Monday, 27 April 2015

Street Photography

Street Photography ????
Collated by Diane Bohlen from various Internet sources and authors ( Carlo Nicora, James Mayer, Eric Kim and Valerie Jardin)

Street Photography overlaps with other genres. Here are some definitions to explain the differences and similarities.
1. Street Photography
It is defined by its candidness and produces ironic amusement and it is a mirror image of society displaying unmanipulated scenes of unaware subjects.

2. Urban Photography

Usually associated with imagery of cities, buildings, streets and subways. Anywhere human life exists.

3. Architectural Photography

The photographing of buildings and structures that are aesthetically pleasing and accurate.

4. City Scapes

A landscape of a city.

5. Documentary Photography

Street photography has the ability to document while documentary has the definite intention of recording history. Documentary photography can be candid, but street photography is defined by its candidness. Street photography produces ironic amusement while documentary provides emotional intensity.
(Like you see in the newspaper of earthquake victims)
“Great street photographers say something about life, they speak to us, they fill us with emotions, or they give us insight.“ (James Maher) It is not only light, shapes and faces that make a good photo. When you look at a street photo, you should think, “Wow! The emotion or story really hit me.”

Street photography is a form of self expression. Go out and search for content that means something to you. Search for people, ideas, stories and thoughts that you relate to and want to share. Your personality will show through, and how you see the world. So you can’t copy someone else’s style but you can learn about techniques from other street photographers. Style isn’t about look it’s about meaning. It’s about you. So you need to figure out what you want to capture and why. What do you relate to most? To help you find out, go into your archives and search for themes and ideas.
My theme seems to be humour and cheerfulness.

Most kinds of portable cameras are used for street photography:
Film SLR, DSLR, bridge/compact and point and shoot, not forgetting smart phone cameras.
Classic street photographers use a wide-angle prime (a small light weight fixed focal length lens) they are easy to strap onto your hand and are less conspicuous than a telephoto lens. Beginners should use a medium zoom.
Don’t take too much equipment, travel light, you will be less obtrusive and be able to move around quickly for the best shot. Always take your camera with you wherever you go.

·      You’ll need to know your camera settings well for different light and be able to switch between them quickly.
·      You need good reflexes to frame and shoot quickly.
·      You need to anticipate a good moment.
·      You need patience to wait for the right moment.
·      You need to be creative and technical at the same time.
·      You need to accept many failures before you get one successful shot.
·      Always have your camera with you.

Professionals use a prime wide-angle lens; they get close, shoot from the hip, use a zoom, and pop up in front of people with a flash. They will often use a high ISO and zone focusing to enable shooting from the hip. Everyone shoots differently; there is no correct way.
Beginners, should use a zoom. Keep some distance from your subject as it gives you more time to see the moment happening, more room to frame and will keep people from noticing you. Get used to where to focus and how to change your focus quickly.
Focus – the street is a place of movement. To capture it and still get sharp shots make sure your shutter speed is fast enough. 1/125 or more with an ISO of 400-1600 is what is recommended. Shooting with a high ISO will help you achieve sharper images by letting you to use a faster shutter speed and a smaller aperture, allowing for more of the scene to be sharp. However, it can be fun to experiment with slower shutter speeds on the street – capture the movement as a blur.
 A modern alternative is to use a camera with a very high-performance autofocus system and a zoom lens.
Whether you go modern or traditional, many of your pictures will be ruined due to poor focus, subject motion, hasty composition, etc. Don’t feel bad if you only get one great picture out of 1000.

Zoom lens

Add blur to show motion (use slow speed)

Switch between wide angle and zoom. Zoom will miss shots that a wide-angle will get and vice versa.
Location. Tourist areas, street parades, zoos, fairs, shows, markets, sporting events and anywhere where people congregate. Don’t just go to all the touristy places– try to get ‘behind the scenes’ and find ‘real life’ scenes. Street performers, parades and other street entertainment can be great subject matter on the street.
The market place

Train your eyes to look for emotion, a unique face or expression or outfit. Look for powerful colors, patterns or angles. Frame what is important.
evoke emotion



Start slowly and be patient. Think about what you are doing and what is happening. Make a point to stop every few blocks and wait for a few minutes. See what happens. You want the subjects to come to you and not the other way around. Explore your surroundings in a detailed way and wait for things to unfold around you. You will be surprised at the amount of moments that will occur while you are just standing around. Go to an area where there is foot traffic and good lighting or an interesting background and wait for the subject to come to your scene. Like people watching. . Take your time, don’t just photograph everyone. A good day is when you get one good shot.
One good shot

Photographers’ Rights There are no publicity or personal rights in Australia and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image. Existing privacy laws are more concerned with storage and management of personal information and are of limited relevance to street photography.

Tell a story. Think of the subjects as actors. How are they interacting? What emotion are you trying to convey? Try to figure out the story. This will keep the viewer engaged
Tell a story

Anticipate moments between people before they happen.
Hat overboard of the City Cat, captain turns boat around,
assistant hooks cap out of river for the happy owner.

