Looking to learn the secrets of street photography? These six experts share their favorite tips and stories for capturing the vibrancy of city streets across the world.

In street photography, there are no do-overs. There are a million spontaneous interactions happening on the street at any given time, but most of them unfold in a matter of seconds. Take too long fumbling for the camera, and you could miss out on the shot of a lifetime. In the early 1950s, Henri Cartier-Bresson put it this way: “We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

The challenge of street photography is part of what makes it so appealing. Since the days of Cartier-Bresson, the tried-and-true genre has only attracted more devotees. On Instagram alone, you can find millions of photographs posted with hashtags like #streetphotographers, #ig_street, #capturestreets, #storyofthestreet, or #everybodystreet. As the street photography community grows, new voices enter the fold, and fresh ideas continue to emerge.

We asked six outstanding photographers to tell us some of their favorite stories from the street. Below, they take us on an adventure around the world, through Istanbul, Armenia, Thailand, India, Vietnam, and Tanzania. Throughout, they also share the useful tricks of the trade they’ve picked up along the way. Read on to learn more about capturing those fleeting, serendipitous moments that make street photography so special.

1. “The perfect moment could be gone in a second, so you must shoot quickly.”

Elena Ermakova

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Shoot Fast

Image by Elena Ermakova. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1.3 sec; f11; ISO 320.

What’s the story behind this photo?

I was going to shoot one of the most important Chiang Mai temples, Wat Phra Singh, at dusk. But the weather was awful for shooting: it was cloudy and rainy. The lighting was bad, and the raindrops were ruining everything. While I was hiding from the rain under a roof, I noticed a lonely monk walking across the temple grounds. His figure became a perfect spot of interest, and a long exposure added the dynamic of movement.

Elena Ermakova
Elena Ermakova

Pictured: [1] Elena Ermakova [2] Elena Ermakova

Pro Tip

Expect the unexpected, and keep your camera ready. Always keep an eye on what is going on around you. It is also good to make some preparations before shooting. Explore the location, and imagine what kind of photos you want to get. But in the end, the most important thing is to be ready to shoot something different than you have planned. The perfect moment could be gone in a second, so you must shoot quickly. Try to have your camera settings ready in advance, but even if you aren’t able to do that, take the shot anyway if you see the perfect picture.

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2. “To take powerful street pictures, you have to spend a lot of time outside.”

Serkan Senturk

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Photograph People in Their Natural State

Image by Serkan Senturk. Gear: Canon EOS 5D camera, 16mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/100 sec; f9.0; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photograph was taken in the historical neighborhood of Ortakoy in Istanbul. On that morning, the weather was foggy, and the light was dramatic, so I wanted to take a classic Istanbul picture in these conditions. However, I wanted at least one person in the photograph to give it some movement. I waited, and minutes later, a fisherman’s boat arrived, and I captured the scene at that moment.

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Spend Time Outside

Image by Serkan Senturk.

Pro Tip

To take powerful street pictures, you have to spend a lot of time outside. You need to blend into the environment and observe people discreetly. I like to photograph people in their natural state, and I never ask people to pose. You also need to be very quick when it comes to pressing the shutter-release button.

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3. “The time of day can offer a huge advantage for taking dynamic street photos.”

Rich T Photo (Rich Townsend)

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Watch Out for Opportunity

Image by Rich T Photo (Rich Townsend). Gear: Canon 5D camera, Canon 70-200 L lens. Settings: Exposure 1/640 sec; f3.2; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Get comfortable with the different focusing settings on your camera. I saw these kids running down a road in Stone Town, Zanzibar, out of the corner of my eye, and I jumped up and jogged after them while changing the focus setting on the camera to AI SERVO mode. I knew that as soon as I stopped behind the kids to shoot the image that the boys would be receding away from the camera, and I knew that I needed the camera’s focal point to track the movement of the central boy; otherwise, in the slight delay between the camera finding focus and the shutter lifting, the subject would have moved out of the focal plane and be slightly soft. This is more important the shallower your depth of field.

