Everything you need before starting a professional street photography career

Street photography portrays everyday life subjects in their most natural state within a public backdrop. Consequently, it is your job as a street photographer to tell a story and convey emotions through realistic and striking photos. 

So how do you get started in street photography? You’ll find out as you read on.

image of people walking in an outdoor plaza by a river in a city, and its reflection on a smooth building nearby.

How much do street photographers make?

It’s the 21st century, and you best believe street photographers are constantly cashing in on their trade through diverse income streams. Considering the level of concentration and attention that goes into taking high-end candid shots, just how much do street photographers make? 

Street photographer salary. 

According to ZipRecruiter, the annual salaries of street photographers in the US range from as high as $82,000 to as low as $16,000. While most street photographers in the United States earn between $27,000 and $44,500, top earners make around $62,000. Evidently, when approached correctly, street photography can be extremely rewarding.

However, the salary of a street photographer varies depending on factors such as skill level, location, niche, and years of experience. While there is no set salary structure for street photographers, many street photographers have managed to earn a living from their craft successfully.

Street photography demographic data.

Photography is a rapidly growing industry that has evolved into one of the most competitive professions, generating billions of revenue annually. The photography industry includes photographers from various socioeconomic backgrounds, including hobbyists, students, and employees.

According to our 2022 photography industry report, three photography specializations scored highest, notably portraits (19.3%), landscapes (11.4%), and weddings (8.7%). Other subsequent high-ranking categories were fine art, events, and sports. 

While there’s the creative aspect of photography, there’s also the business aspect that involves selling your craft. On this side, the word-of-mouth method of bagging new client acquisitions remains undefeated with 61%. Other top sources for new client acquisition include portfolio websites (40%), Instagram (38%), Facebook (25%), and Google searches (22%).

Street photography gear.

As a street photographer, you want to make sure that nothing interferes with shooting distinctive photos of everyday life in motion. The proper gear boosts your chances of producing picture-perfect photographs, whether you’re shooting landscapes, portraits, or candid shots. Here’s an overview of what your street photography gear should include. 

hand holding camera lens not attached to camera body, with the foggy park scene reflected upside down

Best lens for street photography.

In street photography, where photographers must move rapidly to capture an exciting point of action, the type of lens you use influences the look and quality of your shot in various ways.

Depending on what you want, you can choose between using prime, or zoom lenses. While prime lenses provide a natural eye perspective and their compact nature, prime lenses are perfect for photographers who have to capture shots on the go. Prime lenses tend to be lighter, and faster than their zoom counterparts making them a popular choice. Zoom lenses are beneficial when you can’t get near enough, or need to have a variable focal length to achieve the look you want when crafting a narrative. 

Street photographers will often opt for a wide angle of view such as 16mm or 28mm in order to bring more of the scene into the image. That being said having a range of a few focal lengths will let you control how close you need to get to the action of the scene without obstructing what is happening.

camera held close to the ground on a wet street, with the city scene showing on the digital display of the camera back

Best street photography camera.

With different cameras on the market today, deciding which camera is best for you can get pretty overwhelming. To narrow your options down, it is best to opt for a portable and lightweight camera for ease of movement.

Mirrorless, DSLR, point and shoot, and film cameras are common street photography camera options. These cameras, each with their own pros (and cons), are game changers for street photographers. It all hinges on your photography style and what you want to achieve with your images. 

photographer's hands placing a camera lens into a camera bag

Best camera bag for street photography.

Camera bags are essential for all photographers, regardless of niche. Whether you prefer a backpack, a shoulder sling, or a waist bag, you should always consider your camera’s safety and the ease of carrying the bag. 

While it is okay to look stylish, the best camera bags for street photography are easily accessible, can fit your equipment, are discrete to a degree, and are of great quality in the face of various weather conditions.

hands holding a medium format 120mm film canister and preparing it to be placed into the back of the open camera in front of them

Best film for street photography.

While digital cameras are fantastic, there’s just something about the slow and deliberate process of shooting on film. This is precisely what makes it such a viable street photography choice.

You can use either fast (high ISO/ASA) or slow (low ISO/ASA) films, depending on your shooting style and technique. Fast for capturing a fleeting moment and slow for wide-angle photos. In addition, each film stock has colors and tones, but it is best to stick with one or two to keep your photographs consistent.

How to make money as a street photographer.

Who would have guessed that shooting everyday life in its natural state could one day earn you money? It’s no surprise that most street photographers are constantly looking for a way to turn their passion for capturing unique images into a profitable business. 

Making money as a street photographer, like any other form of business, depends on your ability to sell. If you’ve ever wondered why the most seemingly average works sell, it’s because of effective marketing. 

In a crowded career space, striving to stand out is important. You can go about it by carving a niche for yourself and focusing on an area with significantly less competition. When you specialize in a specific genre of photography, you have a better chance of improving your skills in that area. 

Below are some practical ways to monetize your street photography skills. 

person showing a the back of their camera to a few other people

1. Teach street photography. 

Teaching street photography is a lucrative approach to monetizing your expertise. To get started, have a solid foundation of technical knowledge and share images that best reflect your unique perspective; these will help convince people to register for your class. You can accomplish the latter by refining your portfolio and Instagram profile, sharing some tips in video reels and stories, and deciding the field of photography you want to teach.

fujifilm x-T2 camera with extra battery pack attached to base and a 50mm lens, resting on a table in golden light

2. Review photography products. 

Many photographers rely on product reviews of photography accessories to choose what best suits their needs. You can leverage this by sharing your technical expertise and reviewing popular photography accessories such as cameras, lenses, and flashes on platforms like YouTube and earn money in the process.

image of street photography portfolio website on a laptop and mobile phone

3. Market with your website.

In the same way that other creators earn money by selling their work on their websites, you can do the same as a street photographer. Building a street photographer website allows you to showcase your work in one place to potential buyers. This feature makes the buying process easy for customers.

fine art street photographs displayed on white gallery exhibitionwalls

4. Art exhibitions and galleries.

As a street photographer, displaying your work in nearby galleries or putting it up for art exhibitions is a surefire way to make some cash. To stay up to date, you need to be brimming with creative street photography ideas to produce high-quality images that will undoubtedly grab attention.

glowing sun setting in an orange sky, its light reflecting on the skyscrapers and train tracks running between them

5. Sell on stock photography sites. 

Stock photography sites are an excellent way to make money with your street photographs. With an audience of companies and businesses, you are paid before your photo is used. It helps to submit your photographs to numerous stock photography sites, detailing your work as thoroughly as possible. A few well-known sites include Shutterstock, iStock, and Unsplash.

hand holding mobile phone with social media logos displayed on the screen

6. Use social media.

Social media is a platform for sharing, but as a street photographer, you can kill two birds with one stone by sharing your work and earning money. Most professional photographers promote and sell their work on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. It’s a win-win!

Bottom line.

Taking on a career in street photography is an exciting path, especially if you have a natural eye for recognizing the beauty in things that seemingly look normal or average. With the right photography gear, a killer portfolio, and a carefully laid out marketing strategy to market yourself and your photos, your street photography career will surely level up. 

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