Capturing street images – some photo tips and techniques

Capturing street images - some photo tips and techniques

Capturing street images – some photo tips and techniques

Capturing street images – some photo tips and techniques


Enjoying the day in a new urban location or exotic destination, it’s easy to be absorbed with almost anything that comes across your way in terms of photography and what to capture. Sure you want to be able to photograph the unique attractions and street life that comes your way while you are experiencing the moment – but do they actually convey what you experience and a great POV (point of view?)  Effective story telling through your photography with any street photography encompasses so many variables – the key is to trust your instincts, look for something unique to say and incorporate some of the techniques or photo tips below.


Food Festival in Takayama, Japan

Food Festival in Takayama, Japan


Make sure you are familiar with any restrictions – local, state or country laws prohibiting taking photos of people specifically in those areas. Some countries like France and now Hungary are starting to clamp down on any urban photography that focuses on people as a major part of a photo composition.


Understand that taking pictures for personal, editorial purposes versus commercial – projects (advertising) is still acceptable but also depends on local, state or country restrictions. Most photos taken in urban environments fall into the first category.  Even if your image is of commercial value, any commercial/marketing firm will be requesting a location or photo release of each person included along with any local laws or permitting requirements.



Including some background elements to give a sense of place

Including some background elements to give a sense of place



Focus on your composition – look for areas that have great backgrounds and or foregrounds that present your subject well (Usually simpler is better as a rule). Think about available lighting, distracting details, and try to simplifying your overall composition by making tight edits. Part of the process of composing is to always be scouting around for a perfect location that makes your subject look good if it’s a person, object or some cool details you want to highlight.



Street photography tips and techniques

Street scenes at Chinese New Years


Story telling in your photography is crucial – capturing urban images that tell a complete story to include who, why, where and when in your photos will tell so much about a particular subject. If you can concentrate on portraying a scene that tells us the story and answers most or all of these questions within the photograph, then you have created some amazing visual story telling worth sharing.




Using cell phone photo sat a chocolate festival

Using cell phone photo sat a chocolate festival


Be mobile – things change so quickly being on the street or some location and you will not be seeing the same thing happening again if you spend too much time changing lenses or cameras. The best thing is to stick to one good lens that you have mastered and can quickly focus and capture. Get your camera settings already set so you can take pictures instantly when you spot an interesting subject. You can even pull out your cell phone and start clicking away – just having a tool to work now with is more important than trying to get your camera ready and then missing the moment.



Farmers markets come alive with interesting vendors

Farmers markets come alive with interesting vendors


Try to create something special or unique with the mundane – This is not an easy task and requires patience, observation and sometimes luck, including perfect timing. Always keep asking yourself, “is there something in this location, subject or focus that does something special”, if you answer yes, then take advantage of the situation and start working on your subject – shoot in different angles or experiment with your composition. If the location or subject is just ordinary or flat, then maybe it’s time to find another location or better yet, wait for the right moment or subject to appear and start capturing that moment.



Hanging out in Trieste waiting for a moment to capture

Hanging out in Trieste waiting for a moment to capture


Be patient and wait for those dynamic scenes to unravel. If you found an excellent place to photograph, sometimes it’s just a matter of time before you get the right subject with a colorful outfit, an animated person or a group event or demonstration that creates some appeal and immediate sense of place. Take the time to observe the environment and be aware of everything around you. While you are waiting, make sure you are already have your camera settings already adjusted for fast picture taking  – use  presets on your camera or use settings that are programmed for fast captures with sharp precision.



Angled view looking upwards at Senso-ji Temple

Angled view looking upwards at Senso-ji Temple



Don’t be afraid to experiment with your camera or techniques. Urban photography gives you the opportunities to play and experiment with your camera and settings, using a cell phone or trying a new location or technique that you haven’t tried before. Being unique and trying something new is part of the fun in urban landscape and creating a personal statement or presentation that is all yours. Part of the enjoyment of being in a new space is the opportunity to have fun, explore and experiment in that new environment which may offer you a different perspective and viewpoint.



Fun portrait session with children

Fun portrait session with children



Focus on emotions – whether you find some children playing and sending out squeals of laughter or images that haunt you due to what you are observing, keying into the emotional impact of a subject is going to draw us in immediately



Shooting in burst mode

Shooting in burst mode


Shoot first and sometimes in burst mode – When you come across a scene that may only happen once, sometimes it’s best to concentrate on just capturing the moment and getting as many focused images as you can. The best way to doing this is to have your settings already prepared and set to burst mode for spontaneous events that will only happen once.



