Starting Out – Street Photography 101

Preparing to give it a try…

  • Why give it a try?
  • What camera do you need?
  • What I am assuming you know.
  • Where you can find out more.

1. Why Give it a Try?

What’s your motivation? Street Photography is a worth challenge for those who are already familiar with their camera, and others looking for a spark to inspire them to explore.

I sort of first fell into street photography whilst living overseas. Living in a beautiful foreign city, it was “suggested” to me that I should buy a camera and take some photos to remember my time there. Once a shiny new DSLR turned up from Amazon, I started going out and shooting landmarks. That got fairly predictable, fairly quickly.

It didn’t take long to find myself wandering away from the touristy, well known, spots in town. Other subjects started to catch my attention. When I stopped looking at the postcard scenes, my understanding of the city and the people improved. And it was infinitely more interesting.

Street Photography gives you a chance to get to know a place in a meandering, deeper kind of way than staying on the “Hop On Hop Off” bus.

Photographing the city where you live can reveal new places, spaces, and hidey holes. I am constantly learning new things about Melbourne, every time I catch the train into town. There are an infinite number of opportunities – unlike photographing family dos, friends, and tourist locations.

If you are becoming passionate about your interest, finding new inspiration on a weekly basis becomes a challenge unless you are professional. Jumping off a train at a random station each Saturday morning will offer new opportunities to test your developing skills and eye for composition.

Landscape photography offers similar opportunities, but it is just not a passion for me.

If you like exploring on foot, Street Photography can amplify your experience, and enable you to make “trophies” of your experience through your camera lens.

2. What Camera Do You Need?

The camera that you have. Seriously.

A $100 digital point and shoot is enough to get you started. The photographer makes a bigger difference than the camera. Better gear can make things easier though.

Any point and shoot can be a good place to start. Go online and check them out. Amazon is a great place to start for user reviews that is easy to access.

Just a couple one real key point – Optical zoom is the only zoom that matters. Digital zoom is virtually in camera cropping of images – meh, I can’t be bothered explaining. If you are comparing zoom, optical is the only kind to worry about.

Beg or borrow a camera if you have to. If you “get into it” you will find your taste in cameras will become more and more discerning. The camera you buy in Week Zero is not likely to be the one you will love by Week Nine!

If you must buy a camera, buy the best compact Nikon, Canon, Panasonic, or Fuji for at least $400. That is a pretty safe guide… Get a more compact camera – at least if this new interest doesn’t stick, you will not be left with a camera that you can’t be bothered dragging along when you go out. It should fit in a large pocket or in your bag easily. A great compact camera will always be useful…

Here are a few examples. I have not used these examples, so do your own research.

Canon Powershot

Nikon Coolpix

The worst thing you can do is go and buy a DSLR if you do not know much about cameras. You will come home with a fancy looking kit that you will hate in three or four months’ time. The kit lenses are generally rubbish lenses. They sound great – wow zoom blah bah, megapixels blah blah, and so on. Lenses are more important than your camera body. This may seem a bit strange, but yes, this is the case.

DSLRs with flip around LCDs just look dorky. Only buy a Canon or Nikon, no matter what the knowledgeable guy at the counter says. There are a few other brands that have OK cameras, but you are less likely to go wrong with these guys. Buy a Nikon. Canon make more photocopiers than cameras…

If you buy a DSLR then get a decent lens. Again, I am not going to explain, but please buy a fixed focal length lens. One without a zoom. Either a 35mm or 50mm lens.

Like this or this.

If you have enough money not to worry, buy a top end compact. They have great single length focal lenses, and were designed with street cred in mind!

Fuji X100s and Ricoh GR. 

It will take a little time to learn to love these cameras if you are new to hard core photography. No zoom, and they don’t look as impressive to your Mum as a shiny new DSLR.

3. What I Am Assuming You Already Know.

That you have read your camera manual. Find out how to manage your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO if you have a DSLR, and some compacts also have a degree of control. Use Aperture Priority Mode mostly, or maybe Program Mode. Seriously, there is stacks of information on the web on how to get started. Learn the basics on controlling your camera.

Whilst you are wizzing through, make sure you simultaneously start learning technical stuff through wider reading on the internet and old skool books. You can get great books on photography for next to nix if they feature film. The rules of composition don’t change due to the medium. Film / digital doesn’t matter if it is just about composition.

If you are looking for inspiration and have mad stacks of cash, buy these two books. They are a great place to start your journey. Both are a bit populist, but great, quick places to start…

Digital Photography

Photo Idea Index

4. Where You Can Find Out More.



  1. Homepage - May 30, 2014

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