Street Photography Quick Tip (17)

Street Portrait of a bearded old man
1/400 sec – f/5 – ISO 200 – 100mm

Street Photography Quick Tip 17 – Shoot with what the sun gives you

My Street Photography Quick Tips are short, easy to read and easy to use tips that I think could help you while shooting in the streets.

Photography literally means „drawing with light“. The sun is the principal lightsource out in the streets. But unlike a studio lightstand, you can‘t move the sun around to direct the light to where you want/need it. Obviously there are some workarounds, like using a reflector to throw back the light on the subject and brighten up the shadows. But in street photography, this is not practical and we need to shoot with what the sun gives us.

Shoot what attracts your eye

In this example, I was drawn to the weathered face of the man sitting behind the window of a Portland coffee shop. The way he was sitting, the sunlight illuminated the back and the side of his head, but not his face, that was all in the shade. For one, standing outside in the streets, I couldn‘t direct my subject to turn his face in a way that would have, lets say, created a nice Rembrandt lighting effect (a triangle of light underneath the eye on the shadow side of his face).

But on the other hand I loved the textures in his hair and beard that the harsh sunlight created. And I knew that a conversion to monochrome would really bring out the lights and shadows of this scene and still show the traces of life in his face. So despite the lighting being not ideal, I still took the portrait shot with which I‘m quite happy the way it turned out.

If you are looking for all my street photography quick tips and more inspirations about what to shoot, check out my free “Learning Center”.

Wish you a great Thursday!


Related Posts:

Instant Inspiration (18): Alternative Portrait

Instant Inspiration (8) -Make a portrait of a stranger

Street Photography Quick Tip 15 – Get close for more intense street portraits

Street Photography Quick Tip 16 – Capture what captures attention

35 thoughts on “Street Photography Quick Tip (17)

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  1. It’s beautiful to see such picture in a frame, which is usually hard to find. It’s exceptionally beautiful! Keep it on!

  2. Lovely balance between light and dark. So much to be seen and imagined from the white hair and beard framing the wrinkled and weathered face.

  3. Excellent advice and a great example. You have to work with what you have, and you sure did. And you knew those details would be beautiful in monochrome, that helps – and I think developing that ability to visualize in black and white takes time. Great post. 🙂

  4. What I find so difficult about street photography is finding the story. Sometimes I think I have a great shot, but upon looking at it discover that it says nothing.

    1. No worries, Lulu, there is a lot of hit and miss. The image only has to please you. For me, sometimes I like only the esthetics of an image (composition etc..), sometimes I’m pleased I nailed the technicalities. And what I always say: The story will find you…just walk around with open eyes! Wish you a splendid Sunday! Marcus

    1. Yes, Brenda, I do. This is what the masters did in the analogue darkroom with dodging and burning. No difference 😉 ! Thanks for taking the time to comment! Happy Sunday! Marcus

  5. Great street portrait, Marcus! I think working with the light you are given is part of what makes street photography so interesting. It’s real and unapologetic in it’s nature. The photographer is also the editor and decides what story will be presented. Your street photography never disappoints!

  6. Love the tips sir.Thank you.I have a doubt for clarification regarding lenses for travel photography which includes street photography too.
    What minimum 3 lens are needed for a cropped canon bodies ?
    Internet search giving highly confused suggestions.
    Since you are widely travelled person,please guide me.I have canon 90 D.Thank you in advance.

    1. Thanks so much, highly appreciated! I‘m not a Canon shooter, so I can only give general advice here. For travel it makes sense to bring an allround travelzoom that has a wide focal length. A versatile lens like this is always on my camera when traveling. For Canon, it looks like the 18-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM would be a lens covering that range (28.8-216mm full frame equivalent with the 1.6 crop factor of the 90D). Then I always carry a fast prime lens in the 35mm full frame equivalent focal range. For the 90D this would be a 24mm lens. Canon has the EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM that would fit the specs. Whatever lens you decide on, a fast prime (good for street photography) and a travel zoom would be my lenses of choice for travel. Maybe there are Canon users among my readers who can chime in with better qualified advice. Hope this helps! Marcus

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