What I use and what I advise for the starting street photographer.
You can do Street photography with any camera. It is simple to start. Open your front door and enter the street.
When you start photographing on the street there some things to consider, I will go into these and how I have solved them.
Starting with street photography is just a great deal of fun. It is a way to get out of the house and enjoy your surroundings. There is not a place where you cannot shoot outside. Street photography is for any age and all locations. Inside and outside.
As photographers, we chase light because it gives texture and depth. So you need to understand how light works, how it influences your image, and how you can control it. A sense of composition, where do you place your subject in your picture? How do you use light to compose an attractive image?
When looking at other photographers work. Their images help me to understand how they work. Not so much the camera they use but how they use and control the light and how they control the picture as a whole. I find my inspiration at Instagram, a site like magnum photos, lens culture, but also in photobooks of photographers that I like and that inspire me.
Camera: Body and lenses
At the moment, there are many camera brands, Brands that existed for years and newer brands that reinvented the camera and did it differently than their competitors.
The major brands in street photography are Fujifilm, Leica, Sony and Ricoh. That does not mean that you cannot use other brands to shoot on the street, but I see them less often for various reasons.
Street photography is traditionally done with a Leica M camera, with a 35mm or 50mm lens. But the new digital Leica M camera’s are expensive and out of reach for many street photographers. When you buy a Leica M camera, it might be costly, and you need a big budget. It will also give you the tool of giants. Photographers like Henry Cartier Bresson used a Leica to make his art. William Eggleston uses a Leica until today. Both have many Leica M camera’s.
For my professional camera work, I use a Canon 5D on an almost daily basis. But this camera is big and clunky. It obscures your face and advertises you as a photographer. When you walk the street, you have the camera in your hand all day. You want to have something lighter and easier to use.
Three types of camera’s that work well for street photography.
These are the Ricoh GR, the FujiFilm x100 series and the FujiFilm x-pro series.
All camera shoots RAW images and supports the Manual setting.
They are all crop factor cameras. And when choosing lenses for the X-Pro line, you have to keep in mind the crop factor of the lenses.
The Ricoh GR Series
The Ricoh GR Series is a small form factor camera with a fixed lens. It is easy to use because you can place it in your jacket pocket. After all, it folds in almost flat. You can shoot in RAW and control the camera manually. It is a ‘set and forget’ camera and the ease of use makes that it is fantastic if your opinion is that a camera is just a camera. And you do not want tweaks and bells but just want to shoot.
The current version is the Ricoh GRIII.
The FujiFilm X100 series.
The Fujifilm X100 series is a fixed lens rangefinder camera. It has a 35mm equivalent 23 mm lens, and a small flash and shoots in RAW. Together with the many film emulation modes that Fujifilm adds to their camera’s. The film emulation modes only work for jpegs or in post-processing for RAW files.
This camera is for the street photographer that likes the rangefinder style of photography but does not need the versatility of exchangeable lenses.
The current version is the Fujifilm X100v.
The Fujifilm X-Pro series.
The Fujifilm X-pro Series is the big brother of the smaller Fujifilm X100 series. With its interchangeable lenses, you get a versatile camera that you can adapt to different shooting styles. Because you can replace the lens, you can choose multiple lenses with a different focal length. So if you want to shoot extreme wide-angle or 35mm or work with a longer lens, it is all possible. You have the option to use the rangefinder optical viewfinder or the electronic viewfinder.
My choice is an X-Pro 2. For a long time, I used the XF27mm (40mm full-frame equivalent) but changed to an XF23mm (35mm equivalent) because of the faster autofocus. I also use an 18mm when I want to shoot wide-angle.
For me, the versatility and the option to change lenses made this the perfect street photography camera.
The current version is the Fujifilm X-Pro 3
Vital for me is that when choosing a camera, it is not the ‘hotness’ factor but the ease of use. You should dream of your camera. Know how to read and write with it. It will become an Extention of you. It is a tool like a saw for a builder.
lenses (including sun caps. and why I use a screen protector)
There are two types of lenses zoom lenses and prime or fixed-width lenses.
A zoom lens is a camera lens that provides a useful range of different focal lengths in a single lens. A prime lens or fixed-width lens offers only one focal length. A zoom lens allows for quick and easy re-framing while staying in the same physical position.
In street photography, I only use prime lenses and no zooms. I want to keep moving, so I use my body as a zoom lens. Once in a while, I like to zone-focus my camera.
There are various focal distances to choose from 18mm to a 100mm. For street photography, they all work and have a different impact on your image. I like to get close. So I have a Fujifilm 18mm f2.0 and a Fujifilm 27mm f2.8 pancake in my bag. And a Fujifilm 23mm F2.0 on my camera. I change the 23mm for the 18mm quite often. The 23mm on a crop factor camera equals 35mm on a full-frame camera.
The 27mm pancake on a crop factor equals 40mm on a full-frame camera. The 18mm crop factor equals 27mm on a full-frame.
