Part of the art of street photography is capturing unplanned moments without attracting attention. Discover what these eleven street photographers have to say about choosing the right gear to shoot those moments while going unnoticed.

“The marvels of daily life are exciting,” the great photographer Robert Doisneau once said. “No movie director can arrange the unexpected that you find in the street.” Street photographers can’t create and stage moments, but they can document them, and to do that, they must be quick and invisible. A spontaneous scene slips through a photographer’s fingertips the second the subject sees the camera and starts to pose.

Since Doisneau’s time, cameras have become ubiquitous. They’ve also gotten faster and smaller. Gone are the days of loud, bulky equipment. It’s never been easier for a photographer to go unnoticed, to blend in with his or her surroundings, to become “a fly on the wall.” We asked eleven extraordinary street photographers to tell us about their go-to gear for capturing candid, authentic moments without getting in the way.

1. “I normally shoot with a point and shoot camera like the Fujifilm X100T. That’s like my everyday camera.”

Abd. Halim Hadi

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Pilgrimage

Image by Abd. Halim Hadi. Gear: Fujifilm X‑T1 camera, Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/1000 sec; f5.6; ISO 800.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I made this series of photographs during my pilgrimage trip (umrah) in Makkah and Madinah, the two holiest cities for Muslims. Because of its sacredness, Makkah, or Mecca as it is commonly known to Westerners, became and remains a “forbidden city”—off-limits to non-Muslims. Taking photos, especially in public places, was once considered forbidden too. I read somewhere that in the past, photographing people, especially women, could send someone straight to jail. But now because everybody has a camera on their smartphones, it has become more acceptable.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

I normally shoot with a point and shoot camera like the Fujifilm X100T. That’s like my everyday camera. I also wear grey so that I can move around unnoticed and without alerting others. Living in a busy city like Kuala Lumpur, you’ll have a higher chance of being seen if you are moving slowly. In crowded places, I prefer to move quickly and try to photograph the scene as fast as I can.

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Real Life

Image by Abd. Halim Hadi.

What inspires you?

The essence of street photography is documenting everyday life and society on the streets. I love it because I get a chance to see different things every time I go out. I meet interesting people and see everyday life from a new perspective. That’s what inspires me. Street photography requires practice, and the more you get out there, the more your eye will see, and the more your confidence will grow. It is all about communicating an emotion. You can read more about my work here.

2. “For street photography, I usually bring my 70-200mm lens with me. It helps me to get very close to my subjects.”

Eo naya

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers – Street Market

Image by Eo naya. Gear: Canon 6D camera, Canon lens 70-200mm lens. Settings: Focal length 85mm; exposure 1/250 sec; ISO 500.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I usually like to be on the street early in the morning, especially when there is a street market in the area. I was in Bagan, Myanmar in February 2016. I woke up early to join this street market. It was still dark when I arrived. Then the light started to come in through the trees and provided a beautiful setting. There is a sense of stillness and calm that I like in this shot, despite the animation of the market.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

For street photography, I usually bring my 70-200mm lens with me. It helps me to get very close to my subjects. I usually use TV mode in order to capture the action and the movement of the moment, especially for people on the street. It is all about sensing and anticipation. I am merging with the people around me, following my intuition about what could happen next, and positioning myself accordingly. All of my senses are alert. I follow my feelings a lot.

Pictured: [1] Image by Eo naya. [2] Image by Eo naya. [3] Image by Eo naya.

What inspires you?

It comes from deep inside. It is a recognition and a celebration of the beauty of our world. Photography started as a hobby, then it became a passion, and it is now my everyday life. It is humility and candor that lead to inspiration. I do not take anything for granted.

3. “The X-E2 camera with the Fujinon XF 23mm F/1.4 lens is a nice and natural tool for street photography.”

