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Street Photography

Discussion in 'Talking Pictures' started by Nikonchris, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. Nikonchris

    Nikonchris Well-Known Member

    This may be viewed by some as a bit of a silly post but I would really like to do more 'street photography'.

    However I am always overcome by being too self-conscious when taking photos of total strangers to the point where i'm thinking the only way I can do this to hide behind a long lens....

    Is this something than most people have to just overcome or does anybody have any advice that would be helpful other than 'grow some and get on with it'?
    Shinnen and Done_rundleCams like this.
  2. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    Quick reply. If you want the viewer to connect with your subject then you have to take them into the heart of the action, so you need to get in close. Talk to most street photographers and you'll find they're shooting with wide-angled lenses, back in the day a 28mm was my lens of choice (I was shooting 35mm film). Crowds are good for SP, most people will just ignore you as long as you're not faffing about with your camera, so know your camera so that operating it becomes second nature. Keep things simple, one body and one lens, dress to blend in and try not to look like a photographer! Shoot and move on. The more you do it the more your confidence will grow. There are no shortcuts, it takes time. Use demonstrations, parades, fairs, street performers etc. to gain experience, these people are expecting to be photographed so don't disappoint them! Shoot the things that catch your eye. . . . . . . you can try using a long lens but in a crowded area people will only get in the way :(

    If it's something you really want to be good at, you'll find a way :)
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
    Nikonchris likes this.
  3. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Nothing on earth would persuade me deliberately to take pictures of total strangers but, curiously, total strangers most often seem totally indifferent to getting in the way when I am trying for people-free shots so on the whole I think it is largely body language. My wife likes taking pictures of photographers taking street pictures. She also started a dressed in red collection to while away the huge amounts of time I take waiting for people in red clothes to get out my landscapes.
    steveandthedogs likes this.
  4. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    Does she know about Hans Eijkelboom? :)
  5. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I always use long lenses for candid photography. Many people are annoyed by total strangers treating them as unpaid models and I don't want to be the subject of their anger.

  6. AlanW

    AlanW Well-Known Member

    It all depends where you live, or where you're shooting. Edinburgh is chock-a-block with camera toting tourists to the extent that the locals rarely give anyone with a camera a second glance!

  7. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    I use a mix of long and wide, but if you look happy and smile at people it goes a long way. Most street photographers like to use smaller cameras and shorter lenses, so Oly OMD and Fuji X series are big faves. There is nothing about street that demands full frame. Shooting wideangle from the hip can give more interesting angles, but can be hit and miss. If you go wide, you need to use a fast lens too, or you can get problems isolating people against the backgrounds. That's really where telefoto scores, but I think you will find 28mm and 35mm are the better practitioners' choices. Look through my Doing London tourists book project and you will see a mix.
    Nikonchris and AlanW like this.
  8. Nikonchris

    Nikonchris Well-Known Member

    i have been Mike.... The fastest lens i have is a 50mm 1.8. on a DX camera which I guess is not that wide so will have to make do with the 18-55 f3.5.

    I was not so worried about the equipment but more the self consciousness of taking pictures...I always get a little embarrassed at being 'caught in the act'.... but as AlanW replied i guess the more you do the more confident you get.

    Thanks for all the advice guys....
  9. Nikonchris

    Nikonchris Well-Known Member

  10. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Reason was to create a uniformity of appearance and reduce them to the key moment each captured. They were shot in colour of course, but for me didn't hang together, because they were shot over such a long period, in different conditions and switching between long and short focal lengths also created a level of variability that I didn't like.
    Beyond just documenting what tourists did, the aim was to capture a moment and that was all that mattered to me. On an individual basis, of course some lost a lot in mono and you would hardly say they were better, but put them in a group of a couple of hundred and it could be a mess.
  11. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Yes you get used to it, but frankly a small camera helps a lot. And with wide angle, especially if you are offsetting them in the frame, most people don't even know they are in the picture. In the Bleeding London one I even used a tiny (and old) Lumix LX3 for many shots.
  12. londonbackpackr

    londonbackpackr Well-Known Member

    Its a confidence thing, the more you shoot the more confident you become. I started with a Nikon and always felt uncomfortable. I now mainly shoot with my Sony rx100 have it set to either 35 or 50 mm and have growth in confidence.

    Some business cards can by helpful and also having a quick chat if you do 'get caught in the act' explaining what you're doing and also why you took their picture.

    In the last 6 months, I even started stopping people in the street and asking to take street portraits.
  13. RovingMike

    RovingMike Crucifixion's a doddle...

