Beginner’s Guide: Camera Settings for Street Photography

Beginners Guide Camera Settings for Street Photography by stolen maps

While out on the street with your DSLR for some street photography, you saw a street performer doing something unusual. You decide to capture the moment, and began adjusting your camera settings to get a good shot, pointed your camera, focused your subject and are ready to shoot and…. oh, no!! that great moment is now long gone… better luck next time!

This has happened with me before, and I’m sure you’ve struggled with the same problem. That feeling of losing (a bit of embarrassment) you get is really awful. But don’t worry, this probably won’t happen again if you follow these simple tricks.

Camera Settings for ‘Quick’ Street Photography

1. Use Program AE (Auto-Exposure)

Automatic Aperture mode, commonly known as AE mode, is a camera setting which automatically selects suitable aperture value. When light is uneven at different parts of the streets, AE mode automatically adjusts aperture value for best exposure.

This mode helps save time when you need to shoot quickly or take multiple shots in very less time. Many ‘events’ you would wish to capture, don’t give you enough time to manually set all camera settings.

New york city street building low angle shot

Your camera in AE mode does all the math and selects a suitable combination of aperture and shutter speed. This saves your time and allows you to take better care of what you need to photograph.

Many DSLRs come with inbuilt Program Shift which allows you to override camera settings. When needed, you can adjust values selected by camera by merely turning main dial a little. Other parameters automatically adapt in accordance with that change. For instance, while shooting a moving bicycle, you need faster shutter speed to avoid motion blur. You can change it in fraction of a second and aperture will adjust automatically.

also read: Beginner’s Guide: Camera Settings for Night Photography

2. Use Continuous AF (Auto-Focus)

Continuous AF camera settings gives you freedom to quickly shoot moving subjects (people or vehicles) on the street. in manual mode, you might need to refocus your moving subjects again and again to capture great shots.

man walking on street black and white grayscale street photography

You need time for proper observation for doing so. This is where continuous AF will come in handy. Moreover, cameras with inbuilt multi-focus allows you to act more quickly and also do your work without people noticing you much.

3. Use Auto White-Balance

Well, you might already be doing this. While you’re on street, you often don’t have enough time to set all the camera settings. You should then shoot in Auto WB to save your time and capture things quickly, as they happen.

Auto WB feature does really good in many situations, but it’s fine if the results doesn’t match with your expectations. Out of all, white balance can be easily taken care of in post-processing stage.

man with dog lloking at buildings street photography grayscale shot

Aperture & Shutter Priority Camera Settings

Camera settings in street photography are to be decided after taking certain factors into consideration. You need to choose among Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual Settings of camera.

Aperture Priority

Aperture Priority has its own benefits and drawbacks. If you’re shooting in daytime when there’s ample light available, this mode is recommended.

Just set camera settings to aperture priority and you don’t need to worry much about other settings. Instead, you can focus on content and composition of your photographs.

This setting works best for consistent light/sunlight on the streets as you don’t need to change the values frequently. But if sunlight is really intense, like here in Delhi, this setting might become a headache for you. The contrast between sunny and shady parts of street is so high that you need to change values every time a lot of time.

woman on old streets

Shutter Priority

If you’re out on the streets early morning or at dusk, enough light isn’t available, try Shutter Priority. Choose fast shutter speed to make sure you don’t get motion blur in images, and go for high ISO numbers in camera settings.

With higher ISO, higher is camera sensor’s sensitivity to light and proper exposure is achieved even in low light. Faster shutter speed makes sure that Motion Blur or Camera Shake don’t ruin your photographs.

Camera Settings For Street Photography At Night

The artificial light from street lamps completely transforms a street’s look at night. The contrasts are mesmerizing, and need proper camera settings for shooting.

With the contrast between bright street lamps and darkness of night, automatic settings become somewhat unreliable. You should switch to manual mode for better results.

alley of a hotel at night

Try a test shot with ISO 200 and shutter speed to as low as 3-4 seconds with a (common) aperture of f/8 and check histogram. If it seems too dark, slow down the shutter speed for longer exposure and in case image is too bright, increase shutter speed. Take a few test shots to find best adjustments.

Auto-focus mode must be avoided as it doesn’t work properly in dark conditions. Also, don’t use Auto White-Balance and set it to Tungsten using manual settings.

also read: Beginner’s Guide: Camera Settings for Night Photography

city buildings street shot in fog mist
taxi on city streets black and white street photography

Well, there you go! That’s all I had to share. Don’t forget to drop a comment down below if this post helped you in some way or if you’d like me to write about something or maybe just to say hi!

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