Name itself says Street photography is candid photography of human life and human nature. Nothing but to show our surroundings, how photographers relate to them. We are capturing what we see, to find the moments that propel us, and to then share them with others. It’s like daydreaming with a camera.
We do not need people to be present in an image to consider it as a street photograph. The photograph does not need to be taken in a city, or in a busy market. It can be taken anywhere and can portray nearly anything, as long as it isn’t posed or manipulated.
This is the most common and easy form of photography. Anyone can do it. it does not demand an expensive camera, A big studio, professional lighting, or beautiful models. Its all about how do you show the daily life, it’s all about how differently we show them. And it’s up to us to figure out what and how to capture that and bring it home.
- What should one know before starting it and How to overcome the fear.
- Should know the law of street photography
- Follow these important tips to get you started.
- Camera settings
- Composition and light
- Extra tips
- Contents of street photography
What should one know before starting it and How to overcome the fear.
Most of the beginners would hesitate about Street photography, As it is challenging the form of photography, and sometimes it can be scary to the subjects. We would not have the permission of the people or the place we are trying to photograph. It is about the terms we will have to abide by while doing street photography. For every image we capture, no matter how beautiful or interesting, there is the chance that the subject may not like seeing it. Some will, but there are some that will not.
Most of us do this because we like people, and we like exploring and capturing the culture.
Fear is one of the toughest obstacles to overcome for beginners; the main idea to keep in mind is that getting caught does not have to be that bad.
it’s an important moment when you speak to someone, after having taken his or her candid photograph for the first time.
I do carry my camera wherever I go, expecting to get few good moments on the street, Many times I have been questioned by the people around when I try picturing their lifestyle If someone asks me what you are doing? I will just say that I am a photographer who is doing a project capturing the culture and people of India, and I thought they looked fabulous. If they ask further, I will explain more and tell them that I did not mean to make them uncomfortable, and that I’m happy to delete the image if they prefer. Few times have I ever had to delete a photograph when the person asked me nicely. Those are pretty good odds. You do not need to delete the photograph of course; that’s a decision you need to make for yourself. I frequently do Street photography because I like engaging with people, studying their lifestyle, capturing their life, and if they seem uncomfortable in the moment, then I have decided to delete the images for their benefit…
If someone catches you, own up to it. Do not be argumentative. Even if it is in your legal right, you do not need to use that as your dispute. You don’t need to argue at all. Make sure to keep a smile on your face no matter what, And apologize if required.
I would strongly recommend you to consider starting the shoot somewhere busy location, such as at a fair a lane, or a market. If you are just learning, go where there are a lot of people, so that you will be less noticeable. This is a great way to get over the initial hump, and as you improve, you can then exercise to completely different places and locations.
Should know the law of street photography
Before you walk for a street photography, Its advised to know the ground rules of it, one can use photographs taken in public places for artistic purposes, without the need for a model release. This means you can sell them as fine art prints, or as illustrations for books or cards. However, you cannot use these images for commercial or advertising purposes without a model release of any person in the image, It should not be used to promote a product. Legal rights aside, it can also be smart to research an area that you are traveling to, so that you can find out what practicing street photography is like there. There are places where photography is completely prohibited, there are also places which do entertain the photography, while in others people may be much more confrontational. You may have to understand the local law or take permission from the local authority before photographing. It’s better to talk to the person you are trying to photograph and let them know the purpose of it.
You also want to assess people before you decide to take a photograph of them. It’s usually not worth it to photograph anyone who looks very angry, or who might have some mental disability. Use your judgment, and if your gut says no, then wait for the next one. There are a lot of opportunities out there.
Follow these important tips to get you started
The best tip I can possibly give you is to find a good spot and just sit and wait there. Just start roaming around try observing the things and try framing them, Walking would get u to many wonderful locations, but will only give you a brief moment to capture the right image there. Instead, find the right location, and then just wait for the right moment to happen. By hanging out in one area helps you focus more of your attention towards observing, and building a coordination with your camera. You may get moments in a fraction of seconds, So be ready with your index finger to hit the trigger, Finally, people will be entering your personal space instead of you entering their space. It makes a big difference to capturing good shots, in a way that is comfortable for both parties.
