The Most Important Camera Setting for Street Photography [Super-Takumar 28mm f3.5]

Images shot with Super-Takumar 28mm f3.5

I got a new phone the other week. #humblebrag. My old one had very few camera options and settings, but I didn’t need many anyway.

I don’t do much street photography with my phone, and it was plenty good enough for pictures of food and other throwaway stuff for tweets when I wanted them.

My new one has plenty more camera settings to play about with. Some more useful than others. Being able to choose monochrome before taking a picture is handy, but I’m not sure I’ll ever use ‘Group Selfie’ mode.

However, it was two of the other camera settings that stood out to me the most. They were ‘Manual Mode’ and ‘RAW’.

So you can shoot in manual mode and RAW. On a phone. I wonder, outside of just seeing how they work, will anyone ever use them though?

I don’t even use them on my actual camera. If I do start doing some street photography with my phone, I’m pretty sure I’ll be using ‘Auto’ mode.

Still, it got me thinking about the settings I do use on my camera – and which is the most important for my street photography, and why.

The camera settings I use for street photography

Every setting on your camera is there for a reason.

Some will help you get the right focus or exposure. Others will help you get the right depth of field or shutter speed. Others still will help you not blast your subject’s face off with the flash.

I could go on, but I won’t. I can’t. Because I haven’t thought about most camera settings for years now.

Yes, pretty much every camera setting is there to help you get the best shots you can, so it’s good to learn what they do. If you’re anything like me though, you’ll then set most of them to suit how you shoot and never touch them again.

Because I use vintage lenses which are all manual focus, I shoot in aperture priority mode.

So the only things I ever really change are:

  • the aperture value (on the lens)
  • the ISO value
  • monochrome or colour

Everything else is set-it-and-forget-it.

Don’t spend / waste too much time and mental energy worrying about your camera settings.

Choose the lens you want. Head outside with your camera and turn it on. Have a great day shooting. Return home with a load of shots you’re happy with.

And in that paragraph was a clue to the most important camera setting for your street photography.

The single most important camera setting for your street photography

The single most important camera setting for your street photography is the most simple one.

It only has two options. On and off.

Camera on, and camera off.

None of the other settings on your camera, whether you know what each and every one of them does or not, will ever be as important as this one.

This one that can make all the others redundant.

Knowing which metering mode or focus mode or drive mode would be best in a given situation is useless if your camera is sitting in your drawer, switched off.

I get it. It’s not the most groundbreaking theory. Of course you can’t take photographs if you don’t turn your camera on.

But if you want to progress as a street photographer and you’re dreaming rather than doing, that switch needs flipping to ‘ON’.

The one in your head as well as the one on the camera.

You can forget all your other settings, if you want. You can shoot in ‘Auto’ and do great street photography. But only if you stop reading this, get out of your chair, and get out there and shoot.

That means switching this screen off, and switching yourself and your camera ON.

… p.s. if you found this post on camera settings for your street photography useful and think others will too, why not share or pin it?

Got a new camera and don't know how to use it? Need help? Come read this and learn the single most important camera setting for your street photography.
written by
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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