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'Street Photography' - Howto

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Hi,

 

Apologies if this isn't the right forum but I'm not sure where else this question fits in;

 

I'd like to try my hand at more street photography but am not sure about the best approach to take when taking candid shots of total strangers. A number of shots I've seen would appear to be taken from waist/chest height suggesting that the photographer has taken a best guess at the distance to the subject, selected a small aperture to give a larger DOF, offsetting focusing errors and taken the picture without actually looking through the viewfinder.

 

I'm quite happy with the basic techniques involved but not so sure about the social side of photographing strangers.

 

I'd be interested tot hear peoples experiences of how they approach candid photography in this day and age of security scares etc., also any advice/links regarding suitable reading material etc.

 

- Jim

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Guest Bernd Banken

Hi Jim,

 

not such an easy place to shoot strangers, I guess;)

 

Streetphotography has so many faces as we can see so there is no rule to follow.

You can shoot outstanding photographs without coming to close to people or framing them totally. Sometimes only one foot its enough when the rest fits and you can achieve this special 'hook'. Not so easy to cach it when you are out and alone with your camera....

 

My pics at flickr show photographs from a different aera, especially from the seventies. Life was easier compare to today and people more friendly. Today I would not even think to shoot children without having contact to their parents!

 

My advice: look at many photographs of other people and train your eye/brain. The more you see, the more your brain will 'click' in - and your camera must come to your eye.

 

Shoots from the hip are in my eyes not really close in the meaning of the persons soul or the 'magic moment', but ok, others see it different and this is ok.

Another hint from me: decide to go on in black&white or color. Don't change in between because you will be confused in the beginning.

 

The most helpfulm advise from an old man: Take your camera ALLWAYS with you, disregarding what people might think in your near surrounding:D

 

Here the link to a very talented photographer in b/w AND color:

 

http://www2.in-public.com/RichardBram/image/1481

 

Cheers

Bernd

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Hi,

 

Apologies if this isn't the right forum but I'm not sure where else this question fits in;

 

I'd like to try my hand at more street photography but am not sure about the best approach to take when taking candid shots of total strangers. A number of shots I've seen would appear to be taken from waist/chest height suggesting that the photographer has taken a best guess at the distance to the subject, selected a small aperture to give a larger DOF, offsetting focusing errors and taken the picture without actually looking through the viewfinder.

 

I'm quite happy with the basic techniques involved but not so sure about the social side of photographing strangers.

 

I'd be interested tot hear peoples experiences of how they approach candid photography in this day and age of security scares etc., also any advice/links regarding suitable reading material etc.

 

- Jim

 

 

SP is pretty easy - just go out and shoot what you see. Dont' worry about people, and don't try to be sneaky. If you act like you should do this, they'll let you most of the time.

 

If you *have* to read something to get you going, try these:

 

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/street.shtml

 

http://www.popphoto.com/popularphotographyfeatures/859/street-photographer-interviews-john-brownlow.html

 

John runs the StreetPhoto mailling list/web forum.

 

He had a good article on technique somewhere, but it seems to be gone now...

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I pretty much agree with everything above.

 

I also agree that it is becoming increasingly common for people to be suspicious of a photographer on the street. Especially if you're a male.

 

One thing to keep in mind is that you eventually may not be able to resist taking a photo of someone who both (A) sees you taking the photo and (

becomes very upset with you. My advice is to remain calm and polite, explain that you're an artist or a student (no matter what you're doing with your life, you are one or the other in some way) and apologize for disturbing them.

 

In most places there are no laws against public photography, but I would leave this point out of the conversation as it makes you seem aggresive. Be nice.

 

So I'm a big advocate for stealth, mostly because it produces better images (for me). I never hide my camera, but I try not to make a spectacle out of myself while taking pictures.

 

EDIT: I have no idea what it's like to photograph in Saudi Arabia, so I'm sorry if my advice is useless to you.

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You should act like You are the master, and the street is Your courtyard, and the people in the street are just a guests who entered Your proprietary. You should welcome them all. People who don't mind to be photographed will unconsciously pose You. People who don't want to be photographed will escape or avoid You.

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One way to get into photographing complete strangers is to do so at sporting events or celebrations/festivals where everyone has come for a purpose and is in a relaxed mode.

