Sep 28, 2022

Street Photography Equipment - Everything You Need To Know (with Video)

From lenses to backpacks, boots to beanies, we'll go over everything you need to get started.

Hunter Scott
Hunter Scott
Street Photography Equipment - Everything You Need To Know (with Video)
What Gear Do You Need For Street Photography?

Gear is a guilty pleasure for all photographers - we love to say it doesn’t matter, but deep down we all know that our amazon wishlists are full of lenses, camera bodies, and gadgets. There’s so much demand for more gear that sometimes, marketers invent problems that don’t really exist - it can be difficult to get your head around what’s actually important. Your tripod probably doesn’t need a built in bluetooth speaker, for example. When it comes to the gear you need for street photography, here’s what we’ve learned over the years. 

Keep it simple

Photography and gear are like golfers and polo shirts - inseparable. On the street, you’re usually walking around for hours on end, so I like to keep my gear setups fairly minimal. The less you’re carrying around, the less weight on your back, and the smaller a bag you can take. This not only means you’ll get tired out quicker, but it’ll also mean that you’re more mobile. Having a small sling bag like the one I use, instead of a big backpack across both shoulders, is a huge improvement to my agility and ability to react quickly to a scene or subject unfolding in front of me. Speaking of bags…


What Gear Do You Need For Street Photography?

Camera bags come in all sorts of shapes and sizes - here’s an article of our favourites. In reality, you could get away with a plastic bag from your local grocery store if you needed to - but we both know that looking cool is half the fun! 

Your bag needs to fill a pretty simple purpose: carry the things you need, while getting in your way as little as possible. There are other perks that are nice to have as well - some level of water resistance, durability, and comfort are all things to think about when you’re choosing a bag for street photography. 

Personally, I use a Peak Design Everyday Sling - it’s super lightweight, and the sling style format stays well out of my way. I often have to check that I’m wearing it at all! For the kit that I use, it works great - though the model I have is slightly too small to fit my full frame DSLR. It’ll comfortably hold everything else I’ll run through in this guide, and it also checks all the bonus boxes when it comes to being sustainable, ethical, and well made. When I'm shooting something a bit bigger, or if I'm travelling, I am inseparable from my Peak Design Everyday Backpack (I use the 30L version since I use boomer-style chunky DSLRs)

Essentially, you should choose a bag that you’ll want to wear all day without it bothering you. As long as your gear fits in the bag, the rest is just nice to have. 

Cameras And Lenses

What Gear Do You Need For Street Photography?

If you’re unsure of what camera to take, or if you haven’t got one yet, you should have a look here: What is the best camera for street photography?

I strongly recommend that when you’re getting started on your street photography journey, that you only take one camera body, and one lens. This isn’t because it’s going to imbue you with the magical powers of “creative constraints”, but more that it’s way less crap to carry around, and it’s significantly less expensive to use one camera than two. It also helps with decision fatigue - you will inevitably miss shots in the time it takes you to swap a lens or switch to your secondary camera body. If I’m shooting street, I only ever have one camera, and one lens. If I’ve got my photojournalist hat on, or I’m shooting an event/documentary style, I use two camera bodies. 

Lens choice is so subjective that we wrote a whole article just on that: What focal length for street photography? 

However, the real basics are to pick something that you’re familiar with, so you’re quick, and something that you can visualise easily. Pre-visualising your frame before you lift the camera to your eye isn’t something that comes naturally, but you’ll get it with practice! I “see” in 28mm - I can point to where the corners of the frame will be exactly before I see through the viewfinder. I have peers who “see” in 35mm, or 50mm, or 85mm. Figuring out which focal length to go with can take some time, so if you’re just getting started, just pick the lens you’ve got that’s the easiest to use (and coolest looking).

Strap-on, strap-off

What Gear Do You Need For Street Photography?

Camera Straps are another very subjective area, but the same principles from camera bags apply: it needs to be comfortable, and hold your camera well. There are a few different approaches here.

The Traditional Camera Strap

This is your bog-standard around the neck strap that probably came in the box with your camera. They’re standard for a reason - they work great! They are very secure, super affordable, and keep your camera ready to go at all times. They do have a few drawbacks compared to our other options though, and many street photographers tend to upgrade to something that suits them a bit better.

Around The Shoulder

This is my preferred strap design. I use a Peak Design Slide - it’s very well made, and uses the Peak Design Anchors, little quick release discs that are very handy. Around the shoulder straps do exactly what it says on the tin, they go around your shoulder, like in the image below. 

The main advantage of these straps as opposed to the standard neck strap is that it takes the weight of the camera off your neck, and moves it to your shoulder. This is so much more comfortable, especially walking around the streets for hours. It’s also much easier to get the camera out of your way, by swinging it around behind you. This makes lunch breaks a lot less cumbersome. 

Wrist Straps

These are a much more compact solution than the other two - they secure the camera to your wrist, rather than your torso. Many photographers prefer a wrist strap as they’re super lightweight and don’t get in the way at all, leaving your shoulders free for backpack straps or piggyback rides. Wrist straps can range from looser, wii-mote style leashes, to tighter straps that effectively glue your hand to the camera body. The downside of these systems is that the camera can’t really dangle - it has to be held at all times, so if you’re grabbing a quadruple espresso, you’ll need to stow your camera in your bag. 

Or you could be an absolute madman and go strap-free, relying on your herculean grip strength and constant focus not to drop your prized camera into asphalt, lens first.


What Gear Do You Need For Street Photography - Sekonic Light Meter

Many photographers have little gear idiosyncrasies that are very specific to them - I carry clear sellotape for example (for fixing broken spectacles). For the most part, there are some general guidelines that you might find useful for bag-filling, and pocket-stuffing. Here’s a rapid fire list:

  • A permanent marker is always good to have (I use one for marking rolls of film)
  • A glasses/lens cloth, for cleaning and drying
  • A light meter if your camera does not have one
  • A multitool, in case something needs to be unscrewed or sliced
  • Film, SD cards, batteries, more batteries, spare batteries. Also batteries.

What Else?

Well, that’s kind of my point - less is more. New photographers often overcomplicate things when it comes to equipment. Really, all you need to take photos is a camera with some glass attached to it. The less you carry, the better. I tend to fill up the rest of my Everyday Sling with a bottle of water, snacks, and my Carhartt beanie (in case I shoot Portra 400). If it’s cold/raining/both, which is most of the time here in the UK, I’ll take gloves. 
Not having the “right” gear is an excuse not to get off your ass and go shoot! These days, street photography is growing in a big way, and coming back stronger than ever. There’s so much that needs to be documented, shared, and seen. If you’ve got a camera, get on the streets and see what you can find. Patience is key, and so is persistence. I also recommend beef jerky. The protein helps you focus (or something like that)
Here's a video I made where I discuss this in more detail: