5 Tips to CRUSHING Street Photography

Guest Author: Joey Hubbard

Street and cityscape photography are for me the most accessible and fun ways to both take photos and push my creativity. But who am I? I am not a full-time photographer or someone who will perch on a ledge for golden hour to record a timelapse. My name is Joey, and I am a full-time marketer who gets to use my camera for parts of my work and a lot in my spare time. What this means is for it to continue to be something fun that I enjoy, I need to take photos that speak to me but also are within my comfort level to achieve. This is different for everyone, but for me walking straight up to someone with a flash camera and blasting them isn’t something I would ever be comfortable doing. Nor would sneaking onto a rooftop (learned this the hard way), climbing a ladder, and squeezing through a service shaft to get to a 50-story ledge with a straight drop. I also might have discovered in that moment I am scared of heights, and that it wasn’t worth the extremely blurry image in the end.

In my mind, there are 3 different types of street photographers:

1. The Bulldozer: a photographer that will capture any image of who or whatever they want, regardless of the social implications.

2. 800% Effort Dude: this person will stay up all night to get a sunrise, perch on a ledge like Batman to get a long exposure of traffic, or even hide beside train tracks to get as close as possible to the engine.

3. The Average Joe: this is the “dad” mode of photographers, and is where I comfortably live. These individuals will often have a camera with them, but not usually every piece of gear they own. They will take photos when it is safe/convenient and often will treat this as a social outing with another photographer/group.

Now that we have established the 3 archetypes as I see them, reflect on which you think you are and use the following tips accordingly.

1. Gear Prep: while you might be tempted to pack 6 different prime lenses, a light meter, a telephoto, and 15 spare batteries, just don’t. Believe it or not, you do not need a national geographic amount of gear to take a great photo of some guy eating a hot dog. Think about what kind of shots you want to accomplish and take the 1 or 2 lenses you will need to accomplish that. So often people overpack their gear, and very rarely use 98% of it.

2. Route Planning: when doing street photography, it is always best to plan out a route when possible. If you are going to a place you haven’t been before, try to use Google Maps to plan out some key points of interest and a walkable path to achieve all of them. Often the journey itself from point to point will present some of the best photo opportunities.

3. Be Flexible: sometimes the weather will not be your friend and might ruin your plans for the best sunset photo ever taken. When I was in my last 2 weeks of living in South Korea, I was determined each day to get the best sunset photo I could in a wide variety of famous locations in Seoul. But it was not meant to be. The one consistent thread in all of these photos was the typhoon that had hit the city and absolutely no sun to set. Each day I felt as if it had been an abject failure and that the weather gods were mocking me, but despite this, stayed out and continued to shoot. When (if ever) was I going to be in Seoul again? Seize the moment, whatever it is.

4. Know Your Area: every city presents different opportunities and challenges for photographers. Sometimes this might be air conditions, safety, or social standards. If you are going somewhere where these things are unclear, always play it safe. Pack light, try to shoot with another photographer, and don’t set your gear down ever (unless you are using a tripod and standing right beside it to shoot). As a photographer you are a target, so don’t allow anyone to create a situation that compromises your safety.

5. Practice Makes Perfect: when you first start this style of photography, don’t try to do everything all at once. It is like golf, start with the higher irons before pulling out the 3. Try to find some inspiration from another photographer and try out shooting that way for an entire session. Use one lens and one camera, try shooting in one mode rather than five. Use auto sometimes if a moment presents itself for a banger and you aren’t 100% certain in your knowledge of the camera.

So what do I use to shoot? Why do I use it?
Well, I started out shooting street on a Fuji, moved to a Nikon, and am now on the Panasonic S5II. I use this body because the autofocus is excellent, the IBIS works great for freehand shots, the video/photo capabilities are among the best for hybrid shooters, and it is a very cost-effective system. Whenever I am out shooting I prefer to use only one camera body for both my photo/video, and the S5II crushes it in both areas.

In terms of glass, I mainly use the 20-60mm kit lens, and the 50mm F1.8. Aside from that, I often carry DJI Mini 3 pro, Sony ZV-1, a selfie stick (for the ZV-1), Ulanzi wireless mics, and a travel tripod. But this is just my kit, and it continues to change and adapt. At the end of the day, it is more important that you learn your camera and get out and shoot. You will find your style and get great results the more you do it.

If you have made it this far through this post, I commend you and challenge you to go out and repel down the side of a building to get a night time long exposure to some traffic. I am just kidding. I challenge you to get out in your own community or city (that you know well) and take a photo. Have fun with it and be creative!

Want to experience city photography with Joey? Join our Cityscape Photo Experience on Friday, May 31st! Click here for more info and to grab a ticket!

If you'd like to learn more from Joey, click here for his online street photography course!

Featured in this blog: