Personal Views

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Street Photography vs Documentary Photography

Introduction

Street photography, known also as candid photography, is the photography done in public places and is conducted for the art of enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents. When talking about street photography we don’t necessary need the presence of the street or the urban environment. Street photography can be done just as well in rural areas or public buildings; while documentary photography usually refers to a popular form of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life. Documentary is typically covered in professional photojournalism, or real life reportage, but it may also be an amateur, artistic, or academic pursuit.

So street photography is not the same thing as documentary photography. Although they are linked, and some would say that they are similar to a certain point, they are certainly not the same thing. So, until which point could we say they are connected?

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The Right Camera for Street Photography Cover

Since I started street photography I have gone through many different cameras and it’s taken me this long to find the perfect one. I thought I would write this blog post to help people when choosing the right camera for street photography and my hope is it might stop you from making the same mistakes I did and in the process stop you from wasting money and your valuable time.

I have changed my camera many times over the past 6 years. I started my trip through the digital world of photography with the Nikon D300, then I moved onto the Fuji X100 (loved this camera), then back to Nikon and before moving to Fujifilm (which I’ve been using for the past 2 years) I tried Canon, Olympus and Leica. Why have I got through so many cameras? Well, first off it’s not easy finding a camera that you can get comfortable with straight away! Even if you are lucky enough to find a camera that you do find comfortable, it’s not to say that you won’t start looking for a new camera almost straight away (come on, we all do it!) it’s human nature to keep looking forward for the latest and greatest – hoping that we find something that is even better and more comfortable than what we have. That mythical magic bullet that will make us an awesome photographer.

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Street Photographer’s Journey Ideal Camera Cover

In the past few years that I have been into street photography, I have tried many cameras in order to find the best one that will work for me. It’s easy for any beginner to think that the camera with the best specs will deliver the best results. And for some time, I believed that principle as I tried every type of camera—from DSLR, to mirrorless, to action camera, to smartphone. Name it, I’ve either bought, rented, or borrowed it just to try it.

I eventually realized how true it is that the “perfect” camera is relative to one’s needs. Going through this process of discovery did help improve my street photography skills and taught me how to work with various types of cameras. Here are just two of the most important things I’ve learned along the way.

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Jeremy Brake Soul Street Photography Cover

I was talking to my friend about photography and he mentioned how he absolutely loves his new camera. The resolution, sharpness, dynamic range are all amazing. As I walked home I remembered that my own camera is getting up there in age. I thought about the street photograph that I missed last week, and how it was so close to being great but my camera missed the focus.

GAS & Street Photography

When I’m home I sit down in my chair and search for reviews on new cameras. First I start with all the new crop sensor cameras, then the lenses that I want for each system, then I realise that if I’m going to invest good money on sharp lenses I may as well put the money into a full frame camera that can really utilize their capabilities. Naturally I search reviews for all of the new full frame cameras out there. Then in the suggestions box I notice a review for a medium format camera and I figure that if I sell all of my current gear and stick with one camera and one lens for a little while, I could afford it. So after doing research on all of the medium format cameras a thought hits me, if I’m going to spend this much money on such an expensive camera, I may as well go all out and get a view camera. Naturally I go onto eBay to see what a view camera will cost me and after a mild heart attack I start to do some research on how to build a view camera and just buy the lens. That’s when I realise it’s one o’clock in the morning and I seriously need to get some sleep.

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Find inspiration in street photography cover

I’m not afraid to admit that I am currently going through somewhat of a creative block with my street photography. I am feeling rather listless with regards to the street photos I have been creating of late, and not enjoying the process of shooting much either. Part of this stems from a feeling of general frustration I have with shooting in my hometown – I’ve mentioned before how I find it so much easier to shoot when I’m on the road, and why I think travelling is so important for street photography, but I can’t always rely on travelling to get me out of the gutter, nor can I think I can get away with being a purely fair weather street photographer (both in a literal sense and a metaphorical one). So, there are clearly times when I need to learn how to try and force myself to be more sharp and get the creative juices flowing. To develop as a street photographer I feel I need to be prolific, because virtually without fail the only way to get really good at something is practice at it really hard until it becomes second nature. To do that I need to be able to get myself in the zone and that means making the most of all my opportunities, but also trying out new methods to galvanise myself and think creatively in order to get inspired. So I’ve put together a list below of techniques I’m currently experimenting with to help myself out of a creative rut. If you’ve experienced similar problems of frustrations in shooting in your hometown, I highly recommend you give Spyros’ article on how to get over the boredom of shooting street photos in the same location every day. There is some overlap, but my list covers a mixture of things that include both activities out on the street and broader ways of changing my mindset, so hopefully something from this will work! Read on for more…

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10 reasons I use manual in street photography cover