The next very simple tip refers to the camera snap, which is something that most photographers do instinctually. Try it, and take a photo. The second you take a photograph; you will likely immediately move the camera away from your eye slightly. This is what tips off people, to the fact that you have taken their photo. Instead, after you capture an image, hold the camera there until the subject leaves your scene. It will lead the person to think that you were just photographing the background and that they were in the way, or will confuse them enough to leave you alone.
Next, consider photographing within your everyday life, near where you live. It’s a common misconception to think that you can only do street photography well in the most interesting of areas.
We have the talented photographers with artistic and creative eyes but still stop themselves from street photography thinking that it could be attained only with high-end cameras, Well, you can do it with any type of camera. You can do it with an SLR and a long zoom lens, and also you can do it well with a camera phone as any smartphones have very good pixels in recent times.
However, different equipment will have different advantages. Though a zoom lens will give us more clear opportunities at different distances, those are heavier and more noticeable, and bulkier. A prime lens will constrict you to images at a specific distance from the camera, but will also be light, freeing, and fun to use.
The lighter the kit easier the travel, it gives you a lot more flexibility. Mirrorless, micro four-thirds cameras, or even a camera phone, will allow you to take images more easily, in places where a large camera would standout too much. As they are lighter hence more fun to shoot with, which will allow you to enjoy photography in all situations where you normally wouldn’t take your SLR.
Prime lenses, while constricting you to a specific focal length, will actually give you a big advantage. This would allow you to see the world more impulsively with that focal length, and while the constriction will stop you from being able to capture certain shots, you will become even better at capturing images within the constraints of that focal length. Because of this, you will become quicker, and more spontaneous with your camera.
Need not to worry much about the camera setting unless you do not have a hand on the Manual mode, Most of the photographers shoot in auto mode as the subject and the story in the picture is what matters. Each photographer will have their unique way of shooting the photos, So there is no standard rule of combination of ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed, It all depends on the situation you are at and the subject you are trying to photograph. There is no correct way, but there are some factors to consider. I would consider being open to trying other ways of shooting to get out of your comfort zone. It can be good to switch things up every once in awhile.
Few photographers choose to have a lot of bokeh in all of their images. This is a fine way to shoot, but you also have to consider that in the fast-moving genre of candid photography, if you are photographing at f/2.8 and you miss the focus slightly, you will probably ruin the shot. It will be tougher to capture images with multiple subjects at different depths shooting wide opened. By choosing to blur the surroundings; you will also remove some of the context and background of the image, which can take away some of the meaning or storytelling.
For these reasons, I usually try to shoot with as much depth of field as possible. I find that with the variety of situations that you can come across suddenly in street photography, this strategy allows you to succeed more often than not.
It is important to pay strict attention to your shutter speed, much more than you would for genres of photography where your subject is not moving. You need a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of people. I prefer to use 1/250th in the shade and 1/400 or 1/500th in direct sunlight. In darker situations, I will go to 1/160th and sometimes 1/125th.
Now imagine that you are trying to squeeze as much depth of field as possible out of your camera. What is the ideal way to set up your camera to achieve this? The first thing to do is to set your ISO. You should not be afraid to raise your ISO up to high numbers. Grain (or noise if you prefer) is good here. Test your camera out to see how it looks at high ISOs, not just on the monitor, but in different sized prints. With newer cameras, you can easily go to ISO 1600, 3200, and for some even 6400.
Composition and Light
After all the Light is what matters, We can not take a picture in the dark, the composition for street photography works the same way that it does for every other form of photography, But still there are few things that we have to consider while street photography. Try composing your street photographs the same way that you would compose your landscape images. Assess the scene and arrange all of the elements together. Every element counts just as much as they do in a traditional landscape, no matter what it is, and the best street photographers have a way of bringing everything together in just the right way.