I like the ‘one camera, one lens’ philosophy. It keeps shooting simple by removing the noise of choosing. That is why someone might like the FujiFilm X100 series.
For almost every lens, there is also a lens hood often provided in the box with the lens, use it. A lens hood does different things, but there are two important ones.
- It shields the sunlight and removes lens flares.
- it protects the lens from bouncing or hitting stuff.
I always use a lens hood when there is one available.
Lens protector vs a lens cap
With every lens, you receive a lens cap. The biggest joke made is that you start shooting and your lens cap is still on. With the old range finders, you often did not notice that it was still on, with black photo’s as a result.
Instead of a lens cap, I use a lens protector. It is not a UV filter that a lot of photographers use. And I often advise against them. But I drop my camera in my bag without a lens cap, so I want some kind of protection.
Memory cards are what film was for the analogue camera. The main difference is that you can change colours and tonality and other various settings on a digital RAW file. But in an analogue film, the choice of film was the choice in colour and tonality.
I only use Sandisk cards. I used Lexar cards in the past, but they are all broken down. The Sandisk cards still work like a charm.
I recommend using the fastest cards possible that is supported by the camera, for example. When FujiFilm introduced the X-Pro 2, there were problems with heat dissipation. When photographing in compressed RAW the camera would heat up and slow down. Using the fastest SD card enabled the camera to write the files from its buffer as fast as possible. Because Mac OS does not support previewing compressed RAW files in the finder, I use the RAW+Jpeg option.
At the moment I use 32GB Sandisk Extreme Pro SDHC UHS-II U3 (300MS/s) the fastest support sd card for Slot 1, For Slot 2 Which is a UHS-I slot I use a 32Gb SanDisk extreme Pro UHS-1 U3 SDXC (170MB/s). Jpeg files use less space than RAW files so for two 32GB SD Cards, and I can use one UHS-1 card. And never rely on one SD Card. Always bring more.
For the ingest of the image files, I use the internal SD card reader. For the newer Macbook Pro, there is no internal SD card reader available. So use the fastest SD Card reader available. Minimal a USB 3.0 or even better a USB-C because they can provide faster speeds.
When photographing with a light camera, I wanted a versatile strap. When I walk and shoot on the street, I do not use a shoulder or neck strap. I always use a wrist strap that connects my camera around my wrist. I can be as free as possible. But the drawback is that when my daughter walks with me and wants to hold my hand, I always have a camera in it. So I wanted to be able to change traps.
The Strap system of peak design provided the versatility I needed. I use the peak design cuff when I am out shooting, but when I am away with family on the road, I use the peak design slide lite. I added two anchor links, so I can change quickly from the cuff to the slide lite. I can hang the camera high on my chest or like a sling over my back.
Bring a good bag, not too heavy. I used a sling bag in the past, but because the load is on one side after one day, it has its effect on your posture and your back. I prefer a backpack. Not too heavy. Something to put your laptop a notebook room for a jacket or sweater and room for your camera if you need to put it away. I often go without a large bag. A small one. I can be agile, fast, only the essentials.
The street photographer essentials
Use comfortable shoes. That protects your feet. It depends on the weather on what type of shoes to choose. As street photographers, we stand and walk long distances to protect our feet. We need to wear good shoes. My choice is Dr marten shoes for winter when it is cold. And a set of the hip all-stars for the summer. Bot shoes feel like limousines for the feet.
I always walk in jeans, except when it is sweltering. Then the shorts work better. It is essential to dress in layers, and preferably wool or natural products.
In winter I wear a t-shirt, with a sweater, with a jacket, my dr martens, a pair of happy socks, jeans, a beanie and warm gloves.
In summer I wear my all-stars, a pair of happy socks, shorts, a t-shirt and a flat cap to protect my bald head from the sun.
Use clothing that fits comfortably and is not in the way. If clothes get in the way, it distracts you from what you are doing. You should feel free to photograph whatever you want, whenever you want.
Always carry a lens cloth. To clean your glasses and lens glass when needed.
I started with a windows laptop. I have seen almost any windows version on one of my laptops during the past years. Windows computers are great, versatile and affordable computers. But complicated to manage. That it is versatile and runs on almost every hardware from slow to very fast, also means that you have to install drivers for your printer, camera, hard drive, display etc. If a driver does not work, you have to check with the vendor. Then you can configure it in so many ways as you want. And then the security. You need a local firewall, anti-virus, malware protection and nowadays ransomware protection. You have to keep it updated, and the updates that Microsoft provides are often not well tested so they would leave you with problems that you have to solve yourself.
When I bought my first mac, I was so happy. It was so simple. It just ran. You install the needed software. If you do not want it anymore, just remove the app(it leaves some files behind but ok.) Security was and still is at the core of any mac.
Before deciding on what os and platform to use, I had written down a small list. But I wanted something simple. That would just run, and I could use to do the things I wanted to do. So I decided on a MacBook pro. The computer of choice for designers, art directors and photographers for ages. The adobe creative cloud works perfectly on a mac.
