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Street Photography: What Mode Should You Shoot in?

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

What mode should you use street photography

Many photographers make the somewhat dubious claim that brilliant images can only be achieved in Manual mode. Personally, I think that claim doesn't apply to street (or any) photography, but for those readers that are comfortable with and love to shoot in Manual mode, I'd recommend skipping this article - you've got this content covered. The rest of us, however, need to find a different way to produce fantastic images.

Though you might be inclined to start shooting with Auto, it's important to start moving into semi-manual modes - that's Program, aperture priority, and shutter speed priority. Having a level of control over these settings will help you gain a deeper understanding of what makes your images work and will give you more creative room to grow. But which of these modes should you choose? I'll make the case for each and let you decide.


This is perhaps the most basic of all the partially manual modes. You have control over your ISO - one of the settings that you'll use the most in your street photography - and the ability to change your white balance and exposure compensation. It's a useful bridge between Auto and Aperture/Shutter priority settings.

Shutter Speed Priority

If you're a creative street photographer, Shutter Priority will appeal to your sense of composition. The ability to convey motion - and capture emotion - with the press of a button will transform your shots.

Aperture Priority

Aperture Priority is the mode that I favor for my images. The ability to adjust your depth of field, and the brightness of your camera's iris, is, to me, more important than shutter speed - which will remain at 1/8000 as long as I keep my f-number at 1.8. This is a versatile and fast mode for everyday street photography.

Obviously, you have to adjust your choice of mode to your skill and style of street photography, but maintaining a level of control over your settings is crucial. If you use one of the above three options, your images will become infinitely more creative - there's no need to be held back by Auto mode.


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