Fixed focal length prime lens

Street photography is one of the few photographic disciplines that rarely requires a zoom lens. Usually, you can compose your image, take a couple of shots and, if you need to get closer, you can simply walk nearer the subject. The best tool for the job is often a fixed focal length prime lens. These give better sharpness and boast faster apertures than many of the zoom-equivalents. Also, having a fixed focal length makes you use your feet, work hard to fill the frame and can result in more thoughtful compositions.

Taken by Flikr user Transformer18 shot with an Olympus OMD E-M5+ M.17mm F1.8

Shoot wide

Street photography is as much about capturing the ambience of the street as it is about capturing the moment itself. Shooting at a wide-angle like 24mm (35mm equivalent) is a good way to capture everything that’s going on in a particular scene and can give the subject matter some environmental context. A 35mm focal length is commonly used too.

Taken by Flikr user Transformer18 shot with an Olympus OMD E-M5+ M.17mm F1.8

Shoot with a slow shutter speed

A common mistake made in street photography is shooting at too quick a shutter speed. This is because a quick shutter speed will simply freeze the motion, while a slower one will give a sense of action and help to tell a story about the shot. Luckily Olympus’s stabilisation makes it possible to handhold the camera at very slow shutter speeds – meaning it’ll capture people’s movements brilliantly, but allow anything that’s static to be very sharp too.

Our tip: experiment with shooting between 1/120-1/10 second shutter speeds next time you’re shooting street photography.

Taken by Andy Curtis shot with an Olympus OM-D EM-5 + M.Zuiko 12-50mm

Set the white balance

For a lot of my shooting I use the white balance on AWB and if I need to correct it, I’ll change it in raw. However, when shooting street photography I always select a single white balance. Using something like cloudy or sunshine white balance may not be technically correct, but the tone often looks more interesting when it’s warmer or colder.

Taken by Faisal Aljunied shot with an Olympus E-M5 + M.12-50mm F3.5-6.3

Shoot from low angles

Getting down low and looking up is a great way to achieve a unique angle. It also eliminates a lot of uninteresting foreground distractions like the pavement or road. Thankfully, using the flip-out LCD screen that features on many Olympus cameras, it’s easy to shoot really low.

Play with colour and black & white

Most street photography is shot in black & white, but it’s worth also playing with colour to see which one works best for you. On rainy days when road surfaces reflect streetlights, the scene often looks much better in colour – although a lot of things undeniably look good in black & white. Experiment a little and see what you prefer.

Taken by Magdalena Roeseler shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5

Use noise and grain to your advantage

Most photographers will shoot at a very low ISO to achieve more detailed shots. However, for some street photography detail isn’t necessarily needed. Shooting at a high ISO will give more noise to an image, which can often provide it with a very stylised look. It’s worth noting, though, that this shouldn’t always be done, but some pictures will look much better with a gritty, noisy look to them.

Shot by Transformer18 shot with an Olympus OMD E-M5 + LUMIX G 20/F1.7

Look for strong light

Lighting is really important in any type of photography, but it’s rare to see anybody add their own light/flashes to their street photography. However, looking about for light coming through a window, a bright street lamp, a spotlight or any other interesting light source in your location will allow you to capture more dynamic looking street photography.

Taken by Adde Adesokan shot with an Olympus OMD E-M1