(Mis)Adventures in Street Photography

I have always wanted to try my hand at street photography, as I love the idea of picking out scenes in everyday life that look dramatic, humorous or just strange. I have experienced so many moments where I noticed something odd or interesting during my daily commute that made me wish I had my camera on me.

So, I decided to make this my next project. The results were so dismal that I wasn’t even going to bother posting them. However, I realized that I had not updated this blog in a while, so I decided to make this post about street photography so that the reader can learn from my mistakes, and maybe gain some pointers on how to begin.

The first thing to think about is your choice of camera. For many people just getting into street photography, one of the biggest blocks is hanging around a densely populated city taking pictures of strangers who might take offence. This is why the compact is often the first choice, so you can pose as a tourist and pretend to take shots of the usual landmarks where tourists gather.

This was the option I went for. I dusted off my ancient Olympus mju 200, which I think may have come out at around the time when digital photography was first widely available to the public. But it’s small enough to look unobtrusive, and the sound it makes when the shutter goes off is quiet enough to be drowned out by the sound of the crowds.

I went for the “tourist” pose, but I also held my camera at the hip taking shots whenever I felt like it. It is best not to be too furtive about this, as this can arouse suspicions in the people around you. If you look as though you are supposed to be taking pictures here, people will tend to overlook it, which is why some street photographers just go ahead and use their DSLR.

Having said that, I was always careful around children or young women, as I was afraid of looking like some kind of pervert. Other photographers might not have this kind of hang-up, but that last thing I need coming back from a photography session is my name on a sex offenders register.

With street photography, the intention is to capture a “moment” on the street rather than a subject. This moment is something that can seem humorous, dramatic or just interesting. It could be an interesting juxtaposition, like men in hard hats walking alongside bald men. It could be someone who stands out from the crowd in subtle or overt ways. I’m sure many of us have had moments where we are walking along in our daily commutes and saw something that made us wish we had out cameras with us.

For example, I thought this image might serve as an interesting juxtaposition between the cyclist and the statue on the hill.


It turned out to be a poor quality snapshot. At the time I was going for quantity over quality, which is something a lot of street photographers do. You increase your chances of capturing an interesting image when you take a lot of shots without really thinking.

The trouble with finding this “moment” is that it’s a hard, elusive thing to actually go out looking for. Street photographers tend to camp out at a specific area, like a street or a corner, and wait a while for something to happen.

This is where I went wrong. I simply don’t have the the time to dedicate to standing around in a city centre for ages, waiting for something interesting to happen. I took my camera out during my usual Saturday wander through town in the hope of finding something interesting. Basically, I was too half-assed about it.

Having said that, I would like to do some proper street photography in the future. If I were to do this properly, I would want some better kit. While there are street photographers who use film or digital SLR’s. I would prefer to stick to a compact, ideally upgrading to one of those compact/SLR hybrids that allow you to have more control over your settings. It has been recommended to stick to a small, slightly wide-angle lens for this style of photography, with a focal length of 28-50mm. You can stick to Program mode, but under tricky lighting situations, you might want to switch to manual.


I might have to upgrade anyway, as I found out that my own digital compact seems to have decayed with age. Some of the shots turned out like one of those old toy cameras, like the Helga or Diana.  As you can see from the shots above and below, something odd is going on with the exposure.  I didn’t this was possible for a relatively modern digital camera.


I should be back with another post soon.  I intend to take my photography and blog up a notch, so there should be a new post about that up soon, if time allows.