Street Photography Tips
Top Street Photography Tips, Part One
Street photography is fun and offers unlimited opportunities for learning your gear and developing your own style. Documenting life on the streets through photography is a brilliant way to explore any urban environment and is becoming increasingly popular and deservedly respected as a genre. Here are some basic tips to help you be a better street photographer.
Practice Makes Perfect
There’s no better way to become a better photographer than just getting out there and taking a ton of shots. And one of the best things about digital photography is that if you’re not happy with the pics you can simply delete them (or maybe have the foresight to examine them first with a critical eye so you can improve your craft). As Malcolm Gladwell highlighted in his best selling book, Outliers, there’s a 10,000 Hour Rule to becoming an expert at anything. Time’s a wasting! Hit the streets and start shooting – pronto!
Shoot from the Hip
The folks behind the upcoming London Street Photography Festival describe street photography as “un-posed, un-staged photography which captures, explores or questions contemporary society and the relationships between individuals and their surroundings.” Sounds great, but how do you go about getting shots that fit snugly within that definition? I recommend “shooting from the hip.”
No, I’m not suggesting you should roam the streets with a camera strapped to your hip like some wild west gunslinger. Rather, in situations when pausing to put the viewfinder up to your eye would take too long or perhaps draw undesired attention, see what happens if you take some shots with your camera hanging casually around your neck or shoulder. Another technique that’s good in crowded spaces is to aim your camera in the general direction of your subject and raise it in the air with your arm as you click away.
Shooting from the hip might not always result in perfectly composed pics. However, often enough you should find funky angles and a less rigid approach bringing an “in the midst of it” feel to your work. And sometimes the camera inadvertently captures things that might have otherwise gone unnoticed (but you can still get the credit later for your keen observations)!
Discretion is the Better Part of Valour
Shooting from the hip means being discreet. You don’t want the people in your photos to appear as though they’ve realized you’re taking their picture. Try to blend in with your surroundings by dressing plainly and as you imagine folks around you will be dressed. Obviously, flash is a no no and loitering about with a camera in front of your face waiting until the light’s just right understandably could make people feel incredibly self conscious. A bit of stealth and a chilled out demeanour go a long way helping you capture the essence of the moment. Think: how would a spy on a top secret mission shoot this scene?
Please and Thank You
More and more in my professional career I’m finding one of the most critical skills of being an ace shutter bug is being polite. If somebody happens to see you snapping a shot in their direction, a warm smile or friendly gesture can ease any potential tension. You might even make a friend or be invited to continue shooting away as freely as you want with the subjects allowing to get closer to the action. Be prepared to turn on the charm before you turn on the camera.
No Means No
Of course, no matter how polite you are, there are always going to be people who may make a fuss about being photographed. For the brazen, it might be worth noting that it’s usually easier to ask for an apology than to get permission. But pushing your luck or being aggressive can limit your future opportunities to shoot. And taking photos of unknown children won’t endure you to those kids’ parents or whoever is looking after them. If someone clearly doesn’t want his or her picture taken (or any of his or her children taken), it’s wise not to do it.
It’s also a good idea to know what your rights are as a photographer as well as when you ought to get someone’s permission to capture his or her image. Essentially, unless a photo is actually published, the need of a model release is probably unnecessary. Some publishing of images, such as photojournalism, don’t require a model release at all. Still, it’s easy enough to carry around some model release forms in your camera bag.
More Street Smart Tips Coming Soon
The best advice I can offer anyone interested in street photography is to have fun: experiment, learn from your mistakes and discover what it is about modern life that you think is most worth recording. I’ll have more street photography tips to share with you soon.