Street photography is a genre that reveals the charm and unpredictability of daily experiences.
It’s not about staging or posing your subjects, but rather about finding and capturing candid moments that reveal something interesting, humorous, or emotional.
Street photography can be challenging, but also rewarding and fun.
In this article, I’ll share 9 tips to help you capture candid moments in street photography, from choosing a discreet camera to embracing the unexpected.
9 Tips for Capturing Candid Moments in Street Photography
1. Choose a Discreet Camera
Street photography is a fascinating way to document the world around you.
It’s not just about taking pictures of strangers, but also about capturing the mood, the culture, and the history of a place, and getting creative while you’re at it.
However, to do street photography well, you need a discreet camera that won’t make you stand out or disturb your subjects.
Ideally, you want a camera that’s small, quiet, and versatile. A camera that can handle any lighting situation and any shooting angle, and can deliver sharp images.
My fave is the Fujifilm X100V, as it has everything you need to create awesome street photos, from a silent shutter and fast autofocus to a tilting screen and a variety of creative film simulation modes.
Some street photographers prefer longer lenses (the Fujifilm X100V has a fixed 27mm prime lens), but I always encourage people to zoom with their feet – be a little bolder and get in a little closer.
If your camera is unobtrusive enough, you’ll be able to get away with it with a bit of practice.
2. Blend in With the Crowd
To be able to do street photography with ease, you need to be able to blend in with the crowd.
Avoid wearing flashy or expensive things that might attract unwanted attention.
And if your camera brand name is emblazoned on the strap, it’s best to flip it so you aren’t advertising yourself as a photographer.
If you stand out as a photographer, people will notice you more and act differently around you.
Instead, dress casually, act confidently, and stroll around like you’re super chilled and don’t have a care in the world.
Whatever you do, don’t act like you’re doing something sneaky or suspicious. If you look nervous or guilty or stare at your subjects or your camera too much, you’ll be spotted a mile off.
Just act as though you belong there and enjoy yourself.
3. Get the Right Mindset
One of the most important aspects of street photography is your mindset.
You need to have the right attitude and mentality when shooting on the streets.
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Stay open-minded and be fearless. Remember, you aren’t doing anything wrong! Just make sure you’ve checked the applicable laws wherever you are though.
Be respectful, ethical, and empathetic when doing street photography.
You aren’t doing any harm. You’re not there to exploit or judge your subjects, just to document and celebrate their humanity.
If you’re the chatty type (not all street photographers are) then talk to people, ask questions, and find out more about your subjects.
Try to see beyond the obvious, the cliché, and the stereotype. If you’re not the chatty type, just be unobtrusive and capture what you can.
Most importantly, remind yourself that you’ve got this! Set the intention that you’ll get a great shot and then take the pressure off by deciding it’s fine if you get one half-decent photo (this works for me!).
Doing street photography is challenging. It’s problem-solving, and it’s stepping out of your comfort zone, but focus on the fun side of it and approach it like a game – you’ll have the best time.
4. Anticipate the Action
One of the key skills of street photography is anticipation.
You need to be able to predict what will happen next, and be ready to capture it.
Over time, you’ll develop a sense of timing and rhythm as your observation skills improve and you get better at reading body language to be able to predict movement, emotion, and interaction.
To anticipate action, look for clues that indicate something interesting or unusual is about to happen.
For example, look for gestures or expressions. Also listen to what’s happening around you, as you might pick up a clue there too.
5. Hide in Plain Sight
Sometimes, the best way to capture candid moments in street photography is to hide in plain sight. Being invisible on the street is a skill, and a necessity if you want to remain unobtrusive and not disturb the people you’re photographing.
If there’s a crowd, get into it! Especially at an event, as most people won’t expect you to be more interested in them than you are in the event itself.
Pretend to be photographing the architecture above your subject and bring your camera down at the last minute.
Another technique is to shoot from the hip.
This means taking photos without looking through the viewfinder or screen.
This can give you a more dynamic perspective, as well as make you less noticeable.
