Skip to main content

Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Lesson 8 of 20

The Gear You Need For Street Photography

Ashley Gilbertson

Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers

Ashley Gilbertson

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

8. The Gear You Need For Street Photography
Gear matters in street photography -- but perhaps not the way you think it is. A good street photography camera, whether film or digital camera, is simply a tool that helps you get the job done, whether that's a fancy Leica or an inexpensive camera and a prime lens or two. Ashley says, however, that you should know your camera inside and out. Street photographers also need to consider the conditions, traveling, and whether or not you need to be discrete when choosing gear.

Lesson Info

The Gear You Need For Street Photography

Some, you know, it's it's pretty often said, it doesn't matter what you shoot with that whatever camry, you know, the best camera that you have, um, is this in here? Yeah, so I was trying to work out, you know, what's the best camera, and I've got favorites, except I was thinking that what the best camera and it's, the camera that you have, right? And I was like, who said that? It turns out the guy who started this costs okay? That's good. So I don't really care what I'm shooting on. It doesn't, it doesn't affect me a cz long as I have a camera, as long as I have some sort of tool, whether it's, my phone or whether it's my role reflex, as long as I can shoot it doesn't matter. It's just a tool, you know, the way that I've been trained is that whatever you're using it's it's, interchangeable, like the act of taking a photograph is the important aspect how you actually treat people on dh on dh, engage with people is what's important? So the idea. Thank you. Um, so the idea of you know, t...

