Street photography is a documentation of the the swirling life in visual form. If you like to be an observer like me there will be a number of situations and interesting details about all the people and objects around you. Photographically capturing these moments to document the contemporary life in different cultures on different continents, towns and villages is what I like the most. I am sure that there are many possibilities when you see something happening and regret having left your camera somewhere. So apart from my rule to take a camera wherever I go I would like to provide as well some street photography tips which helped to further my photography. Hopefully, it will help you as well.
May be before starting I should state what Street Photography is - at least in my opinion.
In essence, street photography is kind of candid photography done in public places, it can be a street, a restaurant, public buildings, transport and more. It can be seen as a kind of everyday photojournalism and in most cases involves people in populated environments. It shows the everyday live of strangers. As a street photographers I try as much as possible to stay unnoticed when photographing, but on the other hand I’m not going real sneaky. Staying unnoticed helps to capture the scenes which are unfolding in front of me unaffected by the subject and in this way to show a natural story. That is the way to go in my opinion.
Street Photography would be better named Contemporary live photography in my opinion. It is a glimpse through a window of the world how I see it and showing this for all of you to see.
No matter what camera, black and white, colour…iPhone…Android…Nikon…Cannon…Sony… just name it will be my medium to paint this scenes with light. Now up to some tips which helped me to get better in this kind of photography genre.
First of all the old saying “Less is More” is quite a good start:
I usually don’t take too much equipment - walking the streets light is the way to go. You will be less obtrusive and nevertheless best equipped to take your stories and images quickly. I mostly take one camera, one lens in between 16 to 50mm either a prime or sometimes as well a zoom lens. With this wide angle solutions I can and I have to go close. As close as possible. It’s quite easy here in Vietnam as people are not shy of the camera and in places it is very populated so you can just place yourself in an alleyway, let people pass and once in a while if there is an interesting subject or scene happening you can take the image without being noticed at all.
Another tip is to go off the beaten Path – don’t go where all the touristy are – get some behind the scenes and in this way some real life experience. Look around you and see what is happening. If you got the feeling of your surrounding you can get this stolen moments – moments between people before they happen - moments you can already anticipate.
As we see our work in colours and with this kind of true colours sometimes overwhelming it is not so easy to show your subject as all this clutter might distract from this aim. Going instead toward black and white is often where street photographers are going. I shoot in RAW and so I can afterwards decide what way to got as at times colourful situations arise and can really make your shot – don’t miss these.
Location, Location, Location – that’s what it is all about. Places where people interact with one another and times when they are present. Parks, markets, stations and alike are good spots to start. Off the streets – other places like zoos, fairs, shows, sporting events can be worth trying as well and you will not be so obtrusive. Depending where you are shooting look out for the Background behind your subject. That background can actually ‘make’ your shot. Billboards, signs, graffiti and many different other elements can really make a statement.
There are always some rules and you have to know them to efficiently break them as well. In street photography there are not so many rules or at least there is a better acceptance to break them. Don’t take your images all from the same height. Think of your camera as it would be a space ship from another world and is now on earth exploring its wonders. Take different angles, go dutch, go diagonal, go wild. Experiment and find what you like and if you like it it will as well show in your images.
As I said there are some rules or ideas you should know about to break them and there are things you might just embrace without breaking at all. Like the idea that opposites attract – shots which challenge the ‘norm’ can be very powerful. Looking for ‘surprising’ subject matter and composition is always awarding.
Practice, practice, practice, it will make you nearly perfect – over time and with all this practice your photography will improve as you know your settings and your camera by heart. You’ll not only get better at the technical level but you will start spotting and focusing other thing in the street. With all these practice you will experience that fortune favours the brave. In order to get your expected luck once in a while be ready to pounce – have your camera out and ready to shoot at all times.
Frozen Motion – the street is a place of movement – to capture it and still get sharp shots make sure your shutter speed is fast enough. I go for either at minimum 1/125 or with my Sony to 1/320 sec and with ISO of 400 or more. On the other hand don’t forget to experiment with slower shutter speeds and capture the movement as blurs. Try as well to exaggerate your perspective. That will help to set your subject in context and provide a different view.
There are certainly so many other things to get into but these stated ideas and tips, mostly from fellow photographers and from my own experience helped me to get better and I try to think of them all along to get even better in time.