Perspective. Use angles. Look up, look down, or shoot diagonally. Street photography is a less formal medium – make the most of it.
looking down
Get close to people. Get closer each day. If your camera has a big sensor (12 megapixel and over) you need not get as close, as you can heavily crop your image. Try shooting from the hip. Be brave, it can be confronting but it will produce powerful images. If you get weird looks, simply smile and they will think of you as a hobbyist rather than someone with malicious intent.
Get close.

Be respectful: This is one of the tricky grey lines when it comes to street photography. Try not to take photos of homeless people when they look too down on their luck. Although I do agree that there are tasteful images taken of homeless people, which call people into helping these people, there are also many images that look like pure exploitation. Think of the cliché shot of a homeless person crouched over on the street, begging for money. Before you take these images, think about what message you are trying to convey. Are you shooting for the reason of building awareness of the atrocious situations that many homeless people live in? Or are you merely taking a photo of a homeless person for the sake of taking their photo? Nobody can be the judge—only you can decide. (by Eric Kim)
Be respectful

Ask for permission. Although many street photography purists say that the only true street photography is candid, I would highly disagree with them. Feel free to go up to strangers who you think look interesting, and ask to take a portrait of them. People love getting their photos taken, and as long as you act courteous and casual about it, most people will accept. Feel free to ask to take portraits of many mundane subjects of everyday life like the waitress at the diner, the bellboy of a hotel, or even a parking lot attendant.
Ask permission

Light. Early morning light is good and evening light is very good for street photography but shooting into the sun, and the shadows that direct sunlight produce can make great shots. Silhouettes against the sun work well too. Never use the quality of light as an excuse not to hit the streets. Making any light work in your favor is part of the fun and also the best way to improve your skills and get some cool shots

Shoot at night. Use artificial light for a moody powerful shot. Don’t use a flash. Find a bright area, use a high ISO. Use glowing storefront signs and hang out near streetlamps. It will be worth it.

Black and White, is used a lot in street photography to create mood but at times colourful situations arise and can really make a shot – be on the look out for these.

Background. What’s going on in the background can make the shot. Billboards, signs, graffiti and other visual elements can really make a statement in a shot.

Details. Focus on small things like hands, an expression, a piece of clothing and frame them up close. Simple scenes can be powerful.

Juxtaposition. Challenge the norm in terms of composition and story. Use signs that are contradictory to people nearby. Opposites attract, shoot people of different size and different colors. Look out for ‘surprising’ subject matter and composition.

Change. Street photography ages well, like a good wine. Think about what is going to change in the future. For example, people reading newspapers on a train because in the future, everyone will read electronic media.
Show change in society

Serendipity. There is a chance that the viewer will see more than the original photographer. The great thing about a city is that there are so many things happening at any one moment. Street photography allows us to freeze those moments and study all the small dramas that were taking place.
Catching the girls in middle of window

Add Humour You need a keen eye and the ability to capture it in a second. No explanation should be necessary but a catchy caption could enhance it. Be careful of cultural differences. Some cultures find something humorous while another may find it offensive.
Photo by Valerie Jardin
Shots without people. Street photography is often wrongly associated with being entirely about photographing people on the streets. Street photography is about people, or more specifically about human nature, but people don’t need to be present in the scene. There are an infinite amount of opportunities out there for epic street photos without people. You just have to look for them.
But let’s not confuse a street photograph without people with an urban landscape. An urban landscape is a straight shot of an urban environment, such as a simple shot of the Empire State Building. Street photos on the other hand say something about human nature.

Editing. Spend a lot of time editing. You will learn your successes and mistakes. It will help train your eyes for next time.

Practice. Street photography is not easy. It’s a fast moving world out there and it takes lots of practice. Over time and with practice your photography will improve. You’ll not only get better at technique but also spotting the things to focus upon on the street.

Just do it. Listening to me and reading all these tips will not make you a good street photographer. Grab your DSLR or compact or point and shoot or iPhone and hit the streets. It’s not easy, so start with what life is like in your neighbourhood, let us into your world.
If it is daunting for you, start by photographing from the behind subjects.