 

If you work the crowd like you are a professional and give a smile/thumbs up or wink to acknowledge them, most people don't mind being part of what they will reasonably assume is "News" or "Sports" coverage.

 

On many, many occasions I've approached people "in costume" so to speak and simply asked "Do you mind if I take your picture?" and only a few (literally less than three that I can remember) have said "No" to me.

 

Just remember, if you are shooting for a media outlet, you should at the very least have the subject's name and where they are from to identify them. Most media won't even accept people shots without this anymore.

 

This will give you some practice in working with people spontaneously in the streets and create some body language for yourself that says you aren't some sinister creep.

 

If the shots are just for personal and private use (such as posting to the Forum) you can be more creative with the venues than you can if they're going to be published publicly.

 

For example, you can usually fire off a shot or two in Starbucks (without flash obviously!) or in the mall without meeting any objections, and without the need to collect names and addresses. That's where you might want to adopt some of the "shoot from the waist" and other techniques that, personally, I have never used.

 

Shooting executives and women coming and going from work or their shopping, with God knows what on their minds, by getting anywhere reasonably close with a 35 or 50 invites invasion of a personal space and personal time that's likely to get you harrassed (at best).

 

The only serious (near) altercation I've ever had was shooting a window-washer on a multi-story building as he worked outside and I was inside in the atrium lobby looking up. He and his buddy came down and harrassed me for the film, which I gave up because I'm too old to fight and too slow to run away from these types.

 

I couldn't at the time figure out why in the world they would get so bent out of shape for me shooting them as they danced around on their ropes (without any scaffolding beneath them) from a good fifty feet away.

 

I found out later they were cited by the City Building Inspector for not having proper safety equipment, or insurance, for their "window-washing company" and both landed in jail.

 

So I guess, in the end, I had the last laugh!

 

 

Thanks.

 

Allan

 

PS

 

A real world example for you.

 

Bridgette, from Maui, at the USGP last summer (who wanted a copy and whose email address I somehow forgot to delete from my 'Sent Messages' bin):

 

 

Thnx

 

AB

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Allan, i'll read all you wrote much later. For the time being, i'm studying your image.

Beautiful light, tones, texture, colours, side light, framing etc etc etc etc and so on...

 

Azzo

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Guest Bernd Banken

"For the times they are a-changin' "

 

- this year at Photokina I was so exhausted after several hours, my feet felt like large pancakes.

Sitting at the stage of the Nikon booth and checked some catalogues I recognized a young guy on the other side at the snack corner with a tele lens, shooting me.

 

After so many pics with people in my frames I thought to myself: now you are old and the face looks worth for shoots made by young dudes as I was many years ago.

 

I spoke with him and told him that a real sportsman will use a maximum 28mm and not a zoom 80-200mm:D We had a nice conversation for some minutes.

 

So the circle of life gets rounder and rounder for me I'm afraid.

 

Bernd

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I don't take street shots as a rule, as people these days are very anti having their photo taken. I was shooting a street last week for a presentation I am doing, and a telecoms worker came up to me, very aggressively and said "Why are you taking my photograph?" (He was fixing some broken traffic lights). I told him that I was shooting the architecture, and he went away.

 

I can live without that sort of aggro, thanks.

 

I know that to be a true Leica shooter, you need to do street photography, but then again, I'd rather keep my nose in its current position on my face, thanks very much.

 

One tip I was told, by a senior and much respected street shooter on this forum, is to stand still. Preferably against a building or post box or something similar. Within 5 minutes, you will have disappeared from the general street people.

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Hi,

It is all about self confidence.

I'm shy, as most people.

After some practice i now say to me self: I;m a photographer, and what does a photographer do. He takes pictures!

I saw a documentary on Martin Parr and that opened my eyes. He just goes in, makes pictures and when people ask questions he just says: You look so nice, I'm a photographer and I do a project on xyz.

DON'T BE SNEAKY WITH A BIG LONG LENS. They will spot you from a mile away. Go in with a wide angle and go close. It's amazing to notice that people don't notice you any more. DO NOT CARRY BIG CAMERA'S. Using a Bessa or a Leica M makes you look like a stupid tourist. Nobody will notice you or take you serious.

Ask the question: Hi, I like the way you look. Can I please take a picture of you.

They will say yes most of the times. In the worst case they will say no. Big deal.

