As tech progresses further and further we find more and more that we need to do less and less to make things happen. Cars can now swap cogs, brake automatically, and in some respects drive far better than people can manage. Homes are becoming ‘smart’, with auto lights and heating, and Wi-Fi enabled everything. The great march towards automation is the Holy Grail for manufacturers, and will in all likelihood come to define and dramatically shape how we live our lives this century. Naturally of course, the drive of automation has been embraced by camera manufacturers too over the last half century or so, with the arrival of built-in light meters, auto winders, automatic exposure modes, motor drive, autofocus and TTL flash – the list goes on and on. And all this is hardly surprising. There’s a lot to think about in photography, and auto modes take so much of the hassle out of the process, paring it back for the majority of users so all they need to worry about is pressing the shutter. As well as their portability and always-with-you convenience, a big aspect of the success of smartphones and iPhones as cameras is the effectiveness of their fully auto camera controls. With each new phone or software update the technology gets better and better, with the phone doing more and more of the work to easily produce great looking pictures exactly how the user envisaged. Hell, the newest iPhone can now even make ‘professional’ style shallow depth of field portrait photos! But there remains something brilliantly satisfying about using manual controls in photography, in much the same way as it’s great fun to drive a fully manual sports car. And in street photography in particular, I personally feel that shooting fully manual is the best way for me to get the results I want, and get maximum enjoyment from the experience. Why? Well, let me first explain exactly what I mean by ‘fully manual” and then give you my personal run-down of the 10 reasons why I shoot in manual mode for street photography.
Back in September 2015 I wrote a post titled “13 Reasons Why You Should Shoot Film In Street Photography“. That post had been welcomed by many, especially by all us nostalgic film users. Today I have decided to share with you 15 reasons why you should shoot Digital in Street Photography, because as you know I shoot both and I still can’t make up my mind. What I keep telling myself is that we shouldn’t have to make up our minds and choose one or the other, we can shoot with both. In addition to the above reason, I tried searching on the web for reasons to shoot digital and I couldn’t really find any. It seems that everybody has been writing about reasons to shoot film, so this is a good opportunity for me to go against the trend and even against my own preachings from the previous post.
Let us for one instant imagine that you dear reader and I were chatting in a pub, right now, enjoying our favourite beverages (beer for me), talking about photography, and I was totally and utterly a 100% digital shooter (which I am not) and I wanted to convince you of the benefits of digital technology in Street Photography, this is what I would have told you to make you see things my way.
These days it feels as if everyone is shooting with digital cameras. The reasons are many, but the basic and most obvious one is that like everything else surrounding us, photography too has been digitised. Digital photography produces great results, just as good as film, and some even claim it has now surpassed film. More and more amazing high quality Full Frame and APS-C sensors are being squeezed into small modern cameras with tremendous abilities. But still, there are Street Hunters out there that prefer film over digital. The Romantics of photography, the analogue masters of light. Why though? Why would someone living in our time choose to still use film over digital in Street Photography? What could film offer that digital can’t do even better? I have thought about this many times, especially during my transition from digital to film 2 years ago and I’m come up with 13 reasons why I think you should shoot film in Street Photography.
Street photography tends to be seen as a solitary pursuit. The Street Photographer is a lone wolf, pounding (or should that be prowling) the streets in solitude in search of that evasive nirvana – the ‘perfect’ street photo. The Street Photographer will wait for hours at that one spot because “the light is right” – their only company that strange metal or plastic contraption packed with springs, gears, glass, a mirror (maybe!), emulsion (maybe!!), and electronics (maybe!!!). This is The Street Photographer. It has always been thus. But it doesn’t have to be like this – there is another way! Allow me to suggest to you 10 reasons why street photography is so much better with a friend.
With the advent of the New Year and resolutions being made I thought it useful for those teetering on the edge of the abyss of yea or nay of Street Photography to maybe compound and help them make the decision to quit.
Many street photographers choose to use compact cameras rather than DSLR or Mirrorless cameras. This post will hopefully highlight some of the reasons why.
1. Size and Weight
Obviously, by its very name, a compact camera is small and light. Therefore they are easy to carry around and the size and weight don’t become a burden when you are out for several hours, walking the streets, looking for new material. A photowalk for 2-3 hours can be quite tiring particularly if it is hot. If you carry a lot of equipment you will tire quicker, both physically and mentally. A compact therefore is a good option as you will hardly know it’s there in terms of its size and weight.
I use a Mirrorless camera 90% of the time for my Street Hunting. The other 10% is split into 35mm film Rangefinder cameras and my iPhone. This is not by chance. Mirrorless cameras have many advantages in Street Photography and we will talk about the most important ones below. Before we get into that though, I would like to tell you in simple words what a Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera is and give you a few examples.
A MILC (Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera) is a camera that does not need a mirror to work, as a DSLR does. It uses interchangeable lenses, unlike digital compact cameras and usually has a large image sensor, from Nikon CX, to m4/3 to full frame. A few good examples of MILCs are the SONY NEX System, the Leica Digital M System, the Olympus OM-D, The Fuji X System and more. So, from the above description you can understand that for example the very popular Fuji X100S is not a MILC since it doesn’t offer the option of changing lenses, but on the contrary the Fuji X-Pro1 is a MILC because it works without a mirror and works around an interchangeable lens system.
Technology has certainly come a very long way and in just a short amount of time. One of the most shining examples of that is our mobile phones. Think back to the earliest variations and compare them to what we have now. Amazing! Besides being mini computers, they have become fantastic cameras. The quality of pictures we get these days is phenomenal when compared to just a few years ago. Really, our smartphones have become game-changers in the world of photography. So, I’d like to talk about why smartphones are good for street photography!
I’m a newcomer to street photography. And I mean NEW. I’ve only recently attempted it twice. I am, however, a big fan of the genre and I’m looking forward to diving deeper into it. That being said, the following is based mostly on my appreciation of the genre and not so much the experience.
1. Street Photography Has SOUL
This is hard to explain, but it’s the most important… at least in my book. We see pictures everyday. Beautiful landscapes, portraits, etc. , but some lack the soul. Street photography is that moment you see, and it packs the soul right into it. A true slice of life. Especially the people. Streetscapes have it as well. Maybe as I continue on with my list, this will explain it better.
When I first sat down to write this post I thought to myself, “this will be easy”, but how wrong I was. The thing with Street Photography is that a lot of it is spontaneous so you don’t get time to think, you just react. Anyway I’ve given it some thought and here it is;
1. A Lifelong Interest in People Watching
As I mentioned in my profile, I only started photography at the beginning of this year and street photography a short time after that. Throughout my adult life though, I have always been interested in people. I love watching them, their mannerisms, the way they dress etc. Be it while having a coffee at a street cafe, in the park, on the beach or just walking the streets there are infinite opportunities. This is what probably influenced me, more than anything else, to take up street photography.