The Best Street Photography Settings (And Why)

The Best Street Photography Settings (And Why)

the best street photography camera settings (and why)

Do you know the best street photography configurations?

Street photography could be tricky, but as an experienced shooter, I’ve spent the lot  of time experimenting with different configurations. Over the years, I’ve determined what works – and what doesn’t. That is why, in this article, I’m sharing my favorite settings for road shooting, including:

  • The best autofocus setting
  • The best aperture
  • The best shutter speed
  • (And more! )

So if you’re ready to start setting up your photos like the masters, then continue reading.

The best street photography settings: one caveat

Before I actually start discussing my favorite road photography settings and how they’re great for capturing photos on the fly, let’s get something straight:

If you have certain road settings that work for you and get you the shots you’re after, then by all means, keep using them. You have found the settings that will fit you best, and you ought to probably stick with them.

After all, there’s not one set of all-around amazing settings. Instead, what I am giving a video presentation in this article are the tried-and-true configurations that most street photographers prefer today and that past professional photographers have loved, but that might not resonate with you.

So read this short article carefully and consider our suggestions. If they work for you, excellent! But if they don’t work for you, that’s okay, too, and you ought to continue to shoot with satisfaction.

What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why
The best focus settings meant for street photography

Did you know that the best way to focus in street photography is  faster  than autofocus?

I know, I know. You’re probably wondering: what could be faster than the recent autofocus, with its Eye AF and snazzy tracking algorithms?

I’ll inform you:

Prefocusing, also known as zone focusing .

You see, many of the best street professional photographers simply prefocus their zoom lens a few feet in front of the digital camera, make sure their subjects are usually within the prefocused zone associated with sharpness, then hit the particular shutter button.

Check out this illustration, which includes several possible prefocus zones:

zone focusing setting

The truth is, by personally focusing the lens in advance, the photographer can ensure that either the blue zone or the red zone appears in focus all the time . That way, if a subject walks into the prefocused zone, the photographer can grab a pointy shot without  needing to fiddle with autofocus settings.

Because here’s the thing:

Even if you have the fastest autofocus in the world, there’s constantly going to be a focusing delay. Plus, the autofocus might miss your main subject plus hit another subject rather.

(With people coming toward you, the particular AF will likely focus on the closest person, which might not have to get the person you want to focus on. Therefore you’ll need to focus and recompose, which takes period, and once you’re ready to actually nail focus, the moment will likely have passed and you will have missed your shot. )

Zone focusing eliminates those problems just because a zone is like a drive field in front of your camera. Anything that enters the push field will be in concentrate, which is pretty darn nifty, correct?

How to set up zone focusing

To set up your prefocused zone, you’ll need to determine the kind of shots you want to take.

So ask yourself: Should i want photos of close-up subjects, or do I want to shoot people from a range? That will determine where you need to focus.

Let’s say you want to take a few shots with your subject matter less than one meter apart. All you need to do is to place your lens like so:

setting up zone focusing on a lens

The particular aperture is at f/16, so that you should put the marking around the left to 0. 7, then look at the “16” marking on the right. Do you observe how it’s at “1. 2”? That tells you that everything between 0. 7 to at least one. 2 meters will be inside focus.

The way aperture works, the further away you are, the larger the depth associated with field , so setting the point of focus in one meter will keep plenty of space in focus.

And if you want to photograph people over a meter away, you can put the leftmost “16” to “1” and look in the rightmost “16” to determine your own most distant area of focus.

“But our lens doesn’t have those grades, ” you protest. That’s where a tool like DOFMaster comes in handy:

depth of field calculator

Simply select your own camera from the dropdown menu, then dial in your lens’s focal length. Pick your own f-stop (I’ll discuss this particular more in a later section), set your ideal subject distance (i. e., point of focus), then hit Calculate .

On the right-hand side, you’ll see your concentrating zone (it will match the close to limit and far limit calculations). If you like the focusing zone, after that manually focus at the issue distance and get shooting. In case you don’t  like the focusing zone, then feel free to adjust your f-stop, your subject distance, and also your focal length until you get a pleasing result.

Note: When you pick a focal length and a good aperture, the calculator will  also  give you the hyperfocal distance for those settings, which is the point at which you can concentrate for maximum depth of field. Set your lens to the hyperfocal distance, and everything from half  that distance to  infinity  will remain in focus – which is perfect if you want to keep because the frame as sharp as possible.

Actually most street photographers I realize set their lenses to focus at the hyperfocal distance. It is only when the light starts decreasing that they’ll start to widen the aperture and control in their point of focus; that way, they can keep their exposures looking bright and keep their subjects sharpened.

What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why
The best aperture for road photography

I have talked lots and lots about specific zones and points of focus, but you may be wondering:

What aperture must i use for street pictures?

Dial in the narrowest aperture you can pay for. Use f/8 as a starting point, but if you can go narrow, do it. As I mentioned above, once the light starts to drop, you may need to widen your aperture to help keep a nice exposure, and that is okay – just be conscious of how this will affect your zone of focus.

The best shutter speed and ISO for road photography

Once you’ve chosen your own focus and aperture, how about your other settings?

You’ve got a few choices. To begin with, you can use Aperture Priority mode , so your camera will automatically choose the shutter velocity (though you can still adjust the latter via exposure compensation). Or you can make use of Manual setting and select the particular shutter speed (and the ISO ) yourself. Either choice is fine, so try all of them both out and see whatever you think.

In terms of shutter speed details, I recommend staying above 1/125s. Stuff usually happens quick on the streets, and below 1/125s there is a risk associated with camera shake. If your subject matter is moving quickly (e. g., you’re shooting the biker), you may want to boost the shutter speed to 1/250s or even faster to prevent motion obnubilate.

At this point, almost all that’s left is the INTERNATIONALE ORGANISATION FÜR STANDARDISIERUNG. You could consider Auto ISO with some sort of cap – ISO 1600 is a good option. Or you could start at about ISO 200, then raise it as required. Several street shots actually look great at high ISOs – the grain is good, especially in black and white – thus don’t worry too much about pushing your ISO over and above its standard acceptable value.

What are the Best Street Photography Camera Settings and Why
The best street photography settings, recapped

Here is my list of the best configurations for street photography:

  • Shooting mode: Aperture Priority
  • Aperture: f/8
  • Point of focus: the hyperfocal distance, or in your selected zone
  • Shutter speed: 1/125s or even faster

One of the strengths of this system is it accounts for rapid transitions. For instance, imagine you are walking away from a building, heading from a shadowy interior to a sun-drenched street. If you are shooting within Manual mode rather than Aperture Priority, you probably need to improve your shutter speed by 3 stops – and during this period, you may miss out on an incredible opportunity. However , if you’re using Aperture Priority mode, your camera will make the shutter rate adjustment for you, and you will instantly be ready to shoot.

Make sense?

man riding by on a bike

The best road photography settings: final terms

There you have it:

The street photography settings that will get you the most keepers, and that are actually used consistently by the famous photographers of the past (and present).

Therefore try them out. See how you like them. Of course , it’s still possible to take great street photos with other settings – so if you decide to move a different route, that’s alright, too.

Right now over to you:

What do you think of these street settings? Do you have other configurations that you prefer? Share your thoughts in the comments below!






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Olivier Duong

Olivier Duong

is a Haitian-French-Vietnamese graphic designer turned photographer, he is the particular co-creator of Inspired Eye Photography Mag . This ex-gear mind now teaches photographers how you can develop their eye, cardiovascular and mind. Join his photography publication to keep in touch. You’ll receive weekly inspiration, a free beginner’s course, tutorials and more.

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