Street Photography 101: Preset your camera

When you are walking the streets, all the while looking for an image making opportunity, the last thing you want to do is have to fiddle around setting exposure, focus, ISO etc when the image of a lifetime unfolds before you! For this reason, I always make sure I have my camera set up and ready to take a picture as soon as I see something about to happen.

The image below, although not involving any fast moving action, is a case in point.

“Waiting for the Games”, Birmingham, England, 2021 (Fujifilm X-Pro3, XF35mm F2, 1/500s @ f/8.0, ISO 160)

Birmingham is to be host to the Commonwealth Games in 2022 and in Centenary Square a clock has been erected showing the countdown to when the games begin. This square is a favourite haunt of mine for street images as there is always lots going on. I saw this chap sitting by the clock, watching life go by and thought it might make an interesting image. I moved around to the back of the man to get him and the clock in but was worried he would get up at any moment and walk away so being able to fire off a couple of images as quickly as possible when I was in position ensured I got my shot. Actually, in this case, I needn’t have worried as the guy was clearly enjoying the sights and in no hurry to move off but better to be safe than sorry!

If you look at many of my recent images you will see they all have very similar settings. I usually set my camera as follows for an average bright but cloudy day:

  • Shutter speed: 1/500s
  • Aperture: f/8.0
  • ISO: Auto (160 – 1600)
  • White Balance: Auto
  • Focus Mode: Continuous
  • Metering: Multi
  • Focus Area: Single Point
  • Image Quality: RAW + Fine

I find that a shutter speed of 1/500s is enough to freeze most motion on the street and f/8.0 gives sufficient depth of field to get what I want in focus. If it’s very bright then I use a 1/1000 shutter speed and if it’s more overcast I might open the aperture up to f/5.6 or f/4.0 if I need to.

I use Fujifilm cameras which allow you to select the ISO range when set to auto. In order to keep noise manageable I usually make the max. ISO 1600 but might choose 3200 if it’s really dull or it’s dusk.

Fujifilm cameras also have a number of film emulation modes. As I convert most of my street photographs to black and white I set the emulation to Fujifilm Acros. This means I see a black and white image in the (electronic) viewfinder. If I want to see what the image looks like in colour I can switch to the optical viewfinder (on the X-Pro3) and see world in colour, one of the advantages of having dual EVF and OVF.

I find these settings work for me most of the time but it’s important to experiment to see what works for you.

Go to previous Street Photography 101 post.

2 Replies to “Street Photography 101: Preset your camera”

  1. […] was trying to catch a nap on the concrete step. I took a couple of quick shots (luckily having preset my camera) not really knowing if I had anything worthwhile keeping. It was only when I got home and looked at […]

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