Many photographers who may be trying street photography for the first time may find it quite difficult to obtain the perfect images, because they’re not certain on what the best setup for their camera is. In this blog I’m going to share some of the settings I utilize, to maximize obtaining the best street images possible.
Grant it, depending on the camera brand you’re utilizing you may not have the exact features I have on my Sony, but you may have something like it, or it simply may not exist at all. If that’s the case, then try to find what options are most closely related to those I mention and see what the options within it may be and see how each of the perform for you while you’re photographing.
1. Real-Time Eye Auto Focus
This is a brand-new feature that Sony released in the brand-new Sony a6400 and a7R IV cameras and updated the Sony a9, a7R III and a7 III cameras with, which eliminates the need of having to initialize the Eye-AF of the camera. Real-Time Eye-AF means it’s always on, within the normal focusing of the camera.
As you’re composing your frame and however you may have your focus options setup for your camera, in my case I half press my shutter to begin auto focusing the camera is also tracking for any eye’s that may be visible as well. This is super useful for street photography as it allows me to always capture a person with the perfect focus on their eyes. There have been times when I wasn’t looking at my screen at all, but I snapped the image and it’s perfectly focused because of this feature!
2. Auto Focus - Continuous & Single
I flip between AF-Continuous and Single, depending on my subject being a moving subject or standing still.
Continuous I use for moving subjects, as I want the camera to track that person throughout the frame to ensure that I have the perfect focus for that subject. Single is utilized for a subject that isn’t moving, as I don’t want the camera to try to find any movement and that possible occurrence of my focus changing when I’ve taken an image and it’s not exactly focused where I wanted. Once it’s locked on, I can just go ahead and take the image.
3. Aperture Priority
Most people think I photograph in manual, but for 99% of my photography it’s captured in aperture priority.
This is essential for me, as I’m not spending time adjusting my camera settings and spending more time on thinking about composition. It also eliminates the instance I could be photographing a subject in a very brightly lit area and then I see another subject I want to capture, but they’re in a shadowed area that would require drastically different settings to capture it properly.
It isn’t to say manual isn’t okay to use, but I use aperture to only must focus on my depth of field while I’m photographing. So many people want camera manufacturers to add all this technology, yet they don’t ever allow the camera to do any of the work for them! These cameras are quite smart, and I don’t mind having it doing things automatically for me. Aperture priority is still manual, it’s just shifting how you’re accounting for exposure from the exposure triangle (ISO, aperture, shutter) and combining it in the exposure value of the camera. Wherever you have your EV set the camera will make sure you’re obtaining the proper exposure for that value.
4. Vertical/Horizontal Focus Area Switch
This is a very huge benefit for my shooting style. I have my camera set to move my focus point to the area I have it set for either vertical or horizontal orientation. Based on how I compose my images I’ll set this in a way that allows me to compose my frame on the fly and not have to spend time moving my focus point to the area I want for that particular orientation.
I know how I shoot, and this can help for the times I may see the perfect image come about quickly and be able to hold my camera up and just snap. I know I’ve framed my subject in the spot I typically go for and will have the focus perfect, as it’s locked in the area I want for that orientation.
5. Flexible Spot/Expand Flexible Spot
All my street images utilize Flexible Spot or the Expand Flexible Spot focus areas. When you’re photographing on the street you have a lot of things happening in your frame, whether its numerous people walking, moving vehicles, etc. If you utilize zone or wide focus areas the camera is going to focus on any and everything it can see in that composition, which might not be what you were wanting to have in focus.
Flexible Spot allows me to have more control on this, by also giving me three options (small, medium and large) for situations where I may need an even more specific focus point. Utilizing wide aperture prime lenses can sometimes be harder to focus in on some areas, especially when the window of where you’re trying to focus is narrow as well. In some cases, I may need to help the camera in finding exactly where to focus and that’s when I’ll switch to Expand Flexible Spot. This gives an outer focus box to a small main focus area, which helps the camera be able to have a bit of assistance to find exactly where my subject is for where I’m wanting my focus to be, if the camera/lens is struggling to lock on to something. It’s rare that I ever must do this, but there are a few occasions when I may need to use EFS for an image.
I hope this blog was informative and gives you some help on settings to try for your street photography imagery. What settings do you happen to utilize? Share with us in the comments below.
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