Choosing the best street photography settings doesn’t need to be tricky,  these are my recommendations which you’ll tweak depending on the specific situation.

  • Camera mode: Aperture Priority or Manual – I prefer Manual
  • Aperture: f/8 and narrower
  • Shutter speed: Above 1/125s
  • ISO: 200 and higher 
  • Focus mode: Manual (zone focusing)
  • White balance: Auto

Aperture: I tend to set to a narrow aperture, typically f/8 aperture as a starting point and sometimes narrower.  You’re wanting to maximize your area of sharpness throughout the image.  Wider apertures (f/2.8) let in more light, create bright exposure in the shade or at night. Narrow apertures get more depth of field, so you’ll get greater sharpness throughout the scene.

Shutter Speed:  My favourite is 1/125s or above. As you know, things happen fast on the streets, and anything under 1/125s you’re risking camera shake and motion blur. Also, at 1/250s capturing images fast subject, such as a biker or a car is what you’d be looking for.

ISO: ISO affects image brightness. Unfortunately, while higher ISOs brighten up the scene, they also produce noise.  If you’re shooting in black & white, these can look good with noise – especially if you’re trying to capture Henri Cartier-Bresson style images.  If the light reduces, increase your ISO and if out at night, you could even be around 1600.

Focusing:  I focus my lens a few feet in front of the camera, wait until the subject enters the prefocused zone of sharpness (focused area – see image below), then hit the shutter button.

To calculate the “Depth of Field” for my focused area, I use PhotoPills DoF calculator. PhotoPills is an app which has a small one-off cost to purchase and is a go-to app I recommend for all photography genres. Select a focal length and an aperture, the PhotoPills app will give you the hyperfocal distance for those settings, which is the point at which you focus for maximum depth of field. Set your lens to the hyperfocal distance, and everything from half that distance to infinity will stay in focus – which is perfect if you want to keep as much of the frame as sharp as possible.

White Balance: Just use Auto.

What to learn more about Street Photography and the different techniques, check out Upcoming Street Photography Workshops:

  • Advanced Street Photography – click here
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson Style Street Photography – click here
  • Introduction to Street Photography – click here
  • Creative & Artistic Street Photography – click here

About Lesley Whyte

Lesley is a member of Australian Association of Street Photographers Incorporated and Australasia’s only woman street photography mentor offering a variety of street photography workshops in New Zealand and Australia; beginners, abstract, advanced two day and Henri Cartier-Bresson methodolgy two day.

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