Determining Your Street Photography Style
So when taking a long, hard look at this title, I had to ask myself an obvious question. “What is my street photography style?” Talk about a tough one! Do I even have a “style” per se? Hmmm.
Creating a style for oneself is by no means an easy task. Since I’m a new photographer, this is still a work in progress. Figuring out what my style is, as the end product, to me, is a Herculean task. Let me sort of digress and go into the music world. I never wanted to be in a band that sounded like anyone else’s band. My goal was to create our own SOUND. THAT sound encompassed everything aural. Tones, beats, noises, grooves, riffs, samples, lyrics and the singing. All the sounds. I wanted nothing more than for someone to hear us, with an unheard song in a mix, and say HEY! That sounds like Deerheart! To have your style be your identification, without a listener even seeing who you are… that was a goal of mine, personally. And an admirable one too, I thought. I would have loved to be an influence on someone else’s style and hopefully we were. I do know this: we rocked people as much as we turned them away. I thought that was a good start!
It’s that goal, from those days, that I’ve been trying to apply in developing my own street photography style. However, this is is still a work in progress. Still being relatively new to the game, I’m just now getting in my groove. After reading Spyros‘ post on The Types Of Street Photography, I had clear definitions of the types of street photography. Previously, I had not read much about it. I had no knowledge of the history of it or the process, so to speak. I had inspiration from seeing street work and that was it.
As of this moment, I find myself nestled between unobtrusive/standard street photography and street portraiture and I love it. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I like my shots to either pose questions or convey emotions. The ultimate, for me, is when I can get a shot to do both. I also like shots that show ordinary slices of life, or everyday folks, but do so elegantly or beautifully. But how do I find my style in this clutter that’s between what my eyes see, what my brain thinks and what my heart wants?
The angle I take in a composition is arguably the most important factor for me. It really does help what makes the shot. Shooting backs of people, the unobtrusive style, can be powerful if the composition is right. These style of shots can be the most intriguing ones, and I love the mystery that comes with them. You can’t see the subject’s faces, their expressions. There’s so many things that are unknown. But what is known is the relation of the subject to their surroundings. It sets a stage where the viewer’s mind acts out the play. You get a sense of their progress, their destination, if they’re in motion and that’s it. Likewise, if the subject is still. You know the subject is basically motionless, but why? Are they waiting while the world goes in around them? The mystery is there and questions are almost infinite. This angle, from the back, is incredibly thought provoking and I incorporate it often. More revealing is profile shots of a subject or the full-on portrait, be it posed or candid. More of the story is told, because you can see some or all of the subject’s face. Questions remain with this style also. Facial expressions can invoke great emotion and tell us many things. Sadness, happiness, anger, fatigue, etc. With these expressions come the questions. Why does the subject look that way? As I’ve become braver with shooting faces, I find myself doing it more each time I shoot. And this is simply because I love it. We all look different. We all tell different stories with just our face.
I absolutely love shooting in color. Street scenes give a such lovely palettes to work with. But I cannot deny the sheer power of the black and white image. My personal favorite images have been the ones I’ve produced in mono. As I’m carving out my style, I tend to go for mono. To me, I think my images in mono have made a greater impact. And this impact is partly emotional. When capturing a person, their face, I think my images in mono do a better job of conveying a feeling. There is something about mono that carries emotional weight that I can’t seem to reproduce in color. Not yet. The definition that comes with mono is a huge factor in my style.
My style, like I stated previously, is traditional. However, I see it evolving. Changing. As I’ve become more courageous, I’ve discovered that I’ve been challenging myself more frequently. This, in retrospect, is both a conscious and subconscious decision. With street work, there’s often little time to think. I’ve attempted to get closer to subjects. This, I feel, will be most beneficial in creating my own style… which is the ultimate goal.