It is, however, something that takes a bit of practice, and a lot of trial and error, so don’t try shooting from the hip if you haven’t already mastered the technique.
You can always try the “fake video” method! This is where you pretend you’re filming – for some reason, people tend to be less bothered about that.
One key thing to always remember is to avoid eye contact with your subjects. If you look at them straight after photographing them you’ve given yourself away.
And the final thing to remember is to avoid CHIMPing. This stands for CHeck Image Preview.
We all do it: take a shot, look at the screen (maybe throw in some eye contact), and boom, it’s obvious you’ve just taken a photograph!
6. Get to Know a Place
It’s a good idea to get to know a place before you start shooting.
Spend some time walking around, observing the people, the culture, and the atmosphere.
Visit the same place at different times of day and different days of the week so that you can see where and when the light is best and how much activity there is.
If you don’t have much time, then if you find a great location in the morning, try it out also in the afternoon in case the light is better.
Equally, if you find somewhere with great light in the morning, try it out in the afternoon in case there’s more activity.
Getting to know a place not only helps you be more familiar with the light but also means you’ll start to get ideas of photos that you could get there, and start looking out for things that you’d like to capture.
7. Practice Hunting and Fishing
Two main approaches to street photography are unfortunately called “hunting” and “fishing”.
Hunting means actively looking for interesting subjects and scenes, and perhaps following someone (unobtrusively) until you get the shot you want.
Fishing means finding a good spot with a nice background or light, and waiting for something interesting to happen in front of you.
Both methods have their pros and cons, and you should practice both depending on the situation.
When hunting, you need to be alert, agile, and persistent. You need to scan your surroundings constantly, looking for potential subjects and scenes, and you’ll have to move fast and follow your instincts, without hesitating or second-guessing yourself.
You have to be ready to shoot at any moment, without missing any opportunities.
When fishing, you need to be patient, calm, and selective. Simply find a spot that has good light and activity, compose your shot, and wait.
Observe the flow of people and things happening. You’ll need to wait for the right moment, without getting bored or distracted.
Fishing doesn’t suit everyone as it requires patience, but it’s the easier of the two approaches.
8. Embrace the Unexpected
One of the joys of street photography is that you never know what you’ll find.
Sometimes, you will encounter amazing moments that will make your day.
Other times, you will face challenges that will test your patience and skills.
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The key is to embrace the unexpected and make the best out of it. Don’t be afraid to experiment, improvise, and adapt. Don’t be discouraged by failures or rejections.
And don’t forget to have fun!
Try different techniques, settings, and angles that might give you different results or effects.
For example, try shooting in black and white if you usually shoot in color or vice versa, experiment with a flash, shoot from a low angle, or use a slow shutter speed.
Be ready to adjust your plans or goals according to changing circumstances or conditions.
For example, if the weather is bad, look for indoor or sheltered locations, or simply embrace the many opportunities for shooting in the rain, such as umbrellas, puddles, and steamy or wet windows.
And if the light is harsh, play with it, and look for shadows, chiaroscuro, and silhouettes. Always have a “toolbox” of ideas of what you can photograph in any given situation.
9. Get Curious
Curiosity is what makes you a better photographer.
However, it’s not just about being curious about the places, people, and things – it’s also about getting curious about how you can get creative with your compositions.
Try out different points of view. Maybe a super low angle will work! Maybe you need a higher angle?
Get curious about how to frame the shot. You could use natural frames like doorways and arches, or you could find smaller frames like bicycle wheels or fences.
Get curious about shadows and the shapes they make. Look for color and contrast, juxtapositions and symmetry, for humor and mood!
Get curious about reflections whether they are windows or in water or shiny vehicles.
Just get curious about everything!
Always be asking yourself, what else can I find here? What’s unusual? What’s a different way I could photograph what’s going on?
Capturing candid moments in street photography is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice.
By following these 9 tips, you can become more confident and creative in your street photography.
Street photography is not about perfection but about authenticity. So go out there, capture candid moments, and have fun doing it!
P.s. It also helps to know all about the legal and ethical side of street photography – so check out my guide on how to respectfully create street photos that balance art and privacy.