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Feb 19, 2021
What Is Street Photography
Before we dive into gear, let's get a recap of street photography. Having a sound understanding of your photography goals will allow you to judge if certain equipment will be useful or not. The basic requirement and essence of street photography is that it captures unposed or candid moments. In other words, capturing the spontaneity of the world is street photography. The photographer aims to capture the ideas, feelings, and mood of the exact moment in time with as much authenticity as possible.
Now, coming back to the gear, here is the list of the essential equipment that every street photographer must have.
There are two main aspects to consider when choosing the best lens.
First, you must decide between standard, telephoto, or wide-angle lenses. As the name suggests, a standard lens is suitable if you want to portray the environment just as a human eye perceives it. A telephoto lens is best suited in situations when you are forced to take photographs from some distance without compromising on quality. Moreover, it is also a good choice for those who want candid images without disturbing the subjects. A wide-angle lens allows you to capture more of the environment in one frame. These are best if you want more action and real estate in your images.
Secondly, you must decide whether you want a prime or zoom lens. The main difference between the two is that most zoom lenses are versatile allowing you to shoot at either short telephoto or even wide-angle. Whereas, with a prime, you get better light, however, you have to move physically if you want to get more details. Also, a prime lens is smaller and lighter than the zoom lens.
Of course, you must only select a lens based on your personal preference and the type of photographs you want to take. As a basic recommendation, you can start with a zoom lens. Based on focal lengths, go for a standard or a wide-angle lens.
If you have to prioritize budget, always make lenses your priority. After selecting your lens, you must pair it with a good camera. Experienced street photographers know that most people are camera shy and if they spot your camera, you may miss the desired candid moment. So, the foremost trait of your camera should be that it is nondescript and not too big. The smaller size will also result in less weight. This is important when you think you may be out for hours to find the right moment. The autofocus should also be lightning quick. The reason behind this is that you only have a few seconds to capture the moment and if your camera is still adjusting focus, that moment will be gone.
A camera belt or even a simple wrist strap is a must-have for street photographers. The main advantage is accessibility. As we discussed above, time matters a lot in street photography. So, if you are scrambling to get your camera, you will miss the scene. A wrist strap attaches the camera to your wrist for faster access while also taking the weight off your neck. On the other hand, a camera belt puts the camera on your waist. This one is better if you plan to travel a lot for your shoots and prefer to be hands free between shots.
In most cases, you would not have the time to play with any lighting set-ups. For a street photographer, natural and artificial ambient light are the main sources in most scenarios. In addition, if you try to photograph someone with artificial lighting, you will have to ask for permission and set-up. This becomes more of a portrait style of photography and while also a lot of fun, is not candid.
Now that you have gathered most of your equipment, you need a backpack to keep it all together. There are two choices for you in this regard, a backpack or a sling bag. Both have their benefits and features. A backpack will have more storage compartments but a sling bag is more flexible and easily accessible. It all depends on the equipment that you plan to bring on shoots and your personal style. No matter what you choose, the only requirement is that it keeps your precious equipment safe.
You never know when the weather might change and start pouring rain all over your expensive camera and gear. Try to think ahead and be prepared since weather changes can also be great moments to make street photos. While finding the backpack for your gear, you can try to find a weather-resistant one to help protect your gear from the elements. However, even a simple plastic bag to cover your bag can work as a cheap alternative.
Moreover, there will be situations where you will want to capture a scene during the rain. There are a lot of camera covers or camera rain coats on the market for just this purpose. They not only protect your camera from harsh weather but they are designed to not hinder your access to the features of the camera.
Of course, it is probably rare these days that you will be out making street photographs without your smartphone with you. Here are some examples of how you can use your smartphone to help make your street photography even easier too.
First, plan your shoot according to the weather forecast and get a general description of your routes using the maps.
Second, there are so many phones on the market that provide stunning camera results. Although you should always have your camera prepared, if it is unavailable, you can use your smartphone to take photos as well.
Lastly, if you plan to use your images commercially, it would be better if you have a digital Model Release document on your phone. It is a document to get rights to use the photo with the consent of the people in it. May apps that cover this provide an easy way to capture releases while in the field making photographs.
You are almost set with the above-mentioned equipment. However, there is one important point all street photographers must consider while planning long shoots. We cannot emphasize enough that you need extra batteries and memory cards with you. The reason being that it would be extremely annoying if your camera runs out of battery in the middle of a shoot with no place to charge it. Similarly, running out of memory is also pretty frustrating.
Secondly, if you plan on being at a singular location for a while for a shoot, you should get a reliable tripod as well. As we discussed above, anything that helps lessen fatigue of carrying the camera or helps in your ability to shoot candidly is a good idea.
Gathering and learning how to use equipment is a crucial part of improving your photography. If you are not careful with your choices, you might end up spending on things that you do not need with features that you do not use. Do your research on individual items according to the type of photographs that you want to take and build your core kit from there. And remember, lenses are far more critical than camera bodies and tend to have a longer life span and work on many camera bodies as they change and update.
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