The Benefits Of Being A Street Photographer

The Benefits Of Being A Street Photographer

Andrew Sweigart selfie

Introduction

Street Photography has opened a door into a band new realm of creativity for me. I would be willing to bet that any one you reading this could say the same. This expedition is still in it’s early stages for me. I can count my street excursions on my fingers and toes! Like any new adventure, it’s exciting, but also slightly terrifying. The thrill comes from the wonderful mixture of both.

Besides the thrill, the biggest reward I’ve reaped is the skills I’ve acquired. Prior to this, I would have considered myself a hobbyist. I would shoot mostly inanimate objects, with the exception being animals. Venture out on a sunny day and snap away mostly on Auto. I got cool shots, but I didn’t challenge myself. It wasn’t until I got gentle pressuring from Spyros that I even attempted shooting a human being or street shots. I was fearful, really. But man, am I glad I accepted the challenge! I didn’t know what I, with my camera, was capable of. That being said, I’d like to tell you about the benefits that I’ve discovered, of being a street photographer. I’d like to focus on the new skills that I’ve begun to acquire. And I’m going to keep this simple and personal. No technical talk, because frankly, I don’t know it!

I See People Differently

I love people. They fascinate me. But have I ever really observed them? Before this, I would have to say no. I interact with people all day long. With my job, it’s anyone from familiar co-workers to people from other countries. However I don’t really observe them. Things are much different when shooting on the street. A very voyeuristic nature overtakes me.

When shooting people, I immediately try to make some sort of connection. I see a subject doing whatever it is they’re doing. Walking. Are they going to work? Are they heading home? Going to meet a date? Or even sitting on a park bench, twiddling with their phone. Are they texting someone? Are they angry, happy or sad? I don’t really know the answer to any of these questions. But I generate answers in my mind when I line up the shot. I believe that this, when working to achieve a desired composition, adds soul to the shot. This is very important to me.

It all happens so fast. In split seconds, a story is generated. The person’s body language, fleshes out the storyline. When their face is captured, the story becomes even more intense. It adds a whole new dimension to the tale you’ll be telling.  Also factoring in are things such as wardrobe and accessories. These also help visually write the tale my shot will be telling. The raggedy clothes of the skateboarder. The several hundred dollar suit of the businessman. They have something to tell.

The skill acquired here is observation. Developing a photographer’s eye, I guess you could say. Which also opens another world of…

Composition

This is where a street photographer hits a home run. As we all know, street shooting is a completely different world from other styles of photography. It’s vibrant and constantly changing. Yes, the backdrops may remain static, but the subjects that interact with those backdrops are constantly changing. That’s where the challenge is. Most of the time, the subjects are in some kind of motion. Walking, running, moving. Even if they’re sitting still, they’re no statute. Facial expressions change. Eyes blink. Heads turn. Smiles, frowns, yawns. Capturing that physical expression against the different street environments can be a daunting task. Framing the shot and seizing that moment that freezes them against it, that’s the challenge. How that frozen motion, however small it may be, is captured… can be crucial to the desired effect you want to achieve. How is that subject injecting with the environment? What story it’s it going to tell? Your composition can answer those questions.

Also, I find how the background is framed can indeed have a huge impact. Angles, shadows and light can all be either allies or enemies. There’s fantastic architecture out that provides with canvases on which to paint. The crowded street also gives us this, as does the lonely alley. There’s so much for us to work with, that at times it can be overwhelming. But, that’s a wonderful problem to have. Along with getting good composition in a street environment, I’ve also had to learn how to…

Predict Situations

As I mentioned above, the street environment is always changing. With people, I’ve found I’ve had to learn how, or at least attempt, to predict their actions. Situations, scenes, they all can unfold in a heartbeat. Being prepared is the key. A simple example would be a streetlight changing color. You know those people waiting to cross will be in motion. Having your shot framed in advance, with your finger in the shutter button… that’s being prepared. But there’s other instances where prediction comes in to play. Probably millions of them when it comes to a busy scene. Watching that person with a cigarette, for example. You know they’re going to either take another drag or they’re going to flick it down or away. But that’s another simple example. Predicting situations is not an exact science by any means. It is an action that’s hard to define. It’s mostly instinct. It’s gut feelings we get as human beings. It’s scenarios we’ve seen played out before and can recognize and predict from the visual clues presented to us. But, I’ve noticed that practicing street photography makes you more adept at these predictions. The more I observe and the more I shoot, the better I become at it. And the more I shoot, the more I…

Get To Know My Camera

My camera is still very new to me. I really haven’t even tapped into its full potential. There’s a boatload of magic packed inside that thing, and I dig into more each time I shoot. The simple things, like shutter speeds, depth of field, ISO, etc are all great wide worlds that I’m just setting foot into. I relish and welcome the challenge each and every time I go out. How to get shots in varying types of sunlight is a great example. I know there’s adjustments that need to be made, and they’re not the same every time! I love to learn and try new things with my camera, and street photography provides a great vehicle in which to do that. How my few different lenses work with scenes is pretty mind blowing, too! I have a general idea what they can do, but only with practice can I realise their full potential. Only with practice can I realise how fast they are and if that lens is the right tool for that job. Practice. Practice. Practice. I only wish there was more hours in the day.

Conclusion

I’ve fallen in love with street photography. I love the style, I love the captures, and I love shooting it. It’s opened up amazing  opportunities to learn these skills I mentioned above. And, I believe, I can apply those skills to other types of shooting. They are valuable and essential, and I love putting them into practice. But to me, you can wrap the heart, the essence, of these skills into a nice little package, and that’s the Street Hunters Mission Statement. Allow me to quote my friend, Spyros.

“Street Hunters like us, start seing things in another perspective. We become vigilant, prone to details and curious about everything. We see beauty amongst ugliness and evil amongst beauty. It is like someone removed the blinds from our eyes.”

I think that wraps it up quite nicely. Happy snapping!

3 COMMENTS

  1. I am an aspiring photographer, and I love your work I’d love to do what you are doing. Maybe someday I’ll get the chance. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Rod Taylor, thank you so very much for the kind words!!! Hearing your words is what inspires ME! It makes me so happy to see it come full circle. I do it for the love and for the sharing. To know that someone digs it… that’s what it’s all about. If you’ve got a camera of any kind, you can do it. Jump in with both feet like I did. I’ve only been street shooting for a few months!

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