15 Common Street Photography Mistakes

In street photography, mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. But problems arise when these errors go unnoticed, turning into bad habits that hamper your progress and results.

Craig and I have been fortunate to work with lots of budding street photographers at our workshops. During this time we’ve seen a common theme running through mistakes - most of which are easily fixed with some simple adjustments to approach.

In this post, we’ll look at some common street photography mistakes and how you can overcome them to become a better street photographer:

1. Hiding the camera

Many beginners deal with their fears by trying to conceal their camera. Being sneaky will make those around you feel uncomfortable and may increase your chances of an unwanted confrontation.

Solution: smile and be open about what you’re doing. By projecting positive and relaxed body language, you’ll reduce your risk of confrontations, and avoid looking like a creep in the process.

2. Checking the LCD constantly

‘Chimping’ is the act of looking at every photo on the camera display immediately after capture. This bad habit interrupts your flow and will result in you missing opportunities around you. It’s also kills battery life.

Solution: turn off the LCD review. Look at your photos after you’ve left the scene or at the end of the day.

3. Standing too far away

Taking photos of strangers is intimidating, and beginners will often deal with this by standing too far away. The problem with this approach is, that you’re more likely to create an image where the viewer feels disconnected from the subject.

Solution: build intimacy into your images by getting in closer. Just make sure you respect people's personal space.

If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.
— Robert Capa

4. Walking too fast

Lots of beginners move quickly due to their fear of getting caught. Being nervous is natural, but you’re less likely to capture those candid moments if you’re projecting the wrong body language. Walking too fast also makes it harder to compose your photo and hit focus.

Solution: think fast, but move slowly. The best results will come when you take your time.

5. Photographing street performers

Taking photos of street performers is a great way to build up confidence, but it’s also a bad habit. Why? Because they’re easy shots that aren’t going challenge you or result in an interesting image.

Solution: get out of your comfort zone by avoiding the easy shots.

6. Not taking enough photos

It’s not realistic to expect each and every photo to be a masterpiece. The truth is: you have to shoot a lot of sh*t to capture the best. And if you’re not taking enough photos, chances are, you’ll struggle to get to good ones.

Solution: work every scene by taking lots of photos. It’s better to have too many images than not enough.

Your first 10000 photographs are your worst.
— Henri Cartier-Bresson

7. Not including a subject or point of interest

When capturing street scenes, a common mistake made by beginners is to try and include too much information, and they forget to focus on a subject, or point of interest. When nothing stands out, the photo is likely to confuse the viewer.

Solution: ensure every photo has a clear subject or focal point. 

8. Shooting from the same perspective

Street photos taken at eye-level are easy and familiar. The problem is that this isn’t necessarily an interesting perspective, since we’ve grown used to seeing the world in this way.

Solution: mix up your approach to create more interesting or unique perspectives.

9. Not working with the light

One of the most important elements of photography is light. Many beginners ignore the light and end up with photos that don’t maximise the potential conditions. 

Solution: pay attention to the light throughout the day. Use the quantity, quality and direction of light to your advantage.

I am forever chasing light. Light turns the ordinary into the magical.

— Trent Parke

10. Unaware of surroundings

The streets can be a dangerous place, especially if you have expensive equipment on show. It’s easy to become so focused on what we’re doing, that we forget to observe what’s actually happening around us. But this can put you in a vulnerable position and could lead to missed photographic opportunities. 

Solution: look around you before and after taking a photo. Spot threats and opportunities, then respond accordingly.

11. Overthinking the process

It’s easy to worry about making mistakes and get bogged down by the technical side. But these worries have the potential to disrupt your flow and enjoyment.

Solution: take photos by following your gut feeling. Setup your camera so you can forget about the technical side and enjoy the process of taking pictures. 

12. Carrying too much gear

It’s tempting to carry lots of equipment to cover every scenario. However, lots of gear will weigh you down throughout the day, and lots of lens choices will create a technical distraction.

Solution: travel light with one one camera and one lens. If it worked for the masters, it can work for you!

The best camera is the one that’s with you.
— Chase Jarvis

13. Over processing images

Post-processing is an important step in the process. The common mistake made by beginners is over processing their images - creating a look that detracts from the subject or attempts to cover up fundamental errors with the photo.

Solution: keep it simple and express your style through the content in your images, not with heavy presets or filters. Good photos don't require lots of processing. 

14. Wearing uncomfortable clothes or footwear

Street photography requires you to cover large distances on foot. And if you’re uncomfortable, this will create an unwanted distraction that will get in the way of your enjoyment.

Solution: street photography isn’t a fashion parade. Wear what’s practical for the task.

15. Not actively observing

When photographing the streets you have to consciously move into a heightened state of awareness. Trouble is, many people fail to get in ‘the zone’ and end up photographing what’s obvious, but not necessarily interesting.

Solution: limit distractions by putting your phone on silent and shooting alone. Photographing with friends can be fun, but this will interfere with your ability to take in the world around you.

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.
— Elliott Erwitt

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