Confession: I am slightly obsessed with finding street art and posing with it.
It’s something I do in every city that is known for street art, of which there are plenty in the USA. Any travel day that I end up posing with multiple murals marks a truly successful day of travel photography, in my opinion.
It might seem fairly simple to just stand in front of street art and take a photo, but if you want truly drool-worthy Instagram pics, you have to get creative. There are loads of ways that you can get artistic with murals in your travel photos.
Here are a few tips that will ensure that both you and the street art look absolutely fabulous!
Contrast with your background
One of the best ways to stand out against a mural is to wear opposite colours. In the photo above, I captured my blogger friend Megan wearing black against a pastel coloured wall. Notice how much she stands out against the art?
If you don’t have any idea what murals you’ll be taking photos of, try wearing white or cream coloured clothing, as this will stand out against nearly any mural.
Utilise background blur
If you have a DSLR or mirrorless camera and use a lens with a wide aperture (f/2.0 or lower), you can create background blur in your photos, meaning the person will be in focus while the background is slightly out of focus. This usually works when the person is standing away from the wall.
I took the above photo of my blogger friend Jessie in NYC with a 50mm prime lens. See how her face is sharp, while the art is slightly blurred? Even though the art is still clearly visible, the blur makes her stand out more from the background.
You can actually do this with a smartphone, too, though it is a little more difficult – see my smartphone photography tips to find how to do this.
Use interesting angles
Taking a photo from straight on might seem like the logical choice, but sometimes taking the photo from a different angle might be more interesting. Jessie took this photo of me posing next to a huge art piece in Bushwick, which was taken on a slight angle.
Try a few different angles to see what looks best with the art. Maybe looking sideways along the wall, or looking up from below… there are so many options!
Have fun with lenses
I personally don’t own a fisheye lens, but Jessie does, and we sure did have some fun with it in Bushwick! When we took this photo, the fisheye lens made the art look super distorted and interesting. It’s hard to believe that this was actually a flat wall!
If you own a GoPro, the widest photo setting will take a similar style photo to a fisheye lens. I tried using my GoPro for a few wide-angle shots with murals in Miami, and it worked like a charm!
It might be tempting to take the photo up close, but if you stand back and capture a teeny-tiny person with a massive mural, you’ll create a sense of scale.
Also, these kinds of photos will often do really well on Instagram! The one above of me posing with a mural in Providence was very popular, even though it was only taken with my smartphone. It’s amazing how far a little creativity will take you!
Don’t look at the camera
Sometimes it can be nice to have travel photos where you aren’t looking directly at the camera, and posing with murals is the perfect opportunity to try it. Now that I think about it, I barely ever look at the camera when I’m posing with a mural!
Try looking sideways, or looking up, or interacting with the art somehow. I captured the photo above of Jessie looking at the word ‘awesome’ in this van art, which made it much more interesting than if she was looking at the camera.
Incorporating movement can bring life to your photo. Instead of standing still, why try moving around in your pose? Jump into the air, twirl around, or flail your skirt or scarf. It may take a few photos to get it right, but the end result will be worth the effort!
You’ll need a fast shutter speed on your camera to capture the movement without the photo getting blurry, which your camera should do automatically if it’s bright outside. If not, try switching to the ‘sport’ photo setting if your camera has one.
US cities where you can pose with murals:
- New York (Check out Bushwick and Williamsburg in Brooklyn, or NoLita and the Lower East Side in Manhattan)
- Los Angeles (I’m not sure where exactly to suggest but I’ve seen LA murals popping up all over my Instagram feed!)
- Miami (go directly to Wynwood Walls. This is the spot where all the street art action is at)
- Austin (you’ll find some great murals in the suburb of East Austin and along South Congress Ave)
- Portland (there is street art galore around Hawthorne, and don’t forget the ‘Keep Portland Weird’ mural in downtown)
- Philadelphia (take a walk along mural mile to see some truly impressive street art)
- Providence (a bunch of amazing murals have been commissioned in and around the Washington Street parking lot downtown)