Camera settings for street photography

 

To capture the moment, you have to be prepared and always have your camera ready. When you see the picture, you often have less than a split second in to shoot. Everything must be set; camera settings and focus, before you press the  shutter. If you are too slow, the image is forever gone.

Daytime street photography

To always be ready when I shoot street, I have to pre-set my camera. My favorite Mode is Manual (M on Canon), where I can take full control of all settings. 
When I use a wide angle lens (often focal length 24-35mm), I like to use aperture around f/16 to get as much depth of field as possible and take advantage of the hyper focal. I want sharpness from 2 m, all the way out to infinity. At the same time, I want to freeze the motion of moving objects and must use a fast shutter speed. I usually put this around 1/500s depending on the light conditions and how quickly the person moves. I set the ISO where the exposure is correctly balanced.

To find the right ISO, I always take a sample photo and check the histogram. I adjust the ISO until the exposure is correct. If your camera allows Auto-ISO in manual mode, use it and forget about the ISO. Do not be afraid to go up in high ISO . You can often reduce the noise in post production. I am often up around ISO 12.800 (at most ISO 125.600). When using auto-ISO you must get to know your camera and know beforehand if you need to over / under expose in different lighting conditions. Especially with strong backlight, the camera can expose wrongly, and then you need to compensate this before you shoot.

Since I only shoot in RAW format, I do not mind the white balance. This can always be adjusted afterwards, and I allways set it to auto.

With these settings, I don't have to think about the technical parts and can fully concentrate on framing the shot.

Indoor street photography

When shooting indoors or in other poor light conditions, you have to adjust the settings accordingly. One of my favorite places to shoot are at the shopping center Nordstan in Gothenburg. The light consists mainly of fluorescents and are in many places really poor. I need high ISO, and almost always on ISO 6.400.

To increase the amount of light further, I have to compromise with the shutter speed and aperture. The shutter speeds are somewhere between 1/125s - 1/250s depending on how much movement I want to freeze.

I set the aperture around f/8 and open up in full steps until I find a balanced exposure. I take a few test photos and check the histogram for guidance. Since the ISO is high, I try to keep the histogram as far to the right as possible without becoming blowing out highlights. With a slight overexposure, I minimize the noise. In post productio I will adjust the exposure back to the proper level with minimal noise. The noise is mostly a problem in shadows and dark areas.

Finally

My camera settings are an example of how it might look when I shoot street. I constantly customize the settings to suit the current conditions, and it is difficult to always use the exact same settings. In addition, a lot depends on what camera and lens you use. Hopefully you'll get a hint about how I think. Do not forget to experiment and find your own style and preferences as you like.

 

Type of street photographyApertureShutterspeedISOWhite balance
 Outdoor daytime f/8 - f/16  1/250 - 1/1000  1250  Auto
 Indoor f/4 - f/8  1/80 - 1/250  6400  Auto

Tags: streetphotography, tips, camerasettings, learning