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Hitting the Streets: 19 Killer Street Photography Tips

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/22/2012

If you're looking to start taking up street photography, this article is for you! Here we'll spotlight 19 killer street photography tips and tricks to help you compose more interesting shots. Included are tips on setting up angles, finding locations, and using the lay of the land to your advantage.

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    Street Photography

    Street photography is becoming a very popular type of photography these days, and with great reasons! There are lots of things to photograph in cities, and even an amateur photographer is sure to get a few interesting shots their first time out. However, if you're really serious about it, this article will show you 19 killer street photography tips to help you get the most out of your street photography sessions.

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    19. Research Beforehand!

    Hit the streets a day or two before your intended shoot, especially if you're going to cart around a lot of expensive equipment. Grab a small notepad to write down addresses (especially if you are not familiar with the city or area you're photographing in) and a cheap snapshot camera. These will allow you take a quick note to refer back to on the day of the big shoot.

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    18. Mind Your Lighting

    When photographing in an urban setting, lighting becomes absolutely crucial. Some areas may look stunning in the defused light of the early morning, while others will shine under the bright mid-day sun. And naturally, there will be areas that only come alive at night!

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    17. Go Dynamic

    City Stock 4 by GreenEyezz stock Photograph streets on the diagonal if at all possible - this lends itself to a more dynamic feel, elongating your pictures and drawing your eye down along the angle.

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    16. Use the Lay of the Land to Your Advantage

    Changes in elevation can lead to several interesting effects in composition! Rooftop shots or shots from lower elevations can give your viewers a new perspective on the subject.

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    15. Use the Time of Day to Your Advantage

    In the morning, the sky is diffused with clouds and morning fog and acts like a big filter, allowing for a softer image, rather than a harsh mid-day shot.

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    14. Repetition

    Arles by Luca De Bellis Look for repeating objects, such as buildings that are similar, lighting posts, telephone poles ... things that all fall in a line. This will allow for an interesting effect that draws a person's eye deeper into your photograph.

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    13. Mind Your Angles

    City Setting 2 by Aconyte Stock Looking for interesting angles is always a great approach. Find angles and locations that you wouldn't normally explore. Out of a hundred people, 99 people might take a photograph of a building from the front. You should strive to be the one person out of a hundred who tries for anything else.

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    12. Mind Your Shadows

    With skyscrapers, telephone poles, flags, and banners, cities are riddled with shadows! While shadows are often frowned upon in things like portrait photography, in street shots they can be used to very interesting effect!

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    11. Shapely Images

    Cities are notorious for being boxy and "clean." Finding the one building or art exhibit that is a wild contrast to its surroundings can create a great photograph.

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    10. Lack of Color

    Cities are often very monotone. Cement and concrete come in various shades of brown and grey and not much else! This can be put to great use when targeting out a single, vibrant color.

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    9. Photograph the Same Subject Multiple Times

    If you have a favorite building, object, or area - try photographing it over the course of a day or even a few different days. It's amazing to see how the same place transforms in the morning, afternoon, and into the evening. This works incredibly well to sort of tell a mini-story of a specific place.

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    8. Get Permission

    Not every place actually allows photography without a license. Just like you need a model release form to photograph people, sometimes you need a release form to photograph certain places. Read Understanding Street Photography Law to learn more.

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    7. A Moment for Reflection

    Cities are highly reflective. Metal and mirrors are surprisingly common and make for some very eye-catching effects. Worried about glare and reflections? Try a polarizing filter.

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    6. Look for Textures You Can't Find Elsewhere

    The cool feel of concrete, the charming look of old brick, the sadness chipped plaster, and the industrial feel of fresh, smooth, black asphalt. All these different feelings can be found in a city, and often close together!

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    5. Weather the Weather for Worse or for Better

    New York V by mourningstocks Try shooting on days where the weather is less than ideal. Drizzly, overcast, windy, snowy - these are great reminders that while we build cities, they're not impervious to the effects of nature.

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    4. In Regards to Those Who Live in Cities

    People will quickly become the subject of your image if you go out on a crowded street. This can be a great effect, but not so much if you're going for landscape photography alone. Going out just as the sun is rising will remove a lot of people from the image, but hitting the streets in mid-afternoon will give you a shot filled with afternoon shoppers and business folk heading home.

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    3. Rule of Thirds

    Don't forget your basic rules, such as the rule of thirds. This helps to add balance to your image, leading to well composed shots that are more interesting to view.

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    2. Try Different Lenses

    If you have a variety of lenses available to use, go ahead and try them out! It might be worth bringing a friend to watch over your things while you are shooting as a precaution, though.

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    1. Don't Just Look at Something - Study It

    When photographing something, don't just look at it. Study your subject closely. If it's a building, look for interesting bits of architecture or wear and tear that the average person might not notice. If it's something like a statue, walk around it from all angles to see what has the most visual and emotional impact. This can be applied to all types of photography, not just street photography!