Soloviov Vadym

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Playful Monks

Image by Soloviov Vadym. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, SIGMA 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 154mm; exposure 1/800 sec; f5.0; ISO 250.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I managed to capture this moment in the town of Choglamsar in Northern India. The 14th Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, had been addressing his followers at a Buddhist monastery and sharing words of wisdom. The event turned into a big celebration, and the number of people was immense. There were local people, travelers, and foreigners. The majority of the audience members were monks from Buddhist monasteries in the area. Groups of clergymen looked very picturesque—islands of robes in the multicolored sea of people in plain clothes.

Amongst the monks’ younger apprentices, I noticed a group of children enthusiastically talking with each other and trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. It made me smile because even the presence of the Dalai Lama and his educational words couldn’t divert them from the most important thing in their lives: a game. I think this amusing incident shows the kindness and simplicity of children. Even His Holiness couldn’t have been angry with the kids if he had happened to see them.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

My wife and I work in tandem on our stock portfolios. For the last two years, we’ve preferred a small mirrorless camera system from Fujifilm. The X-E2 camera with the Fujinon XF 23mm F/1.4 lens is a nice and natural tool for street photography. I use another Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 lens for landscapes. Another camera we use is the Canon 5D Mark II with native EF 24-70mm f/2.8L and SIGMA 70-200mm f/2.8 lenses.

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Young Monks

Image by Soloviov Vadym.

What inspires you?

I find inspiration anywhere—social networks, TV, movies, advertising, etc. No doubt traveling is a huge well of inspiration. We love traveling with our kids. And we are eagerly waiting for the holidays for new inspiration.

4. “I pretty much walk around with my camera backpack, and when something catches my eye, I use the lens I have on. I wouldn’t have time to change a lens, even if I had it in my backpack.”

Daniela Constantinescu

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — La Santera de Habana

Image by Daniela Constantinescu. Gear: Nikon D90 camera, AF-S DX Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G lens. Settings: Focal length 105mm; exposure 1/50 sec; f5.6; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I pretty much started street photography when I traveled to Cuba, and this was probably the easiest way to get into street photography because people there are extremely friendly. And guess what? When you are a tourist, people actually expect you to take pictures of them! Something amazing happened here: when I asked people for a picture, they did not change their expressions! It was the most natural thing. They own it.

This fortune teller lady called herself “La Santera de Habana.” She was definitely a colorful character in Old Havana, and she was really serious about her craft. At first, I was attracted by the unusual outfit: a traditional costume with numerous necklaces and multi-colored beads, the super long fingernails, and a cigar. But then I realized the look in her eyes! She looked mysterious, and maybe that was reinforced by the huge head-piece, but she also looked like she could see right through you and know everything about you, the past, and the future.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

I wish I could say something like, “I use an unobtrusive camera with a smaller lens like a 35mm prime, which is excellent for portraits and gives less distortion” or “I sit in a cafe and patiently wait for the world to unfold before me, using a telelens that can reach far into the distance without my subject even noticing.” I have done these things once in a while, but the truth is that I pretty much walk around with my camera backpack, and when something catches my eye, I use the lens I have on. I wouldn’t have time to change a lens, even if I had it in my backpack.

Really, don’t stress too much about the technical stuff. It is important but not essential. In street photography, you will always have distracting elements in your photo. Hopefully, you will be able to fix them in post-processing. If not, you move on. You might not have the best lighting conditions, or you might have someone entering your frame who ruins your shot. This doesn’t mean you should not try. If you try often enough, you will get some results.

Pictured: [1] Image by Daniela Constantinescu. [2] Image by Daniela Constantinescu.

What inspires you?

I’ve been a member of 500px and Flickr for a long time, and these are the first places I go when I try to look for different subjects or locations. I also try to be organized and have bookmarked folders with links to the portfolios or websites of photographers who inspire me. Travel also provides a lot of inspiration and makes me think outside of the box. As a photographer, sometimes you are fascinated by light or even by shapes and volumes, but ultimately the emotion that you express in your images—the humanity of it—is what really matters and what makes a great photo.