his is like the samurai thing again, like when you should be so comfortable with using a camera you should be shooting every day. You should be practicing every day um, again whether it's with the fun over the big camera you're carrying around it should become second nature. What it's an extension of you when you're walking down the street and you see a photograph, you're not thinking, how am I going to shoot this? You you see a photograph in your shooting, it you shouldn't, it shouldn't be a conscious thought at that point, it should be part of you and part of how you move the, um the you know, the model, the book in the book of five rings like musashi talks about sword becoming no sword it's where they practice swordsmanship so much that when actually in combat they're not thinking about swordsmanship, they're not thinking about howto defend or attack it's an organic and it's a fluid motion of how you work and it's the same thing with the camp like this thing shouldn't be something that you all could with it's just part of you and whether that's a phone or this or a roll effects it doesn't matter. Um, so I look at different conditions, I'm going to talk about my parents act, but I look at different conditions of where I'm going to be shooting like if I'm going to the south china sea, I'll bring, you know, like my my fugees that I bring but I'll also bring, like a camera that I could destroy, so I've got like an old cannon five d that I would use andi would put that in the wet bags, so when I jump in the ocean and photograph in the guise spearfishing cause they have to eat fish every day because they're stuck out in the ocean. There's no at the food, ask him like the main thing they missed about home, and they said, vegetables, vegetables about family, right? So I'll bring a five d because I, you know, I put in the wet bag and jump in just in case the wet bag floods, which it did, and you destroy the camera, then it doesn't matter it's, like I can replace a five day online for two hundred bucks or whatever. Where is it harder to replace one of your better cameras? I would look at how much I have to travel like I'm gonna be walking through, I'm not going hiking up mount rayna for a day. We're camping out there like how heavy do I want my equipment to bay? I'm not gonna bring a full by five on a on a hiking trip or in a jungle trip um do I need to be quiet? Dont be discreet while I'm shooting is a loud camera going to make any difference? Is that a really quiet environment? Is a giant camera going to be a draw too much attention over the attention be a good thing. Is this a good environment for a four by five camera or ah medium format camera like sometimes the attention actually helps um other times it could be an ice breaker so um had this opportunity to photograph for bloomberg businessweek I thought enough time cook apple um so I was in time cisco and I asked you know, the first question I always ask my editor is gonna shoot it on my roly flex which is that the camera that's why I've got this like amazing nineteen fifty five rolling flex two point eight f and it's my favorite camera like I looked all over the place to find one of these things that works really well I kept buying him off ebay and be an age and that they were always faulty so I ended up buying the only one that I knew worked perfectly which was my mental his camera um so I turned up to four and you know my editor when I was photographing tim cook said yeah show just meet the deadline you know, processing film scanning it adds time to your deadlines so when I was given permission by apple toe shoot they said, okay, you've got like ten minutes but then I turned up on the shooting I've got this old school camera I'm like I've got my one twenty film like fully into my pockets and about this role the flags and mr cook is like, is that all the thanks? I think my grandfather had one of those things and we start talking we talked about this crazy old camera and I'm photographing one of the titans of the tech industry and I'm photographing on a camera from nineteen fifty five on film and it's an ice breaker and it was like a conversation piece, so the ten minutes turns in a half an hour turns into forty five minutes and all of a sudden you've got this great portrait session with this person who are supposed to have ten minutes with I got lucky you can bank on it except you know things like this help um unfortunately aiken, huh? Not shooting that very often because everybody's deadline is too tight or it cost too much to shoot on film and digitals, chief all that sort of stuff. So this is my normal working kit. Um, I've got I guess this one so my bags but always wear around my hip um I don't like having like additional bags it's just gets throws me off when I'm shooting, but I'm like my favorite thing to shoot on this little tiny fugees because they're inexpensive, they're not like crazy crazy overpriced like some of the other range finder cameras that are out there and I'm very much of the mind that I need to be putting myself into these like awkward and, you know, at times difficult and challenging situations that my cameras might get trashed all stolen or broken or whatever, you know, wet uh just destroyed so if I break one of these I can replace it if I break like a like a have to sell my car to get another one, you know? So I'm not disposable by any means except, you know, they worked beautifully I'm really fast with it and they're really, really quiet and to me because long as they are reliable, which they are then uh, it's like the perfect thing for me to shoot on, so I try to keep my kid as small as I possibly can because, like I say that like, I don't want to obsess over gear I'd rather obsess over the story, which does you probably getting a sense of I do pretty well, um so I just carry the basic stuff like business cards, as you can see that's the prescott you see my black eye if you could see that I always have batteries uh extra batteries on dh always have backup flash cards like you I'm pretty forgetful of times because I'm so caught up in the story I'll just grab like this and hope that everything's there so I have to stop in double check because if you turn up on a job and you're missing a flash card it's pretty embarrassing you have to go home and you're missing everything whatever else is shooting um you know like little things like I the donkey pouches of great because they're fast that it's like velcro opening closing straps but black messenger pouches they use their actually waterproof and wait out for the most of the camera equipment so I like that stuff because it's waterproof there but they feel like they're bombproof fake their last forever so I used I used that and then always have a note pad and obviously I smoke on my passport because you never know although it doesn't really matter what camera you're using some cameras that are better for the job than other cameras so I'm sure that you guys have favorite clamorous I'd love to hear why they might be your favorite. I mean, I think the chase is thing about what other camera you have is the best one is totally spot on, but in an ideal world what is it that you guys like shooting on why e can start um I'm a studio person I started with eleven by fourteen and I've been working my way down now I guess thirty five millimeter heavy cameras I've tried mere listen, they're too light for me I like the bulk thie cameron I like something that I'm looking through so that's where I am right now but I've just picked up a little mirror list that I'm starting to work within but the really let right but I really like to hold him steady I know that's the thing could, especially when they don't view finders holding the camera out here is strange, but it brings me back to the view camera though where you're on you could be on the side and engage with the person separately keeps me from looking through the viewfinder that brings up a really good point. I've told me that you're totally right that's actually something that I love about the little screens on the back on the roll reflex like I've always loved the role if lex because you're looking down into the viewfinder so you focus and then like you're looking at the person and you're talking to the person like eye contact and you're shooting pictures while you're doing it and with these screens you could do sort of the same thing like you can fight you pre focus and then like it's almost away like I'm shooting through the finder a lot except like that I'm using it almost like I would use a medium or a large format camera um and that's but that brings up the danger I think of digital, which is champing people shouldn't chimp like dutch him um the difficulty of being photographed in my opinion eyes this subject sometimes of pictures um is that I feel like it's easy to be objectified as a subject, you know, which is why as I don't call people subjects way cool people people like that people were photographing other people right there, not subjects is like a weird thing like I'm on creative coals with commercial jobs they call it talent don't call the talent talent, you know, kidding, but calling people subject is even stranger I mean, sometimes you just have to but tb photographing somebody and looking in the eye and engaging and taking their picture and like having this amazing level of engagement with him and then stopping and looking at the back your camera and like going through it like, first of all, I'm thinking, what the hell you doing? What I look like, um, you're breaking that contact like when you pick up the cameras, start shooting again like a just a few more you've got to re establish this engagement so you completely break it I mean, I'm old for getting exposure, right, checking it once and then work, you know, but spending I see it, I see it a lot I see a lot of people stopping what they're doing champion in the back of the screen and missing stuff that's happening around them and also breaking the engagement most importantly they have with the subject so have respect you know have respect for the people that you're shooting I have respect for the image that you're making of them and making sure the exposure's writings up in other things you know tried some elektronik viewfinder cameras lately and I'm very disconcerting when I press the button and I seeing the image in the viewfinder now and I'm thinking this subject stop reacting to me no no no I'm realized I'm looking at the picture I took and it took me a while to get used to that so I'm still back to the slr with the mirror for myself right now right? Thinking I haven't my fuji as well and you could turn it off the automatic playback thing I just had to turn it off because I did the same thing like oh my god everything fries um I too started with film I started with a pentax that my dad got me when I was a teenager andi I still do sometimes she with film I have some plastic cameras use and when I go on photo walks and stuff like that but I usually shoot with my nikon d seven thousand so I still shoot on the crop because I don't want to go heavy but I recently got rid of my sim lenses because I've I found out that I just stay on my prime lenses and nearly always shoot with my thirty five it does matter what I'm shooting I and it forces me to get close it doesn't matter what I'm doing you know and sometimes if I wanted to do something different I put on my my lens baby lens so um but I haven't I haven't gone full frame because it's heavy on dh so that's that's what I'm sticking with what I like doing the film because it makes me makes me stop I'm not I'm not looking at a work you know you know I don't have the chance to light job it's great right? It makes me stop and it makes me go back to what I used to do you know, right? Stack but yeah, and the idea of fixed lines is I'm I'm a firm believer in as well and I know there's like john stanley you know who's she's with seven and shoot a lot for the geographic john no john chutes on primes, but he also shoots on zooms and I don't know how he could do it but he's far more disciplined than I am ed cash as well it's another one who uses zooms a lot like a twenty four to one of five I think I can't use it like my pictures is fall apart. I'm not I'm good with thirty five, I'm okay with thirty five, I'm okay with fifty, except outside of that, like my pictures start getting sloppy, that you tied the lacking engagement. It's, I guess, each, to their own, except the zoom lenses to me, gives me too much choice, right, right. I also recently got a marylise haven't got the hang of it yet. You teo practice, get used to it. Yeah, definitely.

