A Guide to Porto Street Art

Porto is Portugal’s second biggest city and has a growing reputation for being a cool place to be which means the Porto street art scene is always worth checking out.

Of course, what can be seen changes regularly but it’s always worth exploring the city streets to see what’s out there.

Some of the street art in Porto is more on the side of ‘big bubble letters’ and tagging with artists just wanting to get their name more well-known but some shows real artistic skill. Stencil art, the style from artists such as Banksy, can be seen usually in black and often with an underlying message.

Porto is a college town but is a historic area too so the mix of young life and old architecture brings plenty of artistic inspiration.

Porto street art, Portugal
Porto street art, Portugal

Where to find Porto street art

In Vila Nova de Gaia, the neighbourhood known for fortified wine, there are great views by the Douro River to inspire further. It’s for sure a spot where you should try to find an apartment for your stay in Porto. That way you would experience the local life and vibe best.

Porto’s stucco facades may be crumbling but street artists are having a lot of fun with the streets as their canvas as graffiti tolerance is very high here and there seems to be little restriction although graffiti is still illegal. Some artists have complained that it’s hard to get a permit to decorate a large wall in the city centre but the fact most buildings have brick walls around them there are plenty of side streets for artists to use.

Bring your camera and just walk the streets as there’s too much Porto street art to just name one area although Lapa Metro Station is a good location to see the latest street art as is Rúa Miguel Bombarda where there are many art galleries too with street art between them all.

As you walk you may start to recognise some of the more popular local Porto street artists’ work such as Hazul who does large-scale two colour (usually black and white) pieces consisting of lots of teardrop and geometrical shapes with more intricate ‘fretwork’ patterns filling the spaces.

While Hazul’s artwork has soft edges and feels rather freeform, another local artist, Mr Dheo, has a much sharper style. He likes colour and crisp lines and often incorporates a face with real character into his spray paint designs. He uses photorealism to challenge himself to be better every time.

Porto graffiti in Portugal
Porto graffiti in Portugal

Porto street art tour

You’ll find a few great Porto street art tours in the city. We love this private urban tour from Get Your Guide with a local guide. This two-hour tour takes your past the historic and modern architecture while exploring the traditional tiles and new urban street art.

The tour includes walking through Rua da Madeira, a hub for street art with incredible murals along with exploring graffiti gems in the side streets of Rua das Flores. You’ll start the tour at the Municipal Library and end it off strolling through the historic and charming area of Ribeira.

Book the tour now.

Porto street art tour
Porto street art tour with Get Your Guide

Photography tips for street art

Whether you bring a professional camera equipment or a just a camera phone the streets of Porto offer lots of opportunities for memorable shots. The juxtaposition of the crumbling walls and the vibrant street art make this a perfect place to practice new styles of photography.

Instead of standing try laying on the ground or climbing up high to get a new angle. And be patient so try waiting long enough so you blend into the scene and see who walks by.

Change to a slower shutter speed to blur movement of someone running or riding a bike in front a brightly painted wall. And try and get different shots so don’t aim to capture the whole of wall but move in close to photograph small sections in more detail.

Check out our guide to street photography for more tips.

Street Photography Gear (Including Best Street Photography Camera)

“Which camera should I buy?”

I get asked that a lot.

I’m a street photographer. I’d like to share some of the key technical factors of street photography gear with you.

What is the best street photography camera?

In recent times there have been some cool micro four third cameras doing the rounds.

Micro four third cameras are mirrorless cameras having interchangeable lenses. The compact design and lightweight construction make them ideal travel companions. The top online stock photo agencies accept photos made using micro four third cameras. So that’s a big plus for those of you who have such ambitions.

Point-and-shoot cameras simply don’t qualify.

They’re not designed or built for professional photographers, are they? The most significant drawbacks are the focus areas instead of focus points (which makes it impossible to focus on small sections of the frame for example only the eyes of a person or a drop of water on a petal). There’s only so much light that a tiny lens can take in making lowlight photography almost pointless.

Well, DSLR cameras rule!

