Practice, practice, practice. That is a mantra for street photography. A commandment, even. Like with a musician, or an athlete, only with practice can one become better. Simple? Yes. Common sense? No doubt. But taking the plunge into street photography might seem like an insurmountable feat for some. That first step can arguably be the hardest one an aspiring shooter takes. This is the point where advice and suggestions really come into play. The point where a budding Street photographer is most impressionable. Looking at great images is surely the most important thing to do, but if you’re not tight with another Street photographer, you want some instruction. Outside of taking a workshop, there’s a wealth of resources out there. There’s an incredible amount of books, tutorials and so-called rules shared by an equally incredible amount of street photographers in both print and digital formats. But whose guidance do you trust?
As with learning any skill, art or trade, it’s best to be guided by someone with experience. But that alone doesn’t cut it. Shooting street for years doesn’t mean squat if they’re not good at it. Valerie Jardin has skills and the service time to meet the qualifications for a trusted instructor. Now, she has an e-book, Street Photography: First Steps And Beyond, to add to her resume.
Jardin has been in the game for a while now and has already built an impressive resume. She hosts the Street Focus podcast. She writes for Digital Photography School and had her own photography blog. She’s a USA Fujifilm X Photographer. Valerie Jardin also regularly holds street photography workshops and had her work in exhibitions in the USA and Europe. On paper, it’s clear that Jardin knows what she is doing and has built a solid brand. And a look at her work tells us she has the chops… the walk to go with the talk.
At 76 pages, this eBook is lean, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t meaty with chunks of rock-solid street wisdom. Better yet, Jardin has chosen a selection of images from her portfolio that showcase some of her best work. Jardin’s more artistic and color images really stand out, cementing the fact that she is a skilled street shooter. And, more importantly, Jardin’s best images should serve to inspire aspiring photographers. To show them what they’re capable of producing if they follow her instruction and unlock their passion with a commitment to practice. Jardin is equally deft working in both mono and color and in her finest work, her passion for street photography becomes contagious.
Even though Street Photography: First Steps And Beyond is rich with photographs that feature Jardin’s work, that’s not the reason why we’re here. We’re here to see if Valerie Jardin delivers on her promise to help you get started in street photography and to give us tips to step up our game and make stronger images.
The answer is yes, Jardin does deliver, particularly to the beginner.
Jardin has written a streamlined manual for the street photography student. Tight and very well-written, Jardin doesn’t venture out into the ether with ramblings on soul-searching or “deeper” purpose via street. What she has done is given us the nuts and bolts to put together our own street machine. To get the novice started on their own path with helpful, sturdy information.
Out of the gate, Jardin addresses questions on legality and ethics in shooting street along with the question I’m sure many a novice street photographer has asked… “what gear should I use”. Jardin writes that “smaller is better and quiet is gold”, but also hammers home the fact that “the camera is only a tool.”
“Just remember: The only way a new camera is going to make you a better photographer is if it takes you on more photo walks. The success of the photograph is 100% up to you and you only.”
Practice, practice, practice.
Next, Jardin covers that one thing. The thing that will stop a photographer from stepping into the ring called street. That thing is the fear of photographing strangers.
“Many photographers freeze at the thought of photographing strangers in the streets. It’s a very natural feeling. It is a very intimidating thing to do until you reach a point where your fear of not getting the shot becomes bigger than your fear of getting the shot. At that moment street photography becomes a way of life.”
With that, Jardin wraps up the first of three sections in the book. The second section, Different Ways To Approach Street Photography, has the author providing readers with different ways to shoot street. She explores how to be an observer and being part of the scene. Jardin also covers finding a “stage” for a shot and incorporating a minimalist and artistic approaches. Street portraits are covered as well. Some of the more golden nuggets taken away from this section are the importance of quick thinking and anticipation.
Elements That Make A Strong Street Photograph, is the third and strongest section Jardin’s book. It travels well-tread ground, but does so nimbly and concisely, touching on key ingredients that can go into the street photography recipe. Some instructional writing can be long-winded and cause the reader to drift, losing sight of the task at hand. That is not the case here. Jardin is a good writer, and her economical style keeps things moving along while hitting all the nails on their proverbial heads. Leading lines, triangles, depth, juxtapositions, negative space, layers… terms a burgeoning street photographer may know, but unaware of how to incorporate into composing a street photograph. In this section, Jardin also writes about the importance of light and how to use shadows, reflections and silhouettes and the use of motion techniques. Also explored is the ever-burning question that nags many a green street photographer, “color or black and white?’. It should be noted that Jardin has some truly killer images in this section, in both color and mono, to assist in delivering her advice. She also uses this section to weigh in on the use of humor in street photography, a personal favorite of mine. With the use of humor in street, Jardin endorses a golden rule approach.
“Is everything that looks funny also fair game? I believe the number one rule in street photography is respect. Humor is great, making ridicule of your subjects is going too far. Turn it around. If it were you in the picture, how would you feel? Would you mind it being posted on social media for everyone to see? If the answer is yes(you would mind), then you should probably think twice about using the image.”
The only question I asked myself after reading Valerie Jardin’s Street Photography: First Steps And Beyond, is… would I recommend it? This ebook is a great little primer for the beginning street photographer. It makes solid contact with all the basics that a newbie should know about and serves up an assortment of nice images, some stellar, to go with the text. Sure, the information within could be found for free out in the wild, but here it is wrapped up in a nice, easy-to-read package with accompanying eye-candy from Jardin’s own camera. At $10 USD through Jardin’s website, www.valeriejardinphotography.com, it isn’t a bad deal from this talented street photographer and being an e-book, it makes access and reference easy on-the-go. I can recommend this for the aspiring street photographer and to any fans of Valerie Jardin’s work.