Street photography is a very popular genre, and I get asked fairly frequently what my favorite gear is for it. While I do dabble in street photography, it’s not my most common photographic subject; however, I’ve done enough street photography that I feel comfortable giving gear recommendations for it. In this article I’ll tell you what I use and why.
While there is no definitive explanation, street photography is best described as pictures of chance encounters in public places. It often takes place in urban environments (such as downtown city centers), but it is certainly not limited to that. Some will say that humans must be included in the pictures for it to be street photography, but others will argue that the effects of humanity within the environment is acceptable, and some believe that any urban image fits within the genre. It is commonly understood that street photography involves candid (unstaged) pictures, but some will state that it is the chance encounters that are most important, and it is okay to provide some direction to that randomness in order to create a stronger picture. In other words, there’s no universal answer to what exactly street photography is, but most of the time you recognize it when you see it.
If you’ve never done street photography but want to try, the first place to start is understanding the laws and customs of the place you are photographing. Each country is different, and it may even vary from specific location to specific location. You want to understand your rights as a photographer in a public location, and the rights of those potentially being photographed. Besides the legal question, there is the ethical one: should you? While something might be legally ok, it does not necessarily mean that it is moral. These are all things that you should consider before attempting any street photography. Research the local laws. Consider what you are comfortable photographing and why, and what you are not comfortable photographing and why not. I cannot emphasize this step enough, and I encourage you to spend some time on these questions before heading out with your camera.
After that, the next step is to go to a public place and capture some candid images. The most common location is an urban environment, such as the center of a large city, but it can be anywhere where people are. If you don’t have easy access to a large downtown, consider what is nearby where you live. Even if you live in a small town or a rural location, I bet there are opportunities nearby if you look hard enough.
Now, let’s discuss gear. To be clear, you can use any camera. I’ve done street photography with most of my gear. There are a few tools that I do prefer over others, but if you don’t have these don’t worry too much about it, because whatever gear you currently own is good enough. The list below is simply the cameras that I personally prefer for street photography.
This is my favorite camera for street photography. Actually, it’s my favorite camera, period. The Fujifilm X100V is my “desert island” model—if I could own only one camera for the rest of my life, it would be this. There are a few things that make it especially good for street photography.
First, it’s pretty small. It’s good for carrying as you walk around for awhile, and people don’t often get intimidated by it like they would with a larger body. Second, the leaf shutter is basically silent, and allows you to be more stealthy. Yes, electronic shutters are silent, too, but they do have a couple of drawbacks that might affect your photography (situationally dependent), so a silent mechanical shutter is an excellent feature. Third, the optical viewfinder allows you to see outside the frame to better anticipate the decisive moment. There are many other things that make the camera great, such as the build quality, weather sealing, traditional tactile controls, built-in ND filter, etc., etc.; this isn’t a review of the X100V, just some reasons why it is my favorite tool for street photography.
Perhaps the top thing that makes the Fujifilm X100V great for street photography are all the Film Simulation Recipes that you can program into the camera. Almost no matter the aesthetic you want to achieve, there is a Recipe that will allow you to get the look straight-out-of-camera, no editing needed. This can make street photography more fun, while saving you time and frustration later.
Ricoh GR III
The Ricoh GR III is a super small and compact camera that you can literally carry with you everywhere, since it fits so easily into a pocket or purse. If you own a Ricoh GR III, there is no excuse for not having it with you. Since photo opportunities aren’t always planned, it’s important to have quick access to a camera at all times, and this model makes it easy. I try to carry my GR III with me whenever I go out, even if it is just to the grocery store.
There are a few reasons why I like the GR III for street photography in particular. Since it is so small and unassuming, most people won’t figure you to be a photographer; if they even notice that you have a camera, they’ll likely think you are a snap-shooter or tourist, and will often disregard you. The 27.5mm (equivalent) lens gives a wide view, which can be good for showing context. Like the X100V, the GR III has a nearly silent leaf shutter. If you don’t want to be noticed, this camera is probably the best bet. There are certainly drawbacks to the GR III (no model is perfect), but for the size and weight it is pretty darn excellent.
There are Recipes for the Ricoh GR III, although not nearly as many as there are for the Fujifilm X100V. If you want to skip picture editing (called one-step photography), the GR III is a solid option that should be strongly considered. In fact, the Fujifilm X100V and the Ricoh GR III compliment each other, and can coexist comfortably in your camera bag.
Since you always have your phone, you always have a camera. If you accidentally left your “real” cameras at home, no worries! Your cellphone camera is a perfectly capable photographic tool. My current cellphone is an iPhone 11. I don’t think your cellphone make and model matter much—any cellphone camera will suffice—but I personally prefer Apple, since I can use the RitchieCam camera app, which is only available for iOS (click here).
The iPhone is great for street photography because nobody thinks twice about seeing someone with their phone out. Even if you do get “caught” capturing a picture, you can easily fake that you are taking a selfie or texting someone or some other typical phone action. Many cellphones have multiple focal length options, so they’re surprisingly versatile. My favorite accessory is the Moment Tele 58mm lens.
While I do use my phone for photography, I also use it for another important reason: Apps! Specifically, the Fuji X Weekly App (Android, Apple) and the Ricoh Recipes App (Android, Apple). In my opinion, those are essential tools to accompany your Fujifilm and Ricoh cameras.
Let me show you a few more street images that I captured recently.
The three above pictures, despite being pretty different overall, all have something in common (besides being street photography). If you want to know what it is, you’ll have to tune into SOOC Live on March 2. Nathalie Boucry and I will be discussing the theme of street photography, including things like gear and Film Simulation Recipes and such. Mark your calendars now! Be sure to subscribe to the SOOC Live YouTube channel so that you don’t miss out on all the great upcoming broadcasts.
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