Street photography tends to be seen as a solitary pursuit. The Street Photographer is a lone wolf, pounding (or should that be prowling) the streets in solitude in search of that evasive nirvana – the ‘perfect’ street photo. The Street Photographer will wait for hours at that one spot because “the light is right” – their only company that strange metal or plastic contraption packed with springs, gears, glass, a mirror (maybe!), emulsion (maybe!!), and electronics (maybe!!!). This is The Street Photographer. It has always been thus. But it doesn’t have to be like this – there is another way! Allow me to suggest to you 10 reasons why street photography is so much better with a friend.
Bravery in street photography
It’s all about strength in numbers! No longer are you just ‘that weirdo with a camera’ – now you can be ‘those weirdos with cameras’. Having a friend by my side spurs me on to take a chance with a risky photo I might not go for on my own. If the person I’m photographing has an issue with me taking their photograph I know I’ve got a friend nearby to back me up and help put forward my side of the story. It’s a lot harder to start an argument with two people than just one person. There’s also the matter of your friend’s personality and behaviour making you feel braver – maybe they take more chances and make shots you’d never dream of taking. If you see your friend make these kind of photos in front of your very eyes you’re more likely to be willing to give it a go yourself.
Professionalism in street photography
This point leads on from my first point about bravery. Having another person with you (and particularly another photographer) can help to make what you’re doing seem much more professional and legitimate. You only need to look at the most recent video of the Istanbul Street Hunt to see how professional a group of street photographers look. Spyros, Kerem, Forrest and Thomas are able to work the streets like pros, and because they are a ‘group’ of photographers people are much more willing to accommodate them and even pose for them in some shots!
Street Photography Techniques
Having another photographer with you is a great way to develop your street photography skills and pick up new techniques. As photographers we’re all from different backgrounds with different levels of expertise, and we’re all constantly learning new things about photography. A photographer with loads of experience in full manual film photography will be able to teach a photographer who’s learned entirely on digital a lot about ‘analog’ techniques and applications in a real-world setting. It’s great to be able to learn the theory of photography methods online, but sometimes the fastest and best way to learn a technique is being shown hands-on in the streets.
Feedback on Street Photography
Art is subjective. We all want to keep getting better, but sometimes we are our own worst enemies. There are times when you go out and it feels like everything you shoot is total rubbish. It can be very easy to get demoralised with your work and get into a negative mindset. If you’re out street shooting with a friend you have someone to talk about your photography frustrations with. If you’re shooting digital you can even show them the photos on your LCD screen and they can offer you some feedback or constructive criticism – they might even surprise you and love a shot that you weren’t happy with at all! This kind of feedback can be invaluable at times and can really give you a boost to keep shooting and persevering with what you’re doing. A problem shared is a problem halved!
Street Photography Vision
Fortunately we all see things differently – otherwise the world would be a very boring place indeed. That vision is what makes street photography such an eternally fascinating and entertaining genre. The great thing about street photography with a friend is that with an extra pair of eyes you’ve both got an increased chance of ‘seeing’ something interesting and worth photographing. I can honestly say that if I’m out shooting with a friend one of us is guaranteed to spot something the other doesn’t, and maybe hasn’t even noticed. Perhaps you’ve been living in the same city for years and years – if a street photographer from another area visits and you go shooting together they are bound to spot things and take photographs of scenes that you’d dismissed as mundane before because of your familiarity with them.
Comparing Street Photographs
One of your concerns about shooting street photos with a friend or in a group might be that you’ll just end up producing the same shots as each other. While that is admittedly a risk, I actually think it’s pretty good fun to shoot a seemingly identical scene at the same time as someone else. It’s not all that often that two people will be using the same combination of camera and lens (though it happens), but owing to different techniques and that ‘unique vision’ I mentioned above it’s pretty difficult to produce totally identical photos. I often find comparing the differences between photos of the same subject shot by myself and a friend is really interesting and a great insight into how our minds work. It’s also a great way to learn from your mistakes and develop as a photographer!
Street Photography Routes
Street photography can often take us to new and exciting places that we’re not familiar with. While there’s a lot to be said for exploring, there is often no substitute for local experience. A guide who’s familiar with the new city you’re shooting in can be absolutely invaluable in showing you the ropes, the spots with the best light at a certain time of day, and those hidden locations where you can discover the underbelly of the city you wouldn’t find in the guidebooks. The Street Hunts in London and Istanbul would not have been the same without the careful route planning and local expertise provided by Anton Fortein, Kerem Nasipoglu and F.D. Walker, and it’s something we at Street Hunters are very grateful for.
Street Photography Experimentation
Things happen fast in street photography. The last thing you want when the perfect shot unfolds in front of you is to be fiddling with settings and missing it, or to catch the shot but find that your settings are all wrong. A really really useful thing about shooting street photography with a friend is that you can use your friend as test subject to check that you’ve got your camera settings correct! If you’re planning something risky or experimental like off-camera flash photography, your friend can serve as the guinea pig as you check and test your settings. A common phrase heard when Spyros Papaspyropoulos and I are street hunting is “can I take a test shot for my flash settings?”, followed by a bright flash of light. Spyros now claims to have enough material for a whole book of ‘Digby Test Shots”.
Safety and Street Photography
Street photography can often take you to less than savoury parts of the town or city and at times when the risk to your safety can be greater. It’s not uncommon to end up in ‘the wrong part of town’ after dark if you’re on the search for a certain kind of shot. If you add a potentially expensive (and easy to steal) camera into the mix, you can sometimes feel a little vulnerable. Having a friend with you makes the world of difference in a situation like this. With a street photography wingman you can take it in turns to watch one another’s backs so you can shoot without distractions, and there’s extra support there if you need it if there is any kind of threat.
Social Street Photography
I’ve left the best point until last, and that’s the social side of street photography with a friend! Not only do you get to hang out and chat while you’re out on the streets shooting photos, but when the time comes to take a break and recharge you’ve got a friend to head to a bar and grab a beer with! As a street photographer, I’ve had some absolutely fantastic evenings hanging out with fellow street photographers taking photos, talking street photography and drinking beer. The great thing is too that once the alcohol starts flowing you’ve got a fellow photographer with you to practice some experimental shots and act as your flash or prop assistant as you go crazy with the camera!
Street Photography with a friend
I know that shooting street photography with a friend or in a group goes against the established norm of the art as a purely solo pursuit, but hopefully the reasons I’ve given here have given you food for thought for trying a new approach. I realise we’re not all lucky enough to live near enough to other street photographers to be able to practice street photography with others all the time, but your street photography companion doesn’t even have to be another street photographer. Find someone who’s sympathetic to your cause and give them an introduction to street photography! You may even find that you convert a new disciple to the Church of Street Photography. For me, street photography isn’t just about making and taking photos – it’s about the true experience of life on the streets, and for me that experience is so much more fun when you’re hanging out with a friend.