Class Description


  • Confidently approach strangers for street photography
  • Refine your eye for strong compositions
  • Choose the right gear for street photography
  • Tell a story through street photography
  • Write captions to accompany your work
  • Cull and edit your street photography images
  • Use street photography tips for building a career


Find the courage and skill to photograph strangers in public. Work with renowned street photographer Ashley Gilbertson to build both the confidence and skills necessary to succeed as a street photographer. Learn how to capture people moving through everyday life in artistic ways. Find out how to approach people in the street -- and how to photography anonymously in public places when everyone says no.

From understanding gear and the nuances of focal length to working as a documentary photographer in a public space, take your passion for street photography to the next level. This class isn't for beginners learning shutter speed and aperture for the first time -- it's for anyone that's ever wanted to work in street photography but struggles to build the courage to do so.

Watch behind-the-scenes videos following a real street photographer in action. Hear tales -- and see sample images -- of street photography across the United States and abroad, including major cities like New York and Chicago. Build captions and edit images with Photomechanic and Adobe Lightroom Live. Dive into an art form that reveals the complexity of human nature with Street Photography: The Art of Photographing Strangers.


  • Intermediate photographers eager to try the street photography genre
  • Enthusiast photographers branching into documentary style photography
  • Advanced photographers struggling to come out of their shell to approach strangers

SOFTWARE USED: Adobe Lightroom 6.0


Australia born photographer Ashley Gilbertson is a well-respected documentary style artist that many consider among the best street photographers. From working on editorial shoots to personal projects, his work has earned him an Emmy nomination, the Robert Capa Gold Medal, and an American Society of Magazine Editors Ellie award. The street photographer is also the author of two photography books and a regular writer for publications like The New York Times and The Washington Post. Based in New York City, Ashley's work has been featured in major publications as well as museum and art galleries around the world. 



I have taken more than a few of the Creative Live courses. I have, in general, found all of them to be very good and I have learned something important from them all. Not always enough of exactly what I was looking for, but something useful and important. This course was absolutely amazing. The best I have taken. I would like to download it and see it again and again. Ashley's style was authentic, humble, yet confidence inspiring. The information he gave was focused and totally useful. He shared both philosophy and thinking as well as real tools to learn - whether they be soft stuff (like how to approach someone) or hard stuff (like gear and settings and such). I cannot recommend this class highly enough. If you want to learn to do "humanistic photography" (his term which resonated with me), this is best I have ever taken!


This was a terrific and wonderful class. Ash was superb. His stories were awe inspiring, his passion was evident and his ability to teach was flawless. I would take any other class by him and actually can't wait for more of the VII agency programs eminating from Ron's class during photo week 2015. A great great addition to Creative Live's orbit.


Wow, I loved this course - I watched the whole thing, and most of it twice, during the first run. Ash is is intriguing, a good teacher, honest. I found this class to be so inspirational. I especially loved his encouragement about talking to strangers, asking to take their picture- "what's the worst thing that could happen?" And the videos watching him in action were motivating- you saw him make connections but also saw him get rejected too, but he keeps such a positive outlook. Love this class, please more photojournalism!