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Consider the Time of Day

Image by Rich T Photo (Rich Townsend).

Pro Tip

The time of day can offer a huge advantage for taking dynamic street photos. I usually shoot in either the early morning or during the last two hours of sunlight in the evening. This will not only help you control the dynamic range between the highlights and shadow areas of the photograph, but it’s also when there is the most “action” on the streets with people commuting to and from work.

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4. “Try to shoot against the light; that way, you’ll discover many interesting scenes.”

Artem Avetisyan

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Try Different Things with Light

Image by Artem Avetisyan. Gear: Nikon D7100 camera, AF-S Nikon 18-200mm f3.5-5.6 G ED lens. Settings: Focal length 200mm; exposure 1/60 sec; f16; ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is a perfect example of how it is possible to create a good shot without leaving home. I made this photo from my window. I noticed this dog on the roof of the garage. He was watching the passersby, and I caught this moment when the dog and the man were in the frame with their long shadows. In this case, I had no doubt that the image should be in black and white.

Artem Avetisyan
Artem Avetisyan

Pictured: [1] Artem Avetisyan [2] Artem Avetisyan

Pro Tip

I am guided primarily by intuition. I try to become a part of the city and feel it’s rhythm and mood. It’s very rare that I ask people to pose for me, as I like to shoot people with natural facial expressions. Try to shoot against the light; that way, you’ll discover many interesting scenes. Also, think about converting your photos to black and white; sometimes, color can be redundant and harm the image.

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5. “As I’m sure you’ve heard before, light is the most important part of your picture.”

Pablo Rogat

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Lose the Fear of Photographing People

Image by Pablo Rogat. Gear: Nikon D800 camera, Nikon 24-70 2,8 lens. Settings: Focal length 55mm; exposure 1/3200 sec; f2.8; ISO 250.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo was taken on my trip to Vietnam in 2013. In the streets of Hoi An, there is a very nice market where you can buy foods and other things. I just couldn’t resist the temptation of photographing every single person wearing those cool Vietnamese hats.

Pablo Rogat
Pablo Rogat
Pablo Rogat

Pictured: [1] Pablo Rogat [2] Pablo Rogat [3] Pablo Rogat

Pro Tip

First of all, you have to lose your fear of taking photos of people. You have two ways of doing this. You can talk to people first and ask for a photo, or you can just take their picture (but always with respect!). The second style is the one I choose in order to maintain the “candidness” of the scene and make it true “street photography.” I highly recommend a smaller kit for walking in the streets, both because of the weight and in order to call less attention to yourself. Always, always, always be aware of the light. As I’m sure you’ve heard before, light is the most important part of your picture. It’s hard to explain, I know, but when you see it, you just know.

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6. “I don’t have any secrets aside from the fact that I just enjoy looking at the people and life that surrounds me.”

Soloviov Vadym

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Enjoy Your Work

Image by Soloviov Vadym. Gear: Fujifilm X-E2 camera, 23mm FUJINON lens. Settings: Exposure 1/30 sec; f16.0; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Some frames surprise even me. One of them is a picture of the traffic in New Delhi, where we spent three days during our travels in India in August 2016. I had stopped at a “safe” spot in the middle of the road when I noticed this fast rickshaw driver going through the restricted red light.

6 Photographers Share Their Secrets for Successful Street Shots — Take Things as They Come

Image by Soloviov Vadym.

Pro Tip

I never leave the flat without a compact mirrorless camera. It’s light and mobile enough to shoot an interesting scene. I don’t specifically look for people, and many of the people in my pictures appeared there by accident. Many pictures also need editing so the viewer’s eye can go immediately to the intended area of the shot. Often it’s just cropping because it wasn’t possible to get closer to the subject. I don’t have any secrets aside from the fact that I just enjoy looking at the people and life that surrounds me. And the more I look, the more I learn to see the best moments.

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Top Image by Rich T Photo (Rich Townsend).