Tips for Street Photography in Havana

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Havana is a street photographer’s dream. Great street photography is all about telling a story in a single frame and Havana is the perfect location for story telling.  Blocks upon blocks of colonial architecture, decaying gran mansions, and colorful 1950s classic American cars provide photogenic backdrops for a city bustling with activity. Habaneros live their life in the streets giving photographers direct access to the daily lives of an average Cuban. A walk around the city gives photographers shots of young children playing in the street, women shopping for eggs, men standing on balconies watching the world go by, and teenagers hanging out of windows talking to friends.  

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“Havana is an ideal city for street photography”, said Cuban photographer Alain Gutierrez. Alain leads photography tours in Cuba several times a year.”The people here are the best. They are comfortable hanging out with strangers and photographing them can lead to a connection.”

The essence of street photography in Cuba is trying to capture everyday life and society on the streets. Here are a few tips to help you do just that, but don’t forget that the most important aspect to street photography is to have fun. 

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1. Don’t Be Shy

According to Alan photographers should not be shy about interacting with and taking pictures of Habaneros. “Smile at the people, well take the photo first and then smile.,” he suggests. “Havana is very universal. People are comfortable hanging out with foreigners.”

2. Set Your Camera

The easiest way to set up your camera for street photography is to switch the camera to AV (aperture-priority mode) and select your f-stop and ISO manually. Alain always makes a point to set his White Balance to cloudy to make the colors Havana is famous for pop. 

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3. Hire a local photographer

“Finding a local photographer can save you time, make you feel more comfortable when taking photos of people, and take you to places you would not be able to find on your own,” Alain said. “Plus it is a great way to support local photography in Cuba.” And where does one find a local photographer to hire? Instagram of course. 

4. Stay Put 

Instead of constantly walking around, pick a location with a great backdrop and let people walk into your frame. You will feel much more comfortable taking photographs of your subjects. They are less likely to notice you making it more likely to get natural facial expressions. 

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5. Pray for rain

Reflections in puddles can make the most mundane buildings look interesting. When you stumble upon a puddle get low to see what reflects back at you.

6. Don’t forget silhouettes

Just like finding a great reflection, silhouettes can turn an ordinary photo into a work of art. To shoot a silhouette make sure your flash is turned off and you expose for the highlights in the background. This can be done easily if your camera is set to spot metering. 

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7. Be respectful

If your subject does not want their photograph taken, move on. Even if you are within your legal rights to take photos on the street, it is better to be respectful and move on.  

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