St. Marks square faded in the background

St. Marks square faded in the background


Consider what’s happening in the background. Having your main subject is nice but sometimes having an interesting background or activity happening that also relates to your subject can create a more dynamic and compelling presentation to draw us in.



Look at your composition like a fine art painting

Look at your composition like a fine art painting

Think of your subjects like paintings and how you would like to compose these images. When you consider masterpieces from Degas or Renoir – think about how the subjects are composed, their scale, perspective and interaction between subject and their environment. If you reference this type of aesthetic and composition into your photography, then your imagery and photography skills will become so much more powerful

Concentrate on the type photography based on the social media – that most of your audience is present in. If it’s Instagram, Twitter or Face book, the emphasis will be on cell phone photography and short post processing which you can send instantly and engage with your audience. Whereas using a digital camera or even a point and shoot may be better for your blog, Flickr or Pinterest postings. Many street scenes are effective based on your needs for social media tools and used in a variety of collaborations to target your base effectively.



Portrait study in Venice

Portrait study in Venice



If you are taking close-up images of people –  make sure you either get permission first, create some gesturing with your camera, eyes or smiling and gesturing to see if it’s okay to proceed. Better to try to build some rapport and eye contact before you start shooting away especially when you are doing more portrait oriented imagery and you want candid moments and a relaxed subject that doesn’t feel too staged.



Street scene in Istanbul

Street scene in Istanbul


Go out there and practice – explore the streets and look out for: the small details and signage, fashionistas and street style, street food and vendors, architectural details and landmarks. Keep your eyes open to the unique or something that pulls your attention then just go for it!

Hopefully some of these are already techniques that you use and a few that you can start to practise and master. Please do check out any of the photo tips and techniques I’ve included below:


Black and white photo tips for beginners

Capturing street images – some photo tips and techniques

15 Instagram tips for better photos and compositions

10 Photography tips for grey sky or rainy days

Flower and nature photography – tips on making your images pop

Photographing people – some tips and techniques

Photography tips for travel Photography

Travel photography – what to pack

Photo tip – backlighting your image

Photo tip – fill the frame

Food photography – making your images pop


If you enjoyed reading this post on capturing street images – some photo tips and techniques, please do share it with any of the social media buttons below, thanks.

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34 Responses to Capturing street images – some photo tips and techniques

  1. Nancy Thompson September 24, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    More really valuable tips and gorgeous photos. Thank you so much for the discussion about photographing people. I had honestly never thought much about random folks in a photo. At what point should you ask for permission? Also, when is it necessary to ask someone to sign a photo release? This seems like it would potentially be challenging not to say awkward. In Mexico I always showed my camera and asked permisso? But sometimes shooting a parade or something like that it isn’t really possible. So much to learn…and that’s not even talking about technical skills. I always enjoy and learn so much for these posts.

    • Noel September 24, 2014 at 8:35 am #

      I typically ask for permission or gesture with my camera..releases are required if you plan on selling your work for any commercial purposes with any people that are in the image and are recognizable

  2. Hitch-Hikers Handbook June 16, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Great tips, Noel! I’m more of a landscape than an urban photographer but that’s only because I always fear to take photos of strangers. I don’t like being photographed by strangers myself, so I find it unfair to do the same thing. Your suggestion about asking people directly if they don’t mind is a good solution but don’t you think that if you ask them, the photo won’t be as natural as if you hadn’t done it? Also, what about situations when you see a perfect moment and if you ask them, the moment is going to pass?Another thing is that in most cases people will say ‘no’ if you ask. What do you think?

    • Noel June 16, 2014 at 11:07 am #

      Not everyone will say yes, sometimes just smiling and pointing to your camera with effective body language is enough to get an okay and still capture the moment, or really talk to a person if you can and engage then wait for the right moment or take a series of shots and I’m sure some of them will not be forced.

      • Hitch-Hikers Handbook June 17, 2014 at 8:42 am #

        Thanks, I will try to pluck up my courage next time 😉

      • natan dotan January 30, 2015 at 4:17 am #

        Noel i totally agree, nothing can replace a huge smile and positive body approach, this in my opinion opens the door in most cases…

  3. Micki June 15, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    I’m working hard (albeit ever so slowly) on improving my photography, and there’s a lot of useful, practical advice here. Thanks!

