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Street photography- 9 Useful tips for beginners

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I stroll along Bintang Walk of Kuala Lumpur last week for a street photography session. Throughout the photography session, I keep a few general guidelines in mind to capture the essence of the Bukit Bintang area.

When we at a new city, we are often overwhelmed by the beautiful cityscape and start to snap photographs non-stop.  We often think that what you see is what you get.

However, the camera is not our eye. We interpret what we see in our brain. The camera, however, will register in the sensor and processed by the software.  Therefore, the outcome is always different from what we expect in most cases.

I have summed up how I capture each photograph below at Bintang Walk. You can use these methods to take your street photographs during your next holidays.

Note: All photographs were taken with a mobile phone camera and post-production with the Snapseed app.

1. Look for interesting people in street photography

While we are traveling, people down the street can be a subject of your interest. I saw this destitute man walking along the five-foot way.

I walked past him far ahead and then turned back to wait for him to approach. When he was slowly walking towards me, I pretend I am using my phone and using the Burst Mode to take multiple shots to capture his expression.

Put the camera at the chest instead of eye level will be less noticeable by your subject that you are taking the photo.

You can take a glimpse of the life a people living at a place through how the people behave and how they live where you visit.  There are always less fortunate people living in a desolate state under the hood of the glamorous city life.

Street photography unque subject

2. Find people with unusual behavior

I spotted someone curling up at the pedestrian along Jalan Bukit Bintang, the main street of Bintang Walk.  A first I wasn’t sure why he is covering up his head with a blue shirt t in a crouching position. Not until I came close then I realized that his two hands were the only part exposed.  

I don’t think that is the best way to beg. I only can wish him luck!

street photography people

3. Taking photographs of the building that is close to you

There is always a distortion when you take the photograph of a building, especially if it is a tall building.  The taller the building, the upper part of the building will be further from the camera and therefore will appear to be smaller in the photo.

The best way to take the type of image is to stand far away from the building, but it is not always possible in street photography because you are limited by the space that you have behind you.

I took the front view of this traditional hotel across the street, but there isn’t any space behind me. Therefore, I have to correct the perspective by using the Snapseed app.

You can compare the before and after the adjustment with Snapseed’s Perspective Tool as below:

4. Shooting from a low angle

Another way of taking interesting photos of the skyscrapers in the city is to make the look-up shot at a low angle, pointing upwards. This street photography method works well, especially for the tall buildings and skyscrapers.

This method has the advantage of eliminating the major part of the sky and fill up the image with the buildings. It creates a strong sense of depth and mammoth of the skyscrapers.

It also creates a converging effect that the building will meet at the upper part of the photos.  Since we do not usually look up to the sky this way, this perspective will catch the attention of people.

Street photography low angle

5. Look for movements

Movement can significantly capture the attention of the viewer.  I start to capture these images with the burst mode right before the ladies were walking into the frame, then continue shooting with burst mode until they walk past the center of the picture.

You can see the second image is much more lively.  I also position the ladies on the right so that there is some negative space on the left.  The direction of movement helps to draw attention to the main drawing on the mural.

6. Look for contrasting color in the street photographs

Photos with contrasting color make the image more interesting.  I found these interesting green windowpanes when I walked around the alley behind the main street.

Bright green is unusual for the window in Malaysia.  It stands out from the duller background color. I also wait until someone is walking towards me to be in the photo to make it more lively.

street photography contrating color

7. Capture the front view of the bullding

Sometimes a direct front view works well for buildings.  After I took this photo, I use Snapseed to reduce the brightness of the Paradise Restaurant, which makes it stands out amidst the brighter building of both sides and the sky.

street photography building front view

8. Movement tells a story.

The first image depicts a typical city life that people are crossing the main road in the morning.  It accentuates a typical slice of city life.

pediatrian crossing

9. Reflection of the building

Reflection of the building can create interesting street photos. In this photo, I make use of the glass wall of the MRT station to create a symmetrical mirror image.

glass reflection

Conclusion

I hope the above examples are useful to illustrate the techniques I use in my street photography session. It also shows that mobile phone camera can capture quality photos as long as you follow a few basic principles.

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