“A great photograph is one that comes from your soul. Light, places, composition and forms are all part of the recipe but they are not the reason why you clicked that shutter.” (James Maher)

 If you feel intimidated about photographing strangers then urban photography is for you. For those who prefer urban landscapes, see Darren Rowse’s excellent article below:

I love cities. While I enjoy getting out into the wide open spaces of the countryside I am also a big fan of the hustle and bustle of inner city life. It’s not for everyone but I find that such areas are so interesting to spend time in – both on a personal level but also photographically.
Some people might be a little depressed by the greyness of concrete, towering skyscrapers and graffiti covered walls – but I find them full of photographic potential.
Urban Landscape Photography looks for these photographic possibilities in the cities and urban areas where we live and work.
Urban Landscape photography is a little slippery to define as it sits between a number of other genres. For the purposes of this article let me contrast it with a few related photographic genres:
Cityscape Photography – urban landscapes go beyond the capturing of the big picture cityscape that is usually quote polished and clean.
Architectural Photography – urban landscapes are less interested in the building and it’s architectural style and more interested in what happens in and around it.
Candid Street Photography – urban photography focused more upon the city itself (and it’s life) than the people who live in it.
Urban Landscape photography is often gritty, it’s not always pretty and it can be quite abstract.
Following are 11 tips to help you improve your urban landscape photography:

1. Take a Variety of Lenses
I find that taking two lenses with me is usually enough for urban photography. I prefer to take one wide angle lens and a zoom with a fair bit of length to it. Longer focal lengths are useful for capturing the details of building and street scenes (be aware that they also tend to flatten pictures) but wide angle lenses are great for capturing the big picture and they tend to give a bigger depth of field which can add interest and a nice feel to your shots.

2. Other Gear to Take
The gear you take on an urban landscape shoot will of course reflect your own style of photography (and budget) but in addition to the above two lenses and DSLR I take a monopod (or tripod if I’m going to shoot into the evening), polarising filters, UV filters (for when I’m not using the polarisers), sling style camera bag (I use a Crumpler bag which I find gives me the access I need as well as being reasonably inconspicuous, spare batteries and I generally take my external flash with me (although I don’t use it as much for landscape shots – it’s there more if I find a good portrait opportunity).

3. Look for Contrasts
One of the things that I love about cities is the diversity that you can find there – both in terms of the people (it’s where all types come together) as well as visual diversity in the sites you’ll see there. Look for and capture the contrasts between architectural styles, building materials, colours etc and you’ll end up with some very interesting shots.
4. Regarding People
A constant challenge for urban landscape photographers is that cities are places where people naturally gather. There’s nothing wrong with people but in urban photographs they do tend to become the focal point of shots whether you want them to be or not. My thoughts on people in urban photography is that you either work with the fact that there are people in the shots and use them as a focal point or if possible they need to be eliminated from the shot – there’s not really too much middle ground. One way of eliminating people from shots is to shoot on weekends or after work hours. Ultimately when it comes to whether to include people in a shot or not I ask myself the questions ‘are they relevant to the shot?’ and ‘do they add or take away from the composition?’. If they add something – include them. If they distract – get rid of them.

5. Evidence of People
If you choose to take the approach of eliminating people from your shots they almost always still live in the shots by the things that they leave there. Urban landscapes don’t always include people directly but speak about the way we live (both good and bad). It can be very powerful to look for the evidence of people in a landscape and to feature this in your shots. In doing so you add layers of interest and make your photos more dynamic.

6. Research Your Locations
Urban landscape photography might seem like a pretty spontaneous thing (and at times it can be) but many of the most spectacular shots are a result of careful planning. It’s amazing how a location can change depending upon the time of day (as a result of angles of light especially) so scout out potential locations at different times of the day and consider returning to the same location over time to see what else it might offer. In terms of what time of day is ‘best’ to photograph – I’m not sure there is one but my personal preference is late afternoon or on days which are overcast but where it’d not too dark.

7. Look for Themes
While there is real diversity in urban areas there are also many recurring themes of life. For instance I recently saw one exhibition of urban landscapes that explored the places people lived in a city – it was a series of people’s home ranging from park benches, to converted warehouses, to old period homes. Seeing them side by side was quite powerful.

8. Look for Mirrors
Many buildings these days are built with highly reflective surfaces. These can both present themselves as an opportunity and a challenge. Some stunning effects can be achieved by shooting the reflections in such buildings – to find the perfect way to do this often means you need to try lots of angles to find the best reflection. If you want to eliminate the glare or unwanted reflections from mirrors or shiny windows it is worth investing in and using a polarising filter.

9. Shoot into the Evening
Cities change incredibly as evening comes and the lights go on. What can be a drab or featureless scene can quickly become something with a lot of character and mood. I enjoy shooting in the twilight zone between day and night as there is still light in the sky but you also get the impact of city lights.

10. Explore Different City Zones
One thing that fascinates me about cities is the differences in the feel and sites that you can witness from area to area. Within a block or two you can move from a business district or commercial zone to a gritty, run down industrial zone or a trendy inner city residential or shopping area. Many urban landscape photographers have a preference for one or more of these types of areas but if you’re just starting out it can be worth experimenting with exploring the possibilities that each of these areas can present you with. Keep in mind that not all areas of cities are always safe – sometimes for this reason it can be wise to shoot with others.

11. Finding the Urban in the Suburban or Rural. Perhaps I’ve been a little ‘city-centric’ with this post – but most of what I’ve written about can be explored in the suburbs of our cities and even smaller towns as really urban landscapes document and explore the places where people live and gather – bid or small.
Here are some interesting links on the topic: