Beginning Street Photography

Beginning Street Photography

Introduction

Street photography is still very fresh and new to me… I’m very much a rookie. I can count my street excursions on both hands! For the amateur photographer, street photography can be intimidating, frustrating and almost overwhelming. Personally, I still find the intimidating part applies, but it lessens each time I go out to shoot. To go from shooting trains sitting in the rail yards and pets lying around to shooting on the street was a big jump. So, I’d like to tell you how I did it and about some of the trials and tribulations I’ve encountered early in my journey!

Getting Started

I was so inspired by my fellow Street Hunters that I just jumped in with both feet. No books, no tutorials. Just inspiration. Looking at their photographs, and the works of others, just drove me to go for it. Is this the right approach? That’s definitely debatable. I’ve approached photography like I did playing music. I just did it and learned along the way. This is probably the most frustrating way to go, but, in the end, I find it the most enjoyable and rewarding way. And I think it will be fantastic to look back at these early shots and see the progression!
On my first attempt, I hit the streets of my local town during a street fair with my Sony NEX 5n and the SEL 18-55 kit lens. The excursion was brief due to the weather, but it was an amazing eye opener. Out of 250 shots, only a few were useable. I struggled with everything. Light, focus, all of that stuff. Those mistakes taught me well. Not a wasted trip by any measure! The biggest challenge I found was…

Street Photography Is ANIMATED!

All that motion!!! With people moving about and me trying to capture them, it made my head spin. It was such a huge change from shooting a sleeping pet or a rusting old train that I hard a hard time adapting. Reflecting on that particular experience made me realize that SPEED and PREPAREDNESS are key! Having the right settings dialed in and the best lens on gave me a big advantage on my next attempt.
I also found that anticipating the shot made a big difference as well. As I moved about, I’d find a good spot where the action was and set up. The guy walking his dog, the woman taking a drag on her cigarette and the vendor handing the child a balloon… I had to anticipate the action, frame it and fire. Very different and something I’m still trying to master. It will come though, with practice. But compounding this problem is the question of…

What Shot Do You Take?

What makes a good street shot, I kept asking myself? I like shots that have soul, tell a story or evoke some kind of feeling. Architecture is great, and still a challenge to capture, but when people are involved… the game really changes. My eyes were constantly scanning for visible emotions. A laugh, smile, grimace out yawn… something! But, I’ve found that’s not always needed. The interaction of people and their surrounding environment is a great example. The long shadows cast from buildings as someone walks down the street. A couple walking hand in hand underneath the streetlights. The solitary figure relaxing on the banks of the river. The scope and the interaction of the person(s) and the surroundings tells a story and conveys a feeling. I perceive that, and I think it’s a sure bet that others do, too. What is that man or woman in the photograph thinking about? What’s their story? That’s what I want a shot to do… propose questions like that! Compositions that could raise those questions are everywhere around you. Finding them, is what makes you a Street Hunter! I’m finding that using the landscape and architecture as ammunition helps bag a great shot. However, there is also…

The FEAR

Like I said previously, street photography is intimidating. The initial feeling of being an interloper, is scary stuff to the rookie! What will a person’s reaction be when they notice me shooting them? I still have the fear! It definitely lessens each time I’ve gone out. Outside of a few hard stares, I’ve had no confrontations or complications. I still approach street photography with great trepidation, though. I pick my battles, so to speak. I try to stay inconspicuous. I keep a safe distance and avoid any possible confrontation. If I see someone noticing me shooting them, I usually shoot then try to be proactive in diffusing any possible confrontation. I move the camera away from my face, smile at the subject and give them a thumbs up with an approving nod. I found this usually results in the person(s) smiling back. I’ve found this is almost always as much as a rush as getting the sneaky candid shot off unnoticed! I’ve only done a couple street portraits, and they’re even more packed with fear. This is something that will take a great deal more experience to overcome. Approaching someone and asking to shoot them takes a great deal of gumption, and I don’t have the courage to do that regularly yet. There the fear of how they’ll react. Well they think I’m a creep, or some kind of loon? I’m sure the approach well get easier over time, but I doubt the fear will ever go away. There again, it all factors into the excitement of street work. That’s a big part of what makes this genre so vibrant, so exhilarating! It’s why I’ve been drawn to it. It’s very alive, very real and, like life, a little scary. I’m very stoked to be involved in this art.

Since there’s so much to learn, I thought it was better for me to share with you what my limited experience has shown me. I hope you continue to follow along on this wonderful journey net that’s only just beginning! Any questions or suggestions… drop me a line. Thank you!!!

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