7 Tips for Impactful Street Digital photography Lighting

8 Tips for Impactful Street Photography Lighting

tips for impactful street photography lighting

Lights is a essential component of great street picture taking . After all, by thoroughly working with the light, you can capture shadowy photos, silhouettes, positive shots, ethereal images, and so much more.

But which kind of street photography lighting is best? And how can you use it to your advantage?

In this article, We share plenty of practical lights tips. I explain the best types of light for street shooting, and I also offer tricks and techniques I’ve developed over the years that’ll help you accomplish consistently gorgeous photos.

Let’s get started.

1 . The best street photography lighting is  all light

Here’s the thing regarding street photography:

You can do it at all times of the day, in sun, clouds, rainfall, sleet, hail, snow, and more.

And no matter  when  you choose to shoot, if you use the light carefully, you can achieve stunning pictures.

Street picture taking isn’t like landscape pictures, where you generally want to shoot in the early morning or past due afternoon. And it isn’t like flower photography, where you will often benefit from a flat, cloudy sky.

Rather, street photography is infinitely flexible. Want to shoot in the downpour? Want to shoot during the night? It’s possible, and I recommend you try it.

That said, the best street photographers don’t  ignore  the light. They learn to work  with  the light, so that no matter the situation, the sunshine elevates the shot and provides a top-notch result.

I recommend you start simply by asking yourself, as soon as you pull out your own camera:

  • What type of light am We working with?
  • What is the direction of the light?
  • How will the light alter over the next few minutes?

Then  use  your solutions, combined with the street lighting ideas I share below, to obtain beautiful photos.

woman in the light on a bus


2 . Look for light sources in the dark

One of my favorite periods to shoot street pictures is late in the evening, once the sun has dropped below the horizon and the streetlights have come on.

You see, the night adds a new aspect to street photos . There are so many interesting light resources to work with, such as street lamps, traffic lights, car lighting, neon signs, and more. Actually bright smartphone screens can illuminate their user’s looks, which makes for a fun photo.

But since the light is so limited during the night, you’ll need to approach your own photos  carefully . First, make sure you crank up your own ISO ; noise isn’t a big deal within street photography, especially if you’re shooting in black and white, and maintaining a decent exposure is more important. I’d recommend utilizing a shutter quickness of at least 1/60s or so, but do not worry if you end up with a few motion blur. In fact , a little bit of blur can actually enhance the environment, as demonstrated in the picture below:

man with umbrella walking down stairs

You’ll also would like to learn to zone focus and manual concentrate , because many cameras struggle to lock on topics in the darkness.

When you head out at night, do not just wander in unique directions. Instead, keep an eye out meant for light sources. Try to place your subjects in front of the lamps or wait until they walk near the lights (for decent illumination).

couple kissing at night street photography


3. Have fun with silhouettes

Silhouette street photos can seem amazing, but only when performed correctly. Remember that not every thing makes for an interesting silhouette subject matter; instead, look for people or items with clear describes, and adjust your structure and angle so that they are carefully framed against a non-distracting background.

Also, whenever possible, pick topics with added elements of attention, such as umbrellas, bicycles, plus hats. If you can get a subject matter that’s gesturing – instead of simply walking or standing up – that’s even better.

Watch for obstructions in front of and behind your subject matter, and if they’re moving, be sure you don’t catch them between steps. Put your digital camera in burst mode to improve your chances of getting the right cause.

silhouettes of bikers

Note that silhouette street pictures requires a strong light source. During the night, you can use street lights as well as the lights from windows, yet during the day, you’ll need some thing more – either light directly from the sun, or through windows/cars/buildings reflecting the sun. That is why silhouettes are often most effective early or late within the day, when the sun is usually low in the sky and you can easily place it behind your subject.

Finally, when adjusting your camera settings , don’t be afraid to drop the particular ISO low and fire up the shutter speed ridiculously  higher until you get the result you desire.

4. Shoot at midday for strong shadows

Road photographers love shadows, and for good reason: carefully positioned dark areas can look moody, impactful, and just all-around gorgeous .

Of course , not all shadows are nice. I’d recommend you receive the darkest, most well-defined shadows possible, and you can do that by shooting around midday on clear days. If you possibly can find a well-defined subject or even an interesting texture on a sunny day, then the shadows may turn out amazing , like this:

person walking dog amid lines and shadows

I’d also recommend you carefully change your angle for the best outcome, and don’t be afraid to await for an interesting shadow in order to “move” into position. Within the photo above, the dogwalker’s shadow is highly visible at the textured ground – when it had overlapped with the stairs in the bottom right corner, the result would’ve been messy and the photo would’ve lost a lot of impact.

