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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials Part 6

f/5.6: A Useful Aperture Setting for Street Photography

In street photography, the ideal aperture setting is one that allows you to capture a good shot of a large variety of subjects. With its moderate depth-of-field, f/5.6 can be used in a wide range of scenes, from close-ups to telephoto shots. Find out more about its benefits in this article. (Reported by: Teppei Kohno)

Building on street

f/5.6, 1/640 sec, ISO 200

 

What kind of default aperture setting is best for street photography?

In street photography, you usually don't have the luxury to keep changing your camera settings. From chance encounters on the streets to unexpected picture-perfect moments, many of your photo opportunities are likely to be fleeting moments that won't wait. A few split seconds spent adjusting the camera could mean an opportunity lost.

The ideal aperture setting (in Aperture-priority AE mode) would therefore be one that allows you to get the best picture of the largest variety of subjects and scenes.

Creative effects aside, the "best picture" generally is sharp and in-focus with a clear subject matter. I find f/5.6 a useful default aperture setting for achieving this, because:

- It gives a moderate depth-of-field
The subjects in front of you up to a medium distance away are captured sharply and in detail, but there is a faint bokeh effect that helps to draw attention to the subject. This is the same for any focal length, regardless of whether you are taking a close-up or a telephoto shot.

- It is still wide enough to shoot at a decently fast shutter speed
This helps you to avoid camera shake. For example, the photo at the top of the page was taken with a shutter speed of 1/640 second, just enough to freeze the vehicles.

f/5.6

Street with passers-by captured with foreground bokeh

f/5.6, 1/1600 sec, ISO 200
Shot at f/5.6. A natural-looking street shot, since there is only a very mild bokeh effect to it.

f/2.2

f/2.2, 1/8000 sec, ISO 200
Shot at f/2.2. There are more out-of-focus areas, which can make the image look unnatural.

 

Bonus technique: Use diagonal composition to draw out the idea of motion

Maintaining horizontality and verticality is a fundamental principle of composition. The first photo you see below follows this principle: Notice how the horizontal lines of the street  and the veriical lines created by the building are perfectly straight. It makes the shot look stable.

However, such stability can also make the shot look too still and boring. One way to get around that while using the same exposure settings is to simply tilt your camera so that the lines form a diagonal composition instead.

Tip: Try this with subjects moving in different directions, and see how it changes the impact. While you're at it, why not share the shot with us on My Canon Story for a chance to be featured?


For more information about diagonal composition, check out this article:
Simple But Essential Compositions (Part 2):Centre Composition & Diagonal Composition

Building in front of zebra crossing, perfectly straight

Shot taken with the pedestrian crossing placed horizontally. The composition is well-balanced but there is no sense of motion.

Tilted shot of building

Shot taken with the pedestrian crossing tilted. The white lines of the pedestrian crossing are emphasised, imparting a sense of rhythm to the photo.

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Not sure how to change your aperture settings? Click here for step-by-step instructions.

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Want to capture street photos that are uniquely you? It helps to know how to make the best of your camera! Get some ideas in these articles:
EOS 80D Shooting Techniques: Street Photographs
Sunrise, Sunset: Achieving Dramatic Contrasts in Street Photography
3 Ways to Use the EOS M6 for Stylish Shots of Urban Landscapes
 

Fast, sharp and lightweight, a standard prime lens is a must-have for street photography lovers. Here are some to consider adding to your kit:
Lens Impressions: RF35mm f/1.8 Macro IS STM in Street Photography
Field Testing the EF-S35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM
EF50mm f/1.8 STM: A Review with Useful Composition Tips
EF-S24mm f/2.8 STM: A Pancake Lens That Brings About New Perspectives

 


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Teppei Kohno

Teppei Kohno

Born in Tokyo in 1976, Kohno graduated with a Social Work degree from the Department of Sociology of Meiji Gakuin University, and apprenticed with photographer Masato Terauchi. He contributed to the first issue of photography magazine PHaT PHOTO and became an independent photographer after that, in 2003. The author of many books, Kohno not only shoots all sorts of commercial photographs, but also writes prolifically for camera and other magazines.

http://fantastic-teppy.chips.jp