    Very good point. I have a pile in front of me at this moment and on the back they thank them for their help and give a link to my work.
  14. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Don't forget as well - street photography covers a very, very broad range of photographic types. You need to decide which ones you're aiming for, have a focus and intent.
    What you decide affects what you end up doing. If you're confident and have a purpose, your body language will convey that. If you're nervous and unsure of your intent, your body language will convey that and people around you will wonder what you're doing.

    If you act like a tourist, everyone will ignore you - I find a hat helps.

    Long vs short, colour vs black and white, moments vs environments, these are all just artistic choices, there is no one true street photography, just photographs in public with a human element. The key is practice, intent, confidence and enjoyment.

    And don't listen to me - because I fail at it every time I go out of the house :)
  15. lfc1892

    lfc1892 Well-Known Member

    Personally, I only ever use short lenses now. Pretty much solely the 17mm 1.8 oly on mft. It gives me a really nice focal length that allows me to shoot a variety of people and things on the street. If anything, for an even more street feel, you'd want to go wider and closer, but that's incredibly hard to do as a beginnner. Start with a focal length you're comfortable with, and get closer as you get more confident. That's if close up stuff is for you. You can do street on longer lenses, but generally it doesn't work anywhere near as well and you'll be much more limited in what you can and can't shoot with decent results.
  16. PhotoEcosse

    PhotoEcosse Well-Known Member

    Also remember that the megapixelage of modern sensors is so high that very severe cropping is possible. I can get a high quality A3 print from less than 10% of the total image area from my D810. A 1400x1050 pdi image would require only 4% of my full image.

    This allows "broad" street scenes to be photographed from which small sections/features can be selected.
  17. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    It would help if you posted the address of the Street Photography Quality Control Department and let us know which of their publications define the standards we must adhere to.
  18. 0lybacker

    0lybacker In the Stop Bath

    Strange as it may seem, it can actually be easier to hide behind a wide-angle lens. Or at least it was. Have a suspicion that JoePublic may now be familiar with 28/26/25/24mm (135 format equivalent) lenses these days thanks to their prevalence on compacts and bridge cameras.

    Even a 35mm can be wide enough, especially if initially you appear to be pointing it at someone else and then re-frame just before squeezing the shutter release. Need to be careful if tilting the camera downward if you go 28mm or wider. Give it a go. Let us know how you get on.
  19. lfc1892

    lfc1892 Well-Known Member

    Aaaaand, your point is what exactly? Sarcasm aside, can you show me many sources of credible advice from decent proponents of the genre which tell you the reverse? The fact is that the vast majority of top street photographers go close and wide. There are countless articles online and books (many of which are sat on the shelves in my lounge) on street photography which will give the same advice. As I said, you can do street work on longer lenses, but it won't be as good or as effective as getting in close generally. Or if you disagree, maybe take a peek at the Magnum site and count how many of their artists shoot with long lenses. The original poster asked for advice, and what I've given is my opinion and the general consensus opinion of most top street photographers.
    If you disagree, that's cool, but maybe it would help the original poster if you could explain why closer is not better with street?
    Craig20264, PhotoEcosse and AlanW like this.
  20. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Your commentary is true, but it's not the whole picture (excuse the pun). The problem with street photography is that the definition itself is essentially too broad. What you're describing is wide-angle candid photography, which has become recognised as the most common form of street photography, and which presents an image to the viewer in which they can feel part of the scene due to the angle of view used.

    It's not necessarily the only approach. You can have effective street photography with longer lenses, and some shots where you want to isolate a single subject almost demand it. Is it as popular? No. That doesn't mean it can't be as good or as effective. Good and effective are purely subjective terms. 35mm street photography has a certain look and impact, and if that's what you want, and it's certainly popular, then you can't achieve it with a 100mm lens.

    I think you're mistaking a desire for a particular artistic outcome which drives a particular choice of lens, with a broad definition of content. Which is normal, it happens all the time, we all do it. Portrait photography often attracts statements such as you 'you should use 85mm, it's the perfect length', when actually, a portrait is a photograph that captures the essence of an individual and you can achieve that with any focal length. It really means, the most popular, most well exhibited formats of portrait photography tend to use a particular style.

    Anyway, my rambling is done - to close. Street photography is both a very broad and extremely narrow definition, and which one you choose to use tends to drive the response to which lens should I use. I prefer the broader definition (taking photographs in public which have a human element), but it's perfectly valid to use the other definition. The question the OP should be asking is, what artistic effect do I want from my photographs and hence, which focal length best provides that.
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.

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