The Ultimate Guide How to Shoot Flash Street Photography

Why flash?

Flash. Ricoh GR II, popup flash, P mode. Tokyo, 2017

Benefits of flash in street photography:

  1. Separation of subject from background. You can cause your subject to “pop out” from the background (figure to ground composition principle).
  2. Increased contrast and saturation in your subject (makes for more aesthetically pleasing pictures).
  3. More drama, dynamism in your street pictures.
  4. No blur or out of focus: Shooting with a flash in street photography (with the right settings) will eliminate blur and out-of-focus pictures.

Misconceptions of flash in street photography

There is this wrong conception that you shoot street photography with a flash to scare people, and to get ‘shocked’ reactions in a street picture. This is incorrect.

This is what happens when you shoot street photography with a flash:

  1. You identify person you want to take a street photo of.
  2. You take a picture of them with a flash.
  3. They notice that you’ve taken a picture of them (because they saw the flash).

This is NOT what happens when you shoot street photography with a flash:

  1. You identify person you want to take a street photo of.
  2. They have a scared expression from the flash.
  3. You take a picture with a flash.

In other words,

When you see a street photograph of someone looking ‘scared’ in a picture, it is because the subject saw the street photographer about to take the picture. The subject is responding to the forward movement of the street photographer, not the action of the flash or picture-taking itself.

I know my explanation is bad, let me try to explain better.

Can a person react before the flash fires?

If you shoot 2 pictures with a flash, then the second picture can show them being shocked from the flash.

  1. Subject is oblivious to you.
  2. You shoot first street photo with a flash.
  3. Subject notices you taking you taking a picture of them with a flash, and gets startled or scared.
  4. You shoot another picture with a flash, and therefore the second picture you shot has your subject looking afraid or scared.
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