5. “On my travels, I use either my Sony a7II or my Olympus E-M1. Both cameras offer great compact lenses in the area of 28-50mm.”

Shanti Hesse

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Osaka Metro

Image by Shanti Hesse. Gear: Sony a7II camera; Sony FE 28mm f/2.0 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/40 sec; f5; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This shot was taken in the metro in Osaka. I like the shot mainly for two reasons. On one hand, I simply like the combination of the motion blur metro and the guy standing still in the foreground. On the other hand, the picture means a bit more to me because it perfectly describes my Japanese metro experience, which was so remarkably different from every other subway I had taken before. The people in the trains are standing still, staring at their smartphones, and they are not talking (except for some whispers), as it is seen as impolite. At the same time, the metro is rushing under the skyscrapers. For me, this picture perfectly describes the entire situation.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

Based on my experience, it feels harder to take street shots in Europe, especially in Germany, where I am from, as people tend to be more attentive towards photographers and what they are doing with their cameras. So for shooting street “at home,” I mostly use a Ricoh GR, which is a really tiny and unobtrusive camera (28mm FF-equivalent; F2.8; APSC Sensor).

On my travels, I use either my Sony a7II or my Olympus E-M1. Both cameras offer great compact lenses in the area of 28-50mm. The Sony 28 2.0, Samyang 35 2.8, Panasonic 25 1.4, Olympus 25 1.2, Sony 55 1.8, even the Batis 25 2 without a hood are not what I would call large lenses.

I’ve had some situations in which I absolutely didn’t want to attract any attention, so I’ve selected the appropriate settings for my camera beforehand, and I’ve put my camera in the camera bag with just the front element of the lens looking out of the bag towards the scene. I then used my smartphone and the Olympus app (I shot with the EM-1, in this particular case) to get a proper frame and take the shots.

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Metro Station

Image by Shanti Hesse.

What inspires you?

I travel a lot, and this is for sure my number one source of inspiration. Especially in countries that do not belong to our Western world, there are so many things that people do differently. Oftentimes, it feels like moments are begging for me to freeze them in a shot.

6. “I prefer dark clothes and lenses that aren’t heavy and don’t have a focal length that is too large.”

Alexandra Lande

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Grandmother and Grandson

Image by Alexandra Lande. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, Lensbaby lens, additional tele-nozzle. Settings: Focal length 80mm; exposure 1/60 sec.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo was taken in downtown Varanasi, one of the sacred cities of India. The woman in this photo, who is holding her grandson, is a typical inhabitant of Varanasi. She looked so serious at first sight, but she was really kind and open to others, like all the people of India are. If she noticed me, she would smile and ask me to take her and her grandson’s portraits, not even demanding a picture afterward. Here, my aim was to capture a picture of her reality. I stood by the side of the road with a simple tilt-shift lens, watching for the passing people. The woman still does not know about this photo’s existence.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

I think that the main thing is to be patient, calm, and even-tempered. I prefer dark clothes and lenses that aren’t heavy and don’t have a focal length that is too large. This helps me to be imperceptible and to take portraits that look much more alive; the need to get closer helps me familiarize myself with the characters that I’m shooting. Sometimes I use tilt-shifts. Aside from the interesting effect, these lenses make it hard to determine what direction I’m aiming in, and that helps me to go unnoticed.

Pictured: [1] Image by Alexandra Lande.  [2] Image by Alexandra Lande. 

What inspires you?

The main inspiration for me is traveling, the feeling and freedom of the road. I also love to see life through the eyes of the people I meet on my way. But wild nature with no people around also inspires me a lot. I get inspiration from the works of painters, photographers of different genres, etc. I always try to see art museums and galleries in every city I visit.

7. “My equipment is a Nikon D4S, Samsung NX1, and Fujifilm X-Pro2. I always bring these three cameras.”

