Street photography, which is defined as capturing the human condition in public places, is becoming increasingly popular among iPhone photographers around the world. Since so many of us live in urban areas, there’s definitely no shortage of street photography subjects in our day-to-day lives, and yet many iPhone photographers are intimidated by street photography.
In this article you’re going to learn how to get started with iPhone street photography, how to overcome some of the most common fears associated with street photography, and how to take stunning street photos that tell stories and convey emotion.
1. Take photos of people you don’t know
Despite its name, street photography doesn’t require taking photos on the streets or even in the city, because street photography is all about capturing candid moments involving people around you. And while it’s possible to do street photography with people you do know, your creative possibilities will go through the roof if you focus on taking photos of people you don’t know.
Street photography is about taking candid photos without disturbing the scene in any way, which is why you should aim to stay unnoticed at all times. One technique that really helps is using the volume buttons on your headphones for shutter release, which allows you to take photos in a very non-suspicious way while you’re pretending to use your phone for something else.
2. Gradually build up your confidence
Even though your goal is to always stay unnoticed, there are going to be times when you “get caught”. That’s when you should realize that you’re not doing anything wrong by trying to capture beautiful moments in the world around you, and you should be able to explain that to your photography subjects in a convincing and friendly way.
However, even if you know you’re not doing anything wrong, it still takes some courage to take photos of people you don’t know, which is why I recommend starting out gradually while you build your confidence. For example, it’s very easy to take photos of other people from behind or from the side, while it’s a lot more challenging to photograph someone directly from the front.
3. Frame the photo and wait for your subject
There are two approaches when it comes to street photography. The first approach – and the easiest one to start with – involves framing the photo without subjects and then waiting for your subjects to enter the scene. This works particularly well in busy places in the city with a steady flow of human subjects, and it also allows you to frame the background exactly right.
This photo was taken on the crowded Brooklyn Bridge in New York, where I wanted to capture the mix of different people who use the bridge for transport and recreation. Since there was no shortage of subjects on the bridge (and the background was so unique), I stopped in the middle of the bridge, framed the photo, and waited for the right moment to press the shutter.
I used the same approach to capture this photo of a women walking down the stairs. I knew that it would be possible to create an interesting silhouette since the light was entering the scene through the window. Knowing that the women would be passing through the scene soon, I simply framed the photo and waited for the right opportunity to press the shutter.
4. Approach the subject yourself
The other way to do street photography – which takes some more practice – is to approach your subject directly instead of waiting for them to pass through the scene. While this approach gives you more control, it’s also more challenging and there’s a higher chance of getting noticed.
While approaching your subjects directly may seem confrontational, it’s almost always possible to do this without getting noticed (and thus ruining the moment). One technique that really helps is pretending that you’re using the iPhone for something else (such as listening to music or having a phone call) while you’re actually approaching your subject to take a photo.
5. Use a telephoto lens to get closer
Just like the example above, the photo you see below was taken using a telephoto lens which allowed me to get a lot closer to my subjects without ruining the moment. This is particularly useful when you’re approaching your subject directly from the front, which could potentially make them suspicious (and thus ruin the moment) if you get too close with your iPhone.
6. Tell stories with your photos
The best street photos tell powerful stories about the subjects it shows. Leaving enough mystery in your photos is the key to telling a good story with your photos, because the best stories are already in the mind of the viewer, and your job as a photographer is to simply let these stories unfold by creating enough mystery to enable different interpretations of the situation.
Here we can’t see the faces of the people walking up the stairs, and this photo leaves us with more questions than answers, which makes it possible for a story to unfold in the mind of the viewer. One of the mistakes that photographers often make is trying to force their version of the story, which is generally not possible since every person interprets photos differently.
7. Show emotion in your photos
Besides storytelling, emotion is another powerful tool in iPhone street photography. We are naturally drawn towards emotion, and when emotion is portrayed in photos we tend to respond emotionally as well. Even simple things like capturing a genuine smile can go a long way in making your iPhone street photos more powerful and emotionally charged.
About the author: Emil Pakarklis is the founder of , a website about taking better photos with iPhone. If you want to improve your iPhone photos, visit , which is a resource Emil created for everyone who wants to start taking better photos with iPhone.