Many times, the subject alone is all that counts, and you will want to frame with it, or blur the background away, forgetting about everything else. Try to see beyond the main subject, and see if you can combine it with other elements to create a more complex scene. Can you create relationships between subjects to add new meaning to an image? Whether or not you decide to make the surroundings prominent, you always need to be aware of them. The way the light hit your subject, and where is it located in relation to that subject? How is it hitting the background? What color is the light, and are there multiple light sources? These are ideas that you will usually pay attention to for every type of photography, but it is important to understand for street photography that there is no best time or lighting.
Facial expressions and gestures
As we mainly come across people during street photography, When capturing images of people, just walking down the street, or standing in place, is not enough. To take your image to the next level, that person needs to have a strong facial expression or gesture in their body.
As humans, we feel what another person is feeling, through their facial expressions. When you’re out shooting, one of the first things you should be doing is paying attention to people’s eyes and the expressions they show. so keep an eye out for how a person may be expressing themselves through their body, hands, legs, and feet.
The beauty lays here, the street photography is often in its imperfections. Do not try and make a photograph perfect in every way. Strong grain (or digital noise), an image that is slightly out of line, an element that is slightly in the way, or imperfect lighting, are all examples of what can make an image feel real. While any of these things have the ability to ruin a photo, sometimes they can get in the way just enough to make it feel like a natural moment. So while you should always aim for technical mastery, realize that imperfections can be beneficial, and even necessary.
Contents of street photography
Well, This must be the toughest step in all of this is to figure out what it is that you actually want to capture and create. What do you want your photographs to be of, and what do you want them to look like? When we try having a look at the works of any great street photographers who would have done a fabulous job, you will find the uniqueness and consistencies in each work. There is no specific contents as such and its all about how you see the world differently, The longer you are into street photography the more you will understand it. You will start seeing the changes from one photograph to another. There is no hard rule as to what should an image consist of. All you need to show common things at an uncommon angle or point of view which makes the viewer mesmerized.
Occasionally, you will have big ideas right away, but often it will take a lot of time for these ideas to grow and develop naturally.
This must be a challenging task for few and few would enjoy doing it, Parallel to the photography editing plays a crucial role in presenting a picture to the world. If you have done a fabulous job on street while clicking picture but failed to give a retouch when you sit in front of your computer would not serve the purpose, Its let to your discretion as to how a image should be shown, Few pics would not need any edit but few would need it, There are Black and white images which gives an extra life to the images. Editing is half of the battle for becoming a good street photographer. When you are out photographing do not worry about the editing just go with the flow and play with the light. you can also combine similar images to create a larger story. It is where you can develop a style in both look and content. Because of all of this, the time that you put in editing will then help you when you are out shooting. You will notice more because you will have a better idea of what you are looking for, and this will make you a much better photographer.
I would consider star rating or flag the best images while using Lightroom and organize the best work, Later photos with same themes could be put together. Finding consistencies in the work and images is what play well of each other, and create collections for them. Creative thinker would add, remove photos, and change the order in the collections and stitch a new one.
Street photography over realism and a made-up moment is not a true street photograph. Similarly, an image that is over-edited, so as to make it look fake, will kill the spirit of street photography. The image does not have to be perfect. You do not have to have every detail in the shadows and highlights. While you should do enough post-production to make it look right, always take a step back and consider whether or not you’ve overcooked it.
The last and foremost step before starting Street photography. You can refer the work of other street photographers and observe the content they have worked on the style everything, I am not saying to replicate the work but I remember a quote “more the photographs you see, better the photographer you will become” which I personally follow, Referring pictures of other would trigger your creativity and leads for something new. Consider the locations which other photographers would have included in their pictures. Maybe a big city, rural or suburban, Purchase some books on a regular basis which helps to learn it technically. You can also take help of any peers and get along them and see how they start it, You can constantly seek for the feedback and improvise the work, You can also watch the Travel & Tourism related shows in the TV channels wherein you would get to see the interviews of famous street photographers. Read about the history and location of the photographer, look through as much of their portfolio as you can, and then try to figure out what they were trying to say. Sometimes you will find yourself with a completely new appreciation for the photographer, and see things in their work that went right over your head with your first look.
Article By Shiv
Founder Phometo Studio, Bangalore.