Muslianshah Masrie

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Chand Baori

Image by Muslianshah Masrie. Gear: Nikon D4S camera, Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 35mm; exposure 1/1000 sec; f5.6; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I photographed this local woman crossing the Chand Baori stepwell in Jaipur, India. It was built as a monument to the goddess of joy and happiness, Harshat Mata.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

My equipment is a Nikon D4S, Samsung NX1, and Fujifilm X-Pro2. I always bring these three cameras. I use the Nikon D4S with only three lenses: the Nikon 14-24mm f2.8, the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8, and the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8. I use the Samsung and Fuji as my backup equipment. These are amazing machines, and they always produce fantastic images for me. Everywhere I go, they are always beside me and inspire me to shoot.

In street photography, I believe the moment must be real, along with the expression of the subject. My trick is simple; I look with my heart deep inside the viewfinder. I look at every corner so I can capture the full story.

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Daily Life

Image by Muslianshah Masrie.

What inspires you?

Before I go to a new place or country, I refer to the best pictures from the area, and I also collect information and facts. I study the location and start in the early morning light. After that, I wait for an amazing moment.

Most of my pictures are inspired by the people and the culture of the country. I learn more about human life by traveling. My passion for street photography makes me excited about meeting new people and seeing new places. Finally, I can’t forget my family, my inspiration to be a great photographer.

8. “For street photography, I mostly use my old Nikon D3200 with a 35mm f/1.8 lens that is permanently attached to the camera.”

Jacek Wojnarowski

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Patience

Image by Jacek Wojnarowski. Gear: Nikon D3200 camera, 35mm f/1.8 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/160 sec; f3.2; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This situation was quite interesting; we were alone on a quiet street. In this snap, I chose to have an old industrial bridge and Georgian architecture in the background. I found the most appropriate angle to catch a person walking down the street, and I waited for a few minutes. The situation was funny because this gentleman was on the phone, and he was watching me. I tried to look busy, waited for the right moment, and I finally captured him. I was also fortunate to achieve eye contact.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

For street photography, I mostly use my old Nikon D3200 with a 35mm f/1.8 lens that is permanently attached to the camera. To achieve a good image, a photographer must blend in with the surrounding area and be a part of the scene. I never try to rush; I always take my time to examine the area, checking for the position of the sun, etc.

Clothing is also important, in my opinion. If I am planning to take photographs in a rougher area, I definitely won’t go there wearing a suit and tie. I try to integrate myself with the people in the areas where I choose to work so that people are more accepting of me rather than suspicious. While taking a photograph, I will often focus my eyes in another direction, avoiding eye contact. That way, I can get really close to my subject and achieve a more natural response, as they are not immediately aware that they are the subject of my attention.

Pictured: [1] Image by Jacek Wojnarowski. [2] Image by Jacek Wojnarowski.

What inspires you?

My inspiration comes when I’m on the street, hanging around, having a good time, interacting with people, and being a part of city life. Life is changing all the time, and that is inspiration on its own.

9. “I shoot my street photographs with a Canon EOS 5D Mark 4 with either the 70-200mm f/2.8 or 16-35mm f/2.8 lens.”

Keep Smiling Photography (Anatolii Zozulia)

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — City Sunrise

Image by Keep Smiling Photography (Anatolii Zozulia). Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark 4 camera, 24-70mm L class f/2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/400 sec; f7.1; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

One January morning, I was photographing an international delegation in Central Park when I saw the sun rising in between the avenues. It was quite a cold day, but I couldn’t resist the desire to run up a few blocks for a perfect view of the sunrise in the concrete jungle. I only had a few minutes left before this beautiful golden light faded away. I stopped on the street and started taking shot after shot after shot. I still remember how grateful I was for this beautiful morning.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

I shoot my street photographs with a Canon EOS 5D Mark 4 with either the 70-200mm f/2.8 or 16-35mm f/2.8 lens. Sometimes I also use a 24-70mm f/2.8. To be perfectly honest with you, if I spot a potentially great shot, I might be a little inconvenient for passersby. I don’t try to hide or become invisible; I do what I have to do at the moment, and that is to get a good photo. Most of the time, people don’t mind me being in their way. They actually smile or compliment my lenses.