I use my computer for photo editing, writing texts, blogging, administration and everything else that goes into running a business.
So A MacBook Pro fitted my needs perfectly.
To edit my images, I use three software programs. Just with the windows vs Mac choice, I like to keep it simple.
I use photo mechanic, Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.
I use photo mechanic as quick ingest, selections and caption tool. For the Fujifilm x-pro camera, I use compressed raw. Mac Finder does not support it yet. So I wanted a tool that could quickly ingest all the images, add captions and metadata, rename and be able to select the best ones.
Photo mechanic is that for me. Lightroom can ingest all images, but it is a slow process. And when you are returning from your street photography walk, you want to look at the pictures quickly. Make a first select and caption them accordingly so that you do not lose the story of the images.
Next, I use adobe lightroom classic. I import the images and arrange them in one catalogue in different folders. I wrote a blog post about my process.
In Lightroom, I do my magic. I apply a preset that I created and tweak the image so that I am satisfied. I often leave the pictures to ‘soak’ for weeks or months, and I go back to them and see if I am still happy with them
Sometimes I use Photoshop to do some local adjustments, some dodge and burn and other minor tweaks. For my professional portraits and projects, I do more in Photoshop. But for my street photography Lightroom classic is enough.
Photo mechanic, lightroom classic and photoshop is what I use because I shoot in RAW. But when shooting in Jpeg, many tools that are available for RAW files are not available for Jpeg. Read my RAW vs Jpeg blog post to know what the difference is.
To use photo mechanic, you buy the primary license. When there is a significant update of that version you have to buy a new version, every update in between is part of the license deal. To use adobe lightroom and photoshop, you need a creative cloud subscription. This could be a drawback. But in the old day’s prices of lightroom and photoshop could go into the hundreds of even thousands of dollars. For a small subscription fee, you have the newest version available.
Lightroom is after Photo mechanic the photo tool I use. I import the images in Photo mechanic and caption them. Select the first batch. And when I have time I import them into lightroom. I add keywords and if needed I create a subfolder in my catalog based on the attached keywords.
Then I add some presets and settings and I can export the images. Lightroom gives me the flexibility I need to create the look that I want.
I use photoshop only for minor adjustments if needed. It is a tool that is too big for my street photography use.
Of course, I would recommend my classes and workshops as the best there is. But I think it is essential to keep learning. Not only photography but in general.
Photography and street photography as a genre, or maybe painting, drawing or art history.
Online course platforms.
On the course platform Creative live, you find a lot of exciting video courses. Exciting courses are street photography: the art of photograping strangers by ashley gilbertson
You pay per course you follow on creative live or subscribe to a year plan, the creator pass by which you can see all sessions. Next to creativelive, there are other online education platforms like udemy or coursera, where you can gain new knowledge. After watching courses at creativelive, I got hooked. Every day I followed new courses and gained more knowledge not only about photography but also about business management, social media planning, or even creating music. It all influences each other, and it is good to do something else once in a while.
Of course, it is The Americans by Robert Frank, the decisive moment by Henri Cartier Bresson but also books like magnum contact sheets. And service by Platon. Somewhat totally different but his black and white are slightly similar than mine. I highly recommend them.
Street photography books.
To gain inspiration, it is also good to read a book about a subject. For example, it’s what I do: A photographers life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario is a must-read, and there will be a movie about her book soon. Books like on street photography and the poetic image by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb.
Transporting and storing large files
Pcloud vs dropbox
When you are travelling, you create a massive amount of files. Storing those files on your laptop is not always secure. Your computer might break, is stolen. Creating a backup on a portable drive is more secure but you might loose it. The risk is even higher when you put the disk in the same bag as your laptop. Then there is nothing left.
Fortunately, there are cloud storage providers. There are many, but I used Dropbox and pCloud. I had a premium plan for dropbox in the past. But the drawback is that every file that you want to store you need to have on your local drive also. pCloud is a cloud storage provider and can sync files and to store files online without keeping them on your local drive.
When travelling, I use a sync folder, and when I have a wifi connection, pcloud starts syncing those files to the pCloud storage cloud. This means that you have to save a backup. It depends on your wifi connection how long this takes you to sync all those files. In Asia coffee shops often have high-speed fibre connections, so files are quickly stored. But when you are in a rural area, it could take a while. But it is something. And it’s better than nothing.
My Street Photography Equipment
- The FujiFilm XF23mm f/2.0 R WR
- The FujiFilm XF18mm f/2.0 R
- The FujiFilm XF27mm f/2.8 Pancake
- Fujifilm lens protector
- Lens Cloth
Links on the my street photography equipment page.
Some links on this page use affiliate links. I only recommend things that I support and use myself. I put a lot of time in researching content for this website and for every purchase I receive a small fee without costing you anything. This way, I can keep writing without costing you anything if you do not want that you can always find the items somewhere else no hard feelings.
I hope that this list helps you with developing your street photography skills. The items in this list I use myself, If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or attend one of my workshops so that I share all my knowledge with you!