Camera Setting for Capturing Street Photos – Sony Alpha A7RIII and A9

Camera Setting for Capturing Street Photos - Sony Alpha

This movie Tutorial takes a look at the optimum camera settings for shooting Street Photography.

The tutorial and resulting recommendations draws on the ‘Sunny 16’ and the ‘F/8 and be there’ rules. The concept behind choosing these Manual Settings is to remove the need to focus and adjust exposure when capturing decisive moments.

The Tutorial covers the following settings:

  • Shooting Mode, Shutter Speed and ISO
  • Focus Mode, Aperture and Recommended Focusing Distance to achieve sharp focus
  • Silent Shooting, silencing Audio Signals and Monitor Brightness
  • Recommended Function Menu Settings

Why you should consider using these Settings

As a young commercial photographer I became skilful at intuitively adjusting Exposure Compensation before framing the shot (no LCD panels were available on film cameras to review or preview the shot) and Kodachrome transparency film had a dynamic range of not much more than five stops. The thing that most photographers tried to avoid was blowing the highlights. The exposure for the scene above (before the woman with the white dress walks through the screen) would typically meter at three stops higher (as most of the scene is not lit by the sun). In this instance using the constant Live View of the Sony Mirrorless camera would not help me. If I were metering off just the scene the woman’s dress would be blown out. The need to make constant exposure compensations in Auto Exposure mode would either lose me some of the shots or remove the ability for me to capture the moment decisively. There is, of course, no need to constantly adjust exposure if the ambient lighting is constant.

Many photographers in my early days of SLR photography (including the famous war photographer Don McCullen) used a hand-held light meter. The idea with a hand-held meter is that you can measure the brightness of the light source (the ambient light) rather than the reflected light from your subject (which is a variable that a camera’s meter must average out). This removes any need to constantly adjust exposure if the level of light is constant. Nick Hedges, one of my own photographic tutors, took this one step further and learned to accurately guess the level of light for a broad range of situations. For black and white photography this led to all exposures on the contact sheet being exposed the same. If the first image on the roll of film needed a 10 second exposure in the darkroom – they all needed the same exposure. I quickly learnt that in some instances adjusting exposure for the ambient light was a huge time saver.

This article also pays homage to another ‘rule’ – one called the ‘f/8 and be there rule’ which basically says the moment is more important than the camera settings – which is ideal for street. Most of my current commercial photography does not now use these camera settings. I often work with prime lenses set to at, or near, their maximum aperture and telephoto zooms shooting action at their maximum aperture. This is where all of the bells and whistles that Sony have to offer come in handy 🙂

Mark Galer is a Global Imaging Ambassador for Sony, an experienced educator and an Imaging Ambassador for Adobe. As well as public speaking he offers training in the form of creative workshops and one-on-one training.