of lighting.  I’m not just talking about proper exposure…  In fact, I’m talking about forgetting everything you know about “proper” exposure and using your camera as a paint brush to reveal your vision.  Deep right?

It’s really amazing what you can do with a photograph once taken as a RAW image file.  Sometimes it’s a gradual tweak and sometimes you can really adjust the dickens out of it to create an artistic rendering of a scene.  Either way, you’re only limited by your imaginations.


Knowing my vision I purposefully underexposed this image to accentuate the light from the girls phone reflecting off of her mug.

It is important that you previsualize your photograph in order to capture a good foundation for what that vision is.  If you are going to use the highlights to your advantage then it helps to over-expose slightly.  If you want to drop the shadows and capture the minute changes of light in a scene then you’ll want to under-expose.

0315_untitled_189The images don’t always have to be heavily assaulted in post processing, finding and capturing interesting light is as simple as shooting on sunny days.  Shadows make awesome subjects, especially when the person casting the shadow looks like the guy above.  Look for bright contrasts between light and dark in your scenes.

JMB_7693Shadows really are your friend in Street Photography…  You can use them as leading lines, frames, or to simply add mood to a photograph.


Next time you’re processing an image consider increasing shadows and blacks as opposed to people’s knee jerk reaction to eliminate them.  We are programmed to want to “perfectly” expose each image because that is what is taught all over the big bad internet.  Fight the urge and try to use your sliders more like a painter would use their brush.


Shadows add an extra layer to your Street Photography which in turn makes your images more interesting/dynamic.  When you’re out and about with your camera try to imagine what each scene would look like at different times of the day, this will help you decide if you should revisit certain areas because of the possibility of interesting lighting.

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