Professional street photographer Ryan Cheng shows you how to think on your feet fast with his insightful tips for shooting fleeting moments out on the streets.
I discovered my own passion for street photography in 2010. Since then, not only have I spent nearly every week out on the streets to capture wonderful moments, I’ve also managed to build my life around it.
When it comes to capturing great moments on the streets, there are five techniques that I adopt and recommend to photography enthusiasts:
1) Train your eye
I always say it is you behind the camera rather than your camera that makes the difference in your photography. It is through your eye that you observe. It is your personal vision. Studying the photos of the masters will help you understand how to frame, and teach you to recognise photo opportunities more easily.
EOS 5D Mark III | F/7.1 | ISO 200 | 1/200s
EOS 5D Mark II | F/1.4 | ISO 2500 | 1/80s
Observation teaches you how to anticipate things that you want to shoot. It is helpful for finding the best position or anticipating a repeated gesture or behaviour of your subject. Practicing and paying attention to your surroundings more will help you understand how people move and interact with their environment.
EOS 5D Mark III | F/4 | ISO 4000 | 1/125s
3) Social Skills
What I learnt about candid photography is that it isn’t solely about blending in and trying to be invisible in the hopes of capturing a subject in its true element. It is also about getting closer to people and allowing them to be themselves. This is where your social skills come into play. Instead of shooting quickly from a distance, socialising with your subjects allows you to approach them differently and more slowly. The key is getting people to be comfortable with you around them.
EOS 5D Mark II | F/2.8 | ISO 2500 | 1/100s
EOS 5D Mark II | F/3.5 | ISO 500 | 1/25s
4) Be Patient
Street photography is one of the scariest genres of photography because nothing is certain and almost nothing is in your control. Everything depends on serendipity, persistence and the ability to see and capture the moment. It takes a lot of nerve to actually do it, as it demands your time and devotion, your ability to interact with strangers and sometimes tests your ability to deal with stress if things go wrong. So being patient is important.
EOS 5D Mark III | F/4.5 | ISO 320 | 1/1000s
EOS 5D Mark III | F/5.6 | ISO 640 | 1/500s
5) Look for lights
The key is using light to your advantage. Any time of the day or night, be conscious of the quality and quantity of light around you and look for interesting light sources and subjects. For me, the golden hour is when the light is at its most beautiful even if it is for a short time. I love the way the dramatic light and shadow is cast on my subject.
EOS 5D Mark III | F/7.1 | ISO 200 | 1/640s
EOS 5D Mark II | F/11 | ISO 400 | 1/500s
I hope you’ll find my tips useful. Happy Shooting!