  4. Gran Canaria Local June 12, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Noel, you’re such a pro. Hopefully, we can pick up some tips. We look forward to your next post with interest.

  5. Casey @ A Cruising Couple June 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm #

    Awesome tips! Love the photo of the kids jumping into the water. We always need to work on taking more shots of people and emotion.

  6. Aleah | June 11, 2014 at 4:53 am #

    Gorgeous photos, Noel. In my travels I missed some really nice shots (in my opinion at least) because I’m too shy to ask people if I can take their photos.

  7. Terry at Overnight New York June 10, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Great shots — and the tips are extremely helpful.

  8. Lillie - @WorldLillie June 9, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

    These photos are SO AWESOME and inspiring, along with the helpful tips. Funny– I have a photo from the exact same diving spot in Hawaii, but mine turned out much worse. 🙂

  9. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas June 8, 2014 at 10:33 pm #

    I love the photos and the tips. I am always fascinated by people but feel silly taking their photos.

  10. Mary @Green Global Travel June 8, 2014 at 8:51 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these great tips! I love your photos that focus on people. I always feel uncomfortable taking stranger’s photos. Do you ask for their permission or just take the photo?

    • Noel June 9, 2014 at 6:13 am #

      Yes usually I ask, or try to get some connection or acknowledgement and show my camera which is effective if you don’t speak the language.

  11. Heather June 8, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

    Thanks for sharing these great tips, Noel! Your photography is beautiful and engaging and has inspired me to improve my own. I actually just bought my first DSLR and can’t wait to put some of these tips into practice!

  12. Travelogged June 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    Wow, I love them all. My fave is the one of the man in Istanbul — those kinds of photos look effortless but are so hard to do!

  13. wandering educators June 8, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    GENIUS. I’ve shared!!

  14. travelnwrite June 8, 2014 at 4:16 am #

    Beautiful shots – as always – Noel. And great tips as well. I am like others who’ve commented and find myself somewhat hesitant to take photos that clearly identify a person without asking their permission first. I always think would I want a candid photo of me showing up somewhere without my knowledge and the answer to that usually causes me to skip the shot. On the flipside, I do so enjoy seeing candid photos of others – go figure. . .

  15. Corinne June 7, 2014 at 3:06 am #

    All great tips Noel…and that donkey photo is too cute!

  16. Kathryn June 5, 2014 at 7:35 am #

    Great tips Noel and some very interesting photos. Being really familiar with all your camera’s settings, so you don’t have to stop and think about it, is possibly the best advice and something I need to take heed of myself.

  17. elaine schoch June 5, 2014 at 7:20 am #

    Great tips. I sometimes find it difficult photographing people and asking for their permission…espicially when in another country and dealing with language barriers.

    • Noel June 5, 2014 at 7:24 am #

      That’s never easy Elaine but it’s easy to acknowledge someone, smile and just gesture with your camera and facial expression to ask the question for you, and don’t be shy.

  18. Jackie June 5, 2014 at 12:43 am #

    A superb collection of street photos, Noel. I am so amateur and these tips are excellent, thank you very much. I guess apart from understanding techniques and your tool properly, a significant element of photography is being able to capture the energy of a moment, a place or someone’s happiness, character, sadness etc. You do such a great job of this.

  19. Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse June 4, 2014 at 10:03 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing those tips. I’ll never be as good as you are, but at least, I’ll try to practise with some clear ideas in mind!

  20. alison June 4, 2014 at 2:28 pm #

    Such great tips Noel. The images you used certainly illustrate that you know what you’re talking about! I am taking note of the suggestion to shoot in burst mode-excellent! I challenged myself to try and take better portraits {something I’m not especially comfortable with} when I was in Myanmar, and found by engaging with people, i always got a much better shot.

  21. Katie June 4, 2014 at 5:22 am #

    I’m always weary of taking photos of people without getting their permission. I’m still an amateur photographer – but it’s fun to practice! I struggle getting the camera to focus properly, etc. But I’m (slowly) catching on. I’m definitely going to have to look into burst mode! Thanks for the tips!

  22. Rachel M June 3, 2014 at 10:30 pm #

    Excellent tips and lovely pictures.

  23. Rajlakshmi June 2, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    loved the pictures… they look so natural… thanks for tips

  24. Mo @ June 2, 2014 at 6:07 pm #

    Great shots mate…


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