NOTE: This is a Guest Blog post written by Brian von Bjeldbak exclusively for www.streethunters.net.
I, the Sniper
Please accept my excuses up-front for any silly sounding phrases. English is not my native tongue but I can assure you that you’ll have a much better time reading the article in my way of English rather than in Danish.
My old approach to street photography
On a cold day in November some years ago, I was fed up with street photography. After having ploughed my way through the streets of a larger city where nothing of interest had happened before me for the last four hours, I started wondering how to achieve great street photography images.
In my part of the world, Scandinavia, the weather is pretty sour most of the year. People don’t hang out outside so there’s no street life to rely on. So I had to find another approach to this stuff.
My new approach
I began to search the internet and found some valuable knowledge.
First of all, I found out that I don’t have to wear off my shoes while I am on my quest for exciting situations. Also people do not willingly jump into the sight of my viewfinder. No, I discovered that I can just stand still and wait and still make photos. Great!
Secondly, I learned that when I can choose the locations, and also choose the lighting. I get to play with the ambient light in order to highlight my subject and position myself accordingly. We are talking light and shadow here, the core of photography.
Thirdly, I found out that I can wait to squeeze the trigger until my subject has reached a certain point in my geometrical composition, brilliantly conceived by myself with just a little bit of help by the rules of composition.
The rules of composition, as you may know, are not unbreakable rules like the traffic laws, but merely natural guidelines to help us photographers (and painters) to make our images work and make it clear for our viewers to comprehend the meaning behind our compositions.
The walk-about style of street photography wears you out. I used to be about 2 meters high (6’ 6”) when I started out, but now as the years go by, I’m down to 1,70m (5’ 7”). That’s reason enough to jump to the wait-and-snipe style.
This fantastic knowledge should be passed on to every photography enthusiast, I think, and looking at Instagram and all the images there indicates that there’s a need for it.
The wait-and-snipe style has really helped me a lot to achieve way better images and thus having much more fun practicing my hobby. I don’t depend upon possible situations to appear, which they never do by the way. Instead, I create a scene almost anywhere using what I have available to me. Light, subjects, shapes and buildings.
Allow me to repeat: “I can create”. Isn’t that what’s it all about: being creative?
My daytime job is in the photography business: I’m a professional photographer. I push people around for a living – make them stand, sit, jump, roll-over, smile, not smile, look to the left, look to the right.
My clients want to have their picture taken and they will even pay me for it. Therefore, I mostly get my compositions served on a silver platter. I’m not a creative photographer in that respect – I’m just using techniques to nail my shots.
But, to make images on the street, using only the ambient light and passersby as subjects to fulfil my compositional goals, well that is being creative, maybe even artistic.
Composition rules are not everybody’s cup of tea, I’ve learned. You know, Golden Ratio, Golden Triangle and so forth. Why work with rules – it’s so limiting, some might say.
The rules (or guides) of composition are actually just expressing a natural state of balance to make sure that the things – trees, road signs, persons – in our images are positioned in an eye pleasing way and don’t make the image “tip over”. It comes easy to some photographers, while others have to learn it.
I prefer to use other terms: Balance, Light & Background – my “BLB”.
If I just:
- get my balance right
- get my main subject to be positioned in the best lit part of the image and
- check that the background is non-distracting/non-disturbing, then
my image will work. It’ll look good and the viewers will understand what’s up and down and what’s going on in the image.
Sometimes, when a scene is really chaotic, I draw imaginary lines in my viewfinder to position myself and my subjects right. It works quite good for me. Of course, I have to know the composition rules then, to perform that little check in the camera.
Rules are not bad. I know another one: if you jump off a cliff, you fall down. This rule is also a guide, preventing you from jumping off a cliff… hopefully.
Keep shooting… and editing… and backing-up… and posting.
Brian von Bjeldbak