If you’re after lengthy shadows, then shoot early or late in the day time. Make sure various shadows don’t overlap and try getting out of bed high for an unique vantage point.

Occasionally it’s all about the darkness, and the subject doesn’t even need to be fully included. This approach, when well executed, can add an element of mystery.

Pro tip: Find structures and other features that create interesting shadows, then wait for the right subject to walk by. For instance, I loved the dappled effect of the shadows in this particular scene, so I waited till a trio of people arrived through:

people walking in shadows street photography lighting

5. Constantly seek out reflections

In case you shoot at sunny midday, you’ll run into plenty of fascinating reflections – in windows, puddles, car hoods, and more.

So integrate these into your shots whenever possible and don’t be afraid to experiment.

For instance, you might juxtapose a (real) person and a (reflected) creating in the same frame. Or else you might use a reflection to make symmetry by “doubling” the particular scene.

If you’re feeling especially adventurous, you can also include a self-portrait reflection in the shot!

Furthermore, when you’re photographing window reflections, you can mix the actual scene (i. e., the particular scene behind  the window) using the reflection scene for an attractive result.

person walking near glass


6. Look for high-contrast situations

High-contrast lighting is great for street picture taking, because it simplifies scenes, generates interesting shadows, and can add plenty of mood.

You can often find the best high-contrast effects around noon on bright, sunny days, though the golden hours can offer wonderful high-contrast lighting, too, particularly if you’re willing to use backlight.

Try setting the sun behind or off to the side of your subject. Then incorporate buildings, which will block portions of the light that interesting shadow effects:

person walking with a dog in beautiful high-contrast street lighting


Furthermore, don’t worry too much about exposure. If you clip a few of the shadow details, you’ll nevertheless get a very interesting outcome. And if you blow out the particular sky, that’s okay, too; the more contrast, the better!

7. Head out on rainy days

Yes, rainy days in many cases are cold and wet and uncomfortable. But they can provide some of the absolute best street photography opportunities, so whatever you do,   don’t  keep your camera at home when the forecast predicts bad weather conditions.

Why? For one, people on the streets behave very differently when it’s raining, which can lead to fascinating situations. You’ll see individuals running with newspapers over their heads, you’ll notice people walking with umbrellas, and you’ll see all of them huddling under bus stops and awnings.

Plus, the raindrops can also add mist and atmosphere to otherwise bland scenes – and you can take this further getting into some selective focusing via windows, car windshields, bus-stop walls, and more. It’s the way i got this shot:

artistic shot with raindrops on a pane of glass


1 caveat: Rain and electronics don’t mix, so you will need to carefully protect your own gear from the water. I’d recommend carrying a raincover in your camera bag plus whipping it out whenever the rain starts to fall (alternatively, you can use a ziplock bag or trashbag if you’re in a pinch! ).

8. Don’t forget concerning the golden and blue hours

I’ve spent lots of time emphasizing the significance of harsh light and bad weather – but how about the golden hours as well as the blue hr , which offer soft, complementing lighting?

Should you be deliberate with your camera, you can obtain great street shots during these times, too! During the fantastic hours, you’ll need to figure out the direction of the sunlight, then position yourself with regard to interesting backlighting, sidelighting, or perhaps frontlighting. As I mentioned above, the golden hours work well to get silhouettes, and you can also get wonderful reflections off of cars plus windows.

During the blue hour, you’ll want to increase your ISO for a good exposure. Then do everything you can to capture a cool, ethereal look in your photos, like this:

silhouette kids at the beach blue-hour lighting


Street photography lights tips: final words

Now that you’ve completed this article, you know that you can capture street photos in actually any light – from early morning blue hour in order to harsh, sunny midday to many hours after dark.

So what are you waiting for? Go out with your camera and consider some powerful shots!

Now over to you:

Which sort of lighting for road photography is your favorite? And do you have any tips that people missed? Share your thoughts within the comments below!






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Valerie Jardin

Valerie Jardin

I actually live and breathe in -pixels! Photography is more than an interest, it’s an obsession, almost an addiction. When I am not shooting or composing, I spend my period teaching this beautiful craft during photo training courses all over the world! We are also thrilled to be the X Photographer for Fujifilm USA. Visit my Website
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