As tech progresses further and further we find more and more that we need to do less and less to make things happen. Cars can now swap cogs, brake automatically, and in some respects drive far better than people can manage. Homes are becoming ‘smart’, with auto lights and heating, and Wi-Fi enabled everything. The great march towards automation is the Holy Grail for manufacturers, and will in all likelihood come to define and dramatically shape how we live our lives this century. Naturally of course, the drive of automation has been embraced by camera manufacturers too over the last half century or so, with the arrival of built-in light meters, auto winders, automatic exposure modes, motor drive, autofocus and TTL flash – the list goes on and on. And all this is hardly surprising. There’s a lot to think about in photography, and auto modes take so much of the hassle out of the process, paring it back for the majority of users so all they need to worry about is pressing the shutter. As well as their portability and always-with-you convenience, a big aspect of the success of smartphones and iPhones as cameras is the effectiveness of their fully auto camera controls. With each new phone or software update the technology gets better and better, with the phone doing more and more of the work to easily produce great looking pictures exactly how the user envisaged. Hell, the newest iPhone can now even make ‘professional’ style shallow depth of field portrait photos! But there remains something brilliantly satisfying about using manual controls in photography, in much the same way as it’s great fun to drive a fully manual sports car. And in street photography in particular, I personally feel that shooting fully manual is the best way for me to get the results I want, and get maximum enjoyment from the experience. Why? Well, let me first explain exactly what I mean by ‘fully manual” and then give you my personal run-down of the 10 reasons why I shoot in manual mode for street photography.

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What I learned from Film Street Photography cover

ATTENTION

The following views do not necessarily represent the views of the whole StreetHunters team.


Still, in 2017 the debate between digital and film rages on. Digital may have won the technological and consumer battle, but the struggle for hearts and minds continues ad infinitum. There continue to be countless street photographers who love shooting with film and maintain that it is the best way to go. Film still offers one of the best bang-for-your-buck initial investments into the world of cameras and particularly street photography (though more on that later), and is a fully traditional process practiced by the great masters of street photography, and a medium that has been refined through years and years of gentle evolution. It is grown-up, mature, tried and tested. Digital, by contrast (and in the grand scheme of things) is still in its infancy. While it has overtaken film in several technical aspects – light sensitivity (ISO) and size (ie the ability to squeeze sensors and cameras into our smartphones) being just two examples – in other respects digital continues to evolve and require finessing. The digital street photographer is still playing and experimenting with a medium in flux, and one where they still (if successfully lured into it) have to take part in the constant arms race and never ending hamster wheel of new gear (read sensors) through gear acquisition syndrome. It’s not necessary, but it’s an easy trap to fall into. No such issues with film. And then there’s that intangible quality. The utterly subjective (and to an extent invented) and the mythical. The glorious analogue nature of a process that as times seems like witchcraft made real. Light and chemistry coming together to create something not alive, but packed full of character and imperfection. Where silicon wafers and ones and zeros are replaced with something altogether more powerful. Something with soul. Or so it goes. As a millennial, raised on 35mm disposal and compact cameras in the ‘90s but cutting my teeth and really ‘learning’ solely on digital in the noughties, I owed it to myself to give film a shot. So read on for my experience of using film in street photography.

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Street Photography Image Problem Cover

ATTENTION

The following views do not necessarily represent the views of the whole StreetHunters team.


As I fire off another frame because I’m out ‘shooting on the streets’ and I feel compelled to, I often wonder just what the point of it all is. The same feeling often pervades me as I browse through my Lightroom catalogue. Hundreds and thousands of street photos but just what am I striving for? When I get into this kind of mindset I often begin to think about the concept of street photography as a whole, and the more I do, the more I begin to wonder about the genre itself, whether there are some real issues that need addressing, and specifically, does street photography have an image problem?

I edited this blog post on 6/5/2017 to include a reference to an article by Michael Sweet which I had forgotten about – thank you to Karen Commings for the reminder!

Street photography is a type of photography that aims to document everyday life. If you’re set to master street photography, give these tips a go and you’ll be on the right track.

Unlike other types of photography, street photography is generally about taking candid photos of people in public. It aims to capture stories and emotions without the influence of the photographer, which is, let’s all face it, not an easy thing to master.

But don’t lose hope! Every great photographer starts somewhere. To help you get started on your journey to becoming an impressive street photographer, follow these essential tips.

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Anxiety in Street Photography Cover

NOTE: This is a Guest Blog post written by Dan Ginn exclusively for www.streethunters.net.


Anxiety can be a terrible feeling to live with. It can be so constant in your life that it follows you even more than your own shadow. Over thinking situations combined with creating fear within moments that haven’t even happened, can be all too damaging to a person’s all-round wellbeing. I constantly live my life battling my own anxiety, sometimes in healthy ways and sometimes in not so healthy ways. I find myself in a constant fight to find peace and contentment. Anxiety affects me in all walks of life; work, friendships, relationships right through to making day to day decisions. With this in mind, it is not a surprise it also creates conflict within my art, even in times when I am trying my best to use it as inspiration to do something creative.

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