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Unique Composition

Image by Keep Smiling Photography (Anatolii Zozulia).

What inspires you?

Every time I pick up my camera, I start to feel the buzz right away. I also get inspired by traveling to places that are rich in composition. It can be nature, architecture, or people—anything that is unique or has character to it.

10. “I choose the Nikon D3S and Nikon DF gear when I want to blend in with my surroundings. I will bring my favorite lenses: the Nikkor 24-70mm and Sigma Art 35mm 1.4.”

Amrul Azuar Mokhtar

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Street Soccer

Image by Amrul Azuar Mokhtar. Gear: Nikon D3S camera, Nikon 24-70mm lens. Settings: Focal length 24mm; exposure 1/500 sec; f11; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo was taken during my travels in Kathmandu, Nepal, in November 2016. While walking alone, I suddenly saw a group of kids playing street soccer in the evening. I approached the goalkeeper and made some friendly conversation. Luckily, they spoke English. I was sitting and waiting patiently for the right moment and light. I switched my camera to continuous shooting mode and shot in bursts of images to get the perfect photo.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

I choose the Nikon D3S and Nikon DF gear when I want to blend in with my surroundings. I will bring my favorite lenses: the Nikkor 24-70mm and Sigma Art 35mm 1.4. I quickly shoot multiple images of the same person; that way, I can get some surprising and spontaneous shots that I’d never have if I shot just one frame. I switch my camera to continuous shooting mode and shoot in bursts of images to increase my chances of getting that perfect shot.

Photography is about light. You’ve likely heard it a hundred times before. Sometimes we forget that when we are out of our comfort zone, but it’s important to remember that great photos need great subjects and great light. Sometimes I used my Speedlight SB 900 during situations where the light is lacking. During my travels, I always approach my subjects after the fact and introduce myself. I smile, make eye contact, and promote goodwill. Sometimes I use sign language. I’ve tried to overcome my fear and create better street portraits while traveling.

Pictured: [1] Image by Amrul Azuar Mokhtar. [2] Image by Amrul Azuar Mokhtar.

What inspires you?

I get inspired by watching and reviewing photography portfolios from my idols, like National Geographic photographer Winfield Parks, Sebastiao Salgado, and Joey Lawrence. I learn a lot from them!

11. “At present, I have a Sony RX100 IV. Usually, I also have a mini tripod if I need to make a long exposure or shoot some footage.”

Dutourdumonde Photography (Thomas Dutour)

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Italian Walkway

Image by Dutourdumonde Photography (Thomas Dutour). Gear: Nikon D90 camera, Nikon 18-200mm VR II lens. Settings: Focal length 18mm (equivalent to 27mm in 35mm format); exposure 1/40 sec; f14; ISO 250.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I was on holiday in Tuscany, Italy, and I was wandering the streets of San Gimignano when I noticed this beautiful and contrasty scene. I had to wait quite some time for someone to walk into my frame, as I wanted to add a touch of human interest.

What gear do you choose when you want to blend with your surroundings?

I like to have a good compact camera with me all the time. It is less conspicuous than a DSLR. At present, I have a Sony RX100 IV. Usually, I also have a mini tripod if I need to make a long exposure or shoot some footage.

The Best Gear for "Fly-on-the-Wall" Street Photographers — Shadows

Image by Dutourdumonde Photography (Thomas Dutour).

What inspires you?

I find inspiration almost anywhere. Even the most mundane scenes can become interesting with the correct light and composition. And of course, social media, especially Instagram, is a great place to follow inspiring photographers and stay up-to-date with new trends.

Top Image by Muslianshah Masrie.