1 – The best camera is the one you have with you
Pack something small and light that you will not leave behind when you head out to explore, even a good smartphone will take great pictures but only if you have it with you. You don’t need super long lenses or wide-angle lenses, great photography is about how you see. Pack an extra battery and memory card and using a small rucksack will leave your hands free to take pictures.
2 – Shoot first decide later
Digital photographs are cheap to make so shoot a lot, if you see something you like, don’t hesitate, take a few frames then try to improve upon it, are you close enough, should you crouch down, should the camera be on it’s side?
Interrogate the scene as much as you can, shoot a lot and choose the best one at your leisure with a G&T later.
3 – Make yourself aware of the cliches
Every city or country has it’s cliches, I use Google Image Search to see what EVERYONE has photographed and then I try to find my own unique story or angle. When I arrive in a new city I often look at the postcards in shops to see what the famous sights are.
In Havana, Cuba for example I saw all the usual old American cars but my most rewarding pictures were of the hundreds of people that gather around wifi hotspots at night.
A typical view of Havana
An unusual side of Havana.
4 – Choose just a few good spots to photograph
Sometimes a whole city can be bewildering, nobody can photograph all of New York! But often taking photographs on one block or street corner can reward you with unusual everyday scenes. Choose somewhere busy with nice light and give it half an hour, see what happens there. This will give you more focus than wandering constantly and missing everything.
5 – Don’t put everything in the middle of your Photograph
Modern cameras that focus in the middle of the frame tend to make you put all of your subjects in the middle of the frame which can be very dull. Learn how to focus and then recompose your picture putting your subject to one side juxtaposed with something else. Hey! your a Street Photogapher.
6 – Use a little Subterfuge
If I see a scene with people that I want to photograph I will stand in the right spot but not face them with my body, I’ll stand sideways on and watch until the right moment. Sometimes I will pretend to photograph buildings and then lower the camera at the last minute. Often it helps to avoid eye contact.
7 – Be aware of the frame and the moment
All photographers make two decisions when taking a photograph, how to frame the scene and the moment to push the shutter button, try to be aware of these decision. Compose it nicely and then wait for the optimum moment to make your picture.
If you make these two decisions well in the same picture, it’s very likely to be good.
A pleasing composition filling the frame with the figure perfectly placed.
8 – Shooting at night
Most cameras are happy taking pictures in low light but often you will need to keep them still. I brace my elbows against my chest and hold my breath to keep the camera static. You can also hold the camera against a lamp post or on top of a bin to keep it stable.
Don’t be afraid to use a high ISO, modern cameras can take good quality pictures in the dark with high ISO set.
Taken on the way back from an evening meal.
9 – Always be ready!
Always have your camera ready for the unexpected, sometimes the best shots come out of nowhere! Leave it switched on without the lens cap on. I carry mine with the strap around my wrist so it’s always ready to raise to my eye.
You never know when suddenly a cow will escape and rampage through the city centre you are exploring!
Escaped cow being recaptured in Lyon, France.
10 – Have a point of focus in a landscape
Landscape photographs are part of every good trip but they can be a bit plain and bland with lots of sky. try and find something interesting to put in the foreground, a person, a sculpture, a car, anything to give a foreground element to your wonderful background. Alternately, frame the scene through trees, an arch or doorway.
Grenoble France, a landscape with a nice foreground element.
11 – Safety and Security First
Always be aware of your surroundings especially in unfamiliar places, it’s easy to look through the viewfinder and not pay attention to roads and dangerous drops. Losing your camera or bag will ruin the mood of your trip so keep cameras attached to you and consider using Carabiner to attach your bag to chairs and tables when eating or drinking. I travel with a square of Chamois leather to place over the camera in wet weather, it absorbs the drops and can be rung out every half an hour. It’s an old press photographers trick.
12 – Backup your memories
Professional photographers always have two copies of their images at any one time. Make a backup of your pictures as soon as you can, if you don’t have a hard drive then use the hotel wifi to back up to services like Flickr, Dropbox or iCloud.
When I return home I always make two copies on different hard drives.
Nick Turpin was a photographer with The Independent Newspaper in London, he has worked all over the world as an Advertising photographer and is an internationally renowned Street Photographer.
Nick teaches Street Photography to visitors to London through Mr & Mrs Smith.
Watch more Photography tips and advice on Nick’s YouTube Channel here.