Photography tips: How to capture everyday life

Taken aback by an intoxicating street scene, but disappointed when your photos don't capture the magic? Photographer Victoria Alexander reveals her tips for great street shots

5 mins

1. Get the light right

To get good real-life photography, be prepared to put in the time. The magic hours – the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset – are great for shooting outside, free of harsh shadows. In the middle of the day, when the sun is harsh, consider photographing indoors.

I capture anything that catches my eye, all the time watching the corners of the frame, moving for the sake of light and colour within the frame.

2. Gain people’s trust

To get a good portrait you must gain your subject’s trust – even if only for a minute. Don’t just point the camera, joke with them. They are people not curiosities. If you’re having fun, your subjects will too.

I ask myself what makes this place different, who are these people? I’m looking to tell an emotional story, one that’s going to matter, one that brings about cultural understanding. I always wander slowly, looking for special moments, fully attuned to my surroundings. I follow my instincts and observe the light. It’s important to feel fully present; to be in the moment.

Feeling inspired? Don't forget to enter Wanderlust's Travel Photo of the Year competition! You could win £3000 or a photography trip to Western Australia... 

3. Don’t get hung up on equipment

It’s not about having an expensive camera. Also, a small point-and-shoot can be less intimidating than a large SLR, so a great tool for taking portraits. It’s not the equipment it’s the way you see things.

Morocco tannery (Dreamstime)
Morocco tannery (Dreamstime)

4. Think about composition

An interesting photo needs compositional order, colour, shape and contrast. Diagonal lines add movement and lead a viewer into the picture; contrast between background and subject can bring an image to life. Learn the ‘Rule of Thirds’: divide your shot into nine equal parts using two vertical lines and two horizontal ones and place points of interest on the line intersections.

5. Be a responsible photographer

Do your research, to make sure you’re not going to cause offence by taking photos in certain scenarios. Develop the confidence to ask before taking a photo – most people are flattered at being noticed and humbled if you like their home. Watch people’s body language; do not disturb someone who looks like they do not want to be disturbed.

I ask permission before taking a portrait, often just with clear eye contact, a smile and a gentle point in the direction of my camera. I share the first images, then sometimes capture more if that soul is delighted with what they’ve seen, often from a different point of view.

Victoria Alexander’s book, Real: Living a Balanced Life (Murdoch Books), is a collection of her photos, taken in 27 different countries.

Feeling inspired? Don't forget to enter Wanderlust's Travel Photo of the Year competition! You could win £3000 or a photography trip to Western Australia...

Related Articles