Take pictures. If they see you jsut smile and nod friendly. That's howe Winogrand did it. it works.

 

Cheers,

 

Michiel Fokkema

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Guest stnami

... doing fairs, concerts, sporting events is like fishing in a bucket, people generally want to be noticed as it is a social occasion......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

..............best thing is to go where they don't like you and your camera.............after the first smack in the head you will have a fair understanding.........

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Hi,

 

Thanks for the helpful tips and anecdotes - I wasn't planning on trying much street photography here (Saudi Arabia) at the moment but I was planning on getting giving it a go on my next leave break. If anyone even suspects that I'm attempting to photograph the local women I'll face jail and deportation. Photgraphing public buildings only became legal last August...

 

The idea to start at sports events is a getting me thinking though and I'm wondering about taking pictures at the weekly camel races - a male only affair. I'll take my camera and if I see other people using camera phones get it out and start snapping.

 

Once again - many thanks ot everyone who's answered and given me some real food for thought.

 

- Jim

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Guest stnami

Brewer's shot is a posed photo.... she's saying to herself take a photo of me and me tits, his eyes have played slot machine................. jackpot and paid out a nice sum:)

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Hi,

 

Thanks for the helpful tips and anecdotes - I wasn't planning on trying much street photography here (Saudi Arabia) at the moment but I was planning on getting giving it a go on my next leave break. If anyone even suspects that I'm attempting to photograph the local women I'll face jail and deportation. Photgraphing public buildings only became legal last August...

 

The idea to start at sports events is a getting me thinking though and I'm wondering about taking pictures at the weekly camel races - a male only affair. I'll take my camera and if I see other people using camera phones get it out and start snapping.

 

Once again - many thanks ot everyone who's answered and given me some real food for thought.

 

- Jim

 

Oh, man.....

 

And since images are forbidden in more conservarive interpretation of Islam, you could have problems making photographs of men too, if you photograph conservative Muslim men, not only if you photograph women...

 

I usually lift my camera to the eye and make photograph. If photographed person see me and show with body language "don't photograph me" I put my camera away. If photographed person see me photographing him/her, I usually nod with my head and smile like "thanks". If photographed person don't see me photographing him/her, I just walk away.

 

But, I am not brave enough to try photogaph people in Saudi Arabia...

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Brewer's shot is a posed photo.... she's saying to herself take a photo of me and me tits, his eyes have played slot machine................. jackpot and paid out a nice sum

 

 

Envy...envy...envy!!!

 

 

Thanks Imants.

 

Allan

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... envy I have a front row press pass the the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras on Saturday

 

 

 

ok it is all ... straight guys need not apply:cool:

:eek:

etrouko Imants Krumins

 

 

 

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Brewer's shot is a posed photo.... she's saying to herself take a photo of me and me tits, his eyes have played slot machine................. jackpot and paid out a nice sum:)

 

That really made me LOL!

Are you going to post some shots from the Mardi Gras then?

 

As to the OP's question, much good advice has already been given. Personally I've only ever had one objection from a girl on a beach in Jamaica, and I wasn't taking HER photo she just happened to walk into MY shot. She was rude and abusive, and I gave as good as I got!

 

I agree a good starting point is an event of some sort, or a tourist attraction, where lots of people will have cameras and no one will be particularly bothered about yours. Try asking people if you can take their photo - even if you don't have to. Once you find that most people really don't object it will make you feel more relaxed too.

 

Then when you are comfortable with photographing strangers, move on to a more challenging location - just walking around a town or city, looking for interesting subject matter.

 

I agree that much of the 'problem' can be the attitude/body language of the photographer. If it looks like you're sneaking and snooping then people may get suspicious. If you just get on with it chances are you won't even be noticed.

 

If I'm ever challenged my response will be that I'm doing a course on photography and this weeks project is..... (but not had to use this yet). I would also offer to send the subject a print.

 

I went to a workshop by the In Public guys which was very interesting - if you could get along to something like that you can speak to experienced pro's about technique.

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To illustrate my point(s) here's a few of my street shots of people. The first is my One Challenge entry from Paris last year. I did actually ask the guy if I could take his shot and he was more than happy. The next is a shot I took at a rock festival, unlikely that this guy would be annoyed by any attention (although he didn't see me) and the last one was taken in a market - very close up with a 25mm lens, but again the subjects were oblivious to me.

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