Last week I published a post here on StreetHunters.net about “The DON’Ts of Street Photography“. If you missed it, check it out. Following that post, today I continue with what a Street Photographer should do when out on a photo walk. The DO’s aren’t as many as the DON’Ts but still they are good to know when hitting the streets. So let’s get started:
Use a prime wide angle lens
I find it much easier to react to a situation when using a prime lens. The reason for this is that the focal length is always “fixed”, always the same. So I get used to it and know what to expect to see in my viewfinder before it reaches my eye. Some fellow street photographers that don’t have prime lenses, use tape to fix their zoom lenses into a specific focal length. That way they get the same experience (with the bulkier size and not so good aperture of course). But, using a prime lens, or fixed zoom lens, isn’t the only thing advised for Street Hunting. It is good, to use a wide angle focal length. That way, you can get more in the photo but you will have to get closer. This is a good thing, because the closer you are to your subject, the better the experience for you. A good focal length is 35mm or 50mm (35mm film or Full Frame sensor equivalent). So, on a cropped ASP-C sensor camera, you should be using something between 20mm to 35mm. If you are using a fixed (taped) zoom lens, try fixing it at a focal length in between those values.
Practise your Socialising skills
Just take a deep breath, approach the person you want to photograph and ask nicely while smiling at the same time to take their shot. Talk to them a bit, get to know them. Introduce your self. Learn some things about their background that might help you get a better capture of them. Even if you don’t get the shot, even if they don’t want to be your subject, you will have learned something about someone that could possibly be interesting. Also, you will feel much more confident when you approach the next person.
Share your photos with your subjects
If you can talk a subject of yours into taking their picture, it is a good idea to show it to them if you are using a digital camera. If they like it you can send it to them via email or social networking. If you are using film, you can ask for their contact info anyway and just send it over to them later on, once your photo has been developed and scanned. People appreciate it a lot when you share their photo with them. Sometimes if they like the result a lot they even ask for your photography services. You never know what might happen.
Look for new, interesting people and scenes
There is a photograph everywhere you look. No doubt about that. But, a good photograph must also include an interesting person or people and/or an interesting scene. So, keep your eyes open for interestingness. Nobody wants to see boring photos, especially you! Imagine going back home, looking at your shots (only possible if you are a digital shooter) and discovering that you have just dull photos not even worth a second look. What a waste of time and effort!
Decide on Colour or B&W before you hit the streets
The reason why I say this is because believe it or not, our minds work in different ways when searching for colour photos than when we are searching for B&W photos. I explain why in the following couple of points.
Look for awesome colour combos
When you are out shooting colour Street Photography, you must program your brain to be alert for images that are meaningful in colour and meaningless in Black and White. So, for example if you are our shooting for colour, you must pay attention to the possible colour combinations all around you. For example, buses here in Greece are Blue and White (how surprising! Everything is blue and white here!). A cool colour photo would be if you could take the photo of a guy wearing a blue and white jacket (the exact blue colour as the bus) sitting in front of a bus, or running to get to the bus, or something like that! The important thing here being the colour uniformity between the subject and the bus.
Look for shapes
When you are our shooting for Monochrome you should program your brain to look for shapes, shadows, light, contrast, expressions. Things that will not look as good if colour is involved, because colour distracts. So, for example a good B&W photo would be of someone lost in thought, looking sad at the ground, with maybe a ray of sunlight shining over his face, creating sharp, contrasty shadows in the image. This shot will look great in B&W, but not so good if the guy is wearing a red jacket and he is standing in front of an electric blue wall… Eye torture!
Go shooting with a friend
It is always nice to go shooting with a fellow Street Photographer because at the end of the photo walk you can compare photographs (if you are a digital camera user) and learn from each other. Another advantage to shooting with a friend, is that you are never alone, so it will be harder for you to get into trouble, if that is your thing, getting into trouble that is!
Equip your self for the right weather conditions
Even though I think that this item of the DO’s list is common sense, sometimes we Street Photographers need a reminder with simple things. Things like remembering to take an umbrella with you if it is going to rain or if it is already raining, and things such as taking a bottle of water or a hat with you if you are shooting in the hot midday middle eastern sun for example!
Street Photography is about interaction and it is about shooting interesting and candid moments. Most of the time those moments don’t land in your lap, so you have more chances of stumbling upon such gems if you walk around. Also, walking is good for your health. It keeps the heart pumping and gives you a nice feeling once you finish and relax. Personally, I love walking a lot! It is great exercise!
Your greatest weapon is your smile! Yes, if you smile naturally while talking to people in the street or while taking photos, people feel your presence as less intimidating and they accept you easier. Smiling is something that anyone can understand and if it is real, it can get you through a difficult situation or can help you get a nice street portrait. So, wear a smile always!
No matter what, when hitting the streets for Street Hunting, keep in mind that one of the DO’s or DON’Ts of Street Photography might prove useful to you, so give them a careful read and take notes. If you feel that the area you shoot at needs additional “rules” then add them to your DO’s and DON’Ts list. If you would like to share them with StreetHunters.net’s readers, please do so, I know I would be very interested in your opinion.
Keep shooting and making interesting pictures!