So which DSLR camera should you buy? Well, you must figure that out yourself! But let me suggest a little exercise to that will aid the decision-making process.

Make a list of the things that you want to photograph over the next two years. For example, butterflies, the Eiffel tower, breakfast, sparrows, the canals of Amsterdam, your friend’s baby, portraits of your friends, aerial views of your hometown etc.

Now let us analyze this list.

You’d need a wide-angle lens (16mm/28mm/35mm) to make the best travel photos of the Eiffel tower, the canals of Amsterdam & aerial views of your hometown, a macro lens to photograph butterflies (180mm macro) & breakfast (50mm macro), a normal lens (50mm) to make photos of your friend’s baby & portraits of your friends in general and a telephoto lens (upwards of 300mm) to photograph sparrows.

DSLR cameras for street photography
DSLR cameras for street photography

In my humble opinion, the most important piece of street photography gear is not the camera but the lens!

I insist on fast lenses having apertures of at least f/2.8. I also insist that lenses having a focal length of 300mm or more must be prime lenses. And those lenses don’t come cheap!

So I recommend that you revisit your list. Think about the things that you’re actually going to be photographing over the next two years; take your time.

When it comes to travel/street photography, I’d imagine that a fixed wide-angle (prime) lens say 35mm f/1.4 or a 16mm-35mm f/2.8 zoom lens would most often suffice.

A decade ago, I would use a telephoto lens (90mm-300mm f/3.5-5.6) almost exclusively. I was obsessed with making tightly framed portraits. Since 2008, I have not used a lens having a focal length more that 50mm.

I have come to believe that taking photos on the street/outdoors using a telephoto lens (especially anything beyond 50mm) is being disrespectful to the people being photographed. When doing street photography portraits, you really want to be using the right lens.

Now, let’s talk about street photography cameras.

I would purchase a mid-range DSLR camera and a strong lens(es) rather lousy lenses mounted to a high-end DSLR.

Also, professionals/serious amateurs do not have a right to complain about bulky/heavy cameras and lenses. Remember, you’re going for quality.

Mid-range DSLR cameras have a magnification factor of about 1.5x, so a 50mm lens mounted to one of them will not be the best choice whilst photographing the canals of Amsterdam but will help you make some cool portraits of your friends. This is where something like a 16mm-35mm f/2.8 helps.

I’m a big fan of medium format photography. I cannot afford medium format digital cameras. But time and again, I play around with my Yashica Mat 6×6 and Fuji GS645S Professional film cameras.

The size of a 35mm camera (not lens, but camera) frame is 1 inch x 1.5 inches (the most common SLR/point and shoot cameras that take in rolls of film and DSLR cameras fall in this category). Medium format films have one side fixed at 6 cm and the other can vary (for example 4.6 cm, 6 cm, 17 cm etc.) depending on the format of the camera body.

I reckon that the 6×6 format make the best portraits.

AI servo or “continuous focus”

Look for the AI servo or “continuous focus” setting in your camera; different manufactures have termed it differently. The role of AI servo or “continuous focus” is to continuously refocus the subject whilst the shutter button is half-pressed.

This setting can make all the difference when it comes to the making of photos where your primary subject is in constant motion such as your dog running towards you/a moving car/bicycle etc. But this can drain down your battery. So ensure to turn in back to “One shot” when you’re done with photographing moving subjects.

To tripod or not to tripod. That is the question.

Do you need to include a tripod in your list of street photography gear?

Let’s be honest, it’s not always possible to mount a tripod on the street; especially busy streets. Also, one can miss plenty of candid street photography moments whilst trying to get the tripod in place. But as far as possible, use a tripod for architectural photos/landscapes where the moment/the role of people is not significantly important.

Purchase a professional carry bag that’s lightweight weather resistant. Again, not expensive but think of it as a one-time investment. We love this camera bag from BAGSMART – it’s water resistant, can fit a laptop, and has a tripod holder. It also looks really stylish and doesn’t look like an obvious camera bag, which is great for walking the city streets with.

Street photography gear: Tripod
Street photography gear: Tripod

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