To Be Candid? 6 Tips to Improve Your Street Photography

By EyeEm Team - 4 min read

Travis Jensen, a San Francisco-based photographer, shares his top tips for capturing truly unforgettable moments from the street.

Travis Jensen is a San Francisco-based photographer focusing on candid street scenes, street portraiture and urban landscapes. For Travis, the art of street photography is an extension of skateboarding and street culture, something he has been a part of his whole life.

We caught up with him fortips onhow to get the best shots from the street.

1. B&W or color?

I used to be known for my B&W Hipstamatic shots, but have since chilled out on that. Personally, I think San Francisco looks better in B&W.

Don’t get me wrong, I love color as much as the next photographer, but I only use it when the stars are aligned and the light is so scrumptious that not using color would be a sin.

2. Shoot often and prepare for duds…

For every good shot I get, I guarantee there were dozens of duds and near misses before it. For me, I just like being out on the street, soaking in the sights, sounds, smells and vibes. So if I’m out walking around for 8 hours and come home with nothing, that’s okay. It’s the experience that matters most to me.

I’ve had spells where I’ve clocked 50-60 miles a week on the street with absolutely nothing to show for it. That’s the beauty of street photography, it’s unpredictable…like gambling. One day you’re up, the next you’re down.

3. It’s not about the tools. It’s about you.

I don’t really consider myself a mobile shooter, I’m a photographer. My photos are a mix of film, digital and iPhone, with the idea being that the tool means nothing, only the end result. At the end of the day, it’s all about your eye and sensibility, not the camera.

4. Pay attention to the background.

Backgrounds are very important. I can’t stand cluttered backgrounds and tend to avoid them by all means necessary. For me, there are many different elements that need to come together in order for a photo to work, with background being right up there at the top.

5. Work close.

Practice working in the 28-50mm range, with the camera at eye level. I know this practice makes some feel uncomfortable, but learning how to embrace those nervous feelings can make street photography an invigorating and rewarding experience. I always say street photography is the perfect remedy for social anxiety.

6. Street photography needn’t be candid.

There’s this notion amongst some street shooters that a photo needs to be candid in order for it to be considered a real street snap. I find this “rule” to be silly, especially coming from individuals that, in most cases, know absolutely nothing about the dynamics on the street to begin with.

I’m not the photo police, but I’d avoid being sneaky on the street i.e. shooting from the hip, sneaking shots from across the street, etc. That only leads to trouble. I’m just honest, with my go-to response being: “I’m a photographer, that’s just what I do, take pictures of people.”

Rarely do these conversations go beyond that. I treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their situation, and the last thing I want to do is make anyone feel upset.

Good street photography, in my opinion, is a healthy mix of street portraiture, candid street scenes, and urban environment snaps. My personal satisfaction in photography comes from the handshakes, hugs and nods of respect I’m getting from folks on the street, in the real world.

I truly believe that if you can shoot fast on the streets with decent results, then you can shoot anything. Have fun, be safe, and don’t worry about what other people are doing, just focus on fine-tuning your own craft.

Thanks Travis!