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Advice for street photography wanted please!

Discussion in 'Creative Corner' started by jhob, Feb 28, 2010.

  1. jhob

    jhob Mu-43 Veteran

    I find street photography really tough. The aspect I find hardest is pointing my camera at strangers without feeling self-conscious. I'm fine in a setting where I have express permission to photography, (handy for a wedding photographer I suppose!), but out in public I just can't bring myself to get the images that I want to. How do I get around this? I should imagine that the GF1 will help me from being quite so self-conscious.

    I'd also be interested to hear how others work regarding finding scenes to photograph. Obviously situations come and go in the blink of an eye so you have to be alert the whole the time but would you typically find a setting where you think something might happen, wander around keeping your wits about you, Find a compositional aid/feature that you want to be part of the frame and then wait for something to happen within that frame? All of the above?

    Focussing - what strategy would you normal apply here? I normally use AF but find that this can be a little slow when you see that moment in front of you, which makes me think that MF pre-focussed to a set distance and with a small enough aperture allow a little leeway in point of focus. How do you do it?
    • Like Like x 2
  2. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    jhob, I'm Don..nice too meet you.
    What I would suggest it that you go out and forget what you have in you mind already.
    From reading your post, it's obvious you have set up block to fail by.

    Try just going out and set the camera up for action but don't look for it. Let the next image find you. Just be prepared for it.
    I use the Pen 1 with either the 20 or the 17. I have the af set to the AEL button. That way I can prefocus and not worry about that when the time comes.
    Use an fstop like 11 or so that will allow enough DOF for the scene you find yourself in.

    DO NOT WORRY if there is no one in the scene. Don't put the pressure of working with people until you are confident in the camera and in yourself using it.
    Take your time and breathe the scene...don't rush to capture anything, just let it develop in front of you...try to capture it with 1 frame. This will build your comfort zone and take away the anxiety trying to GET SOMETHING.

    Keep the camera on a wrist strap but keep it in your coat pocket. Just walk around until the scene finds you...it will too.
    Then, with the camera ready, look, breathe...look again and release. DO NOT WORRY about what you got.
    When you get back to process images...study them very careful and pay very close attention to the graphics of the scene. Pay attention to the elements. Pay attention to the juxtaposition of the elements. Pay attention to how you reflect in the image...

    In a short time, this will all click and more scenes will find you...
    • Like Like x 5
  3. jhob

    jhob Mu-43 Veteran

    Hi Don, I thought that you might reply to this thread! Thanks for the advice, I'll will give it a go next weekend when I'm planning to have a wander into the local town for a bit of photography.

    It's definitely the people aspect with which I have most difficultly, it's that aspect I am am keen to overcome. I suppose that my anxiety about that adversely effects my 'in the zoneness'. Not a problem I have with more static subjects.
  4. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    That's why I suggested that you work with scenes and not worry about people. All things in time.... Just find things to work on...Cliche' is very good.
    You'll find it....don
  5. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    John, I'm so glad you asked these questions. Although there's another thread about this in a more general tone, this give and take between you and Don has been extremely helpful to me, too. Thank you both.
  6. pete

    pete Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 26, 2010
    Phoenix, Az
    Yes, for us shy, bubbled :)  peope it's out of our box. Just go for it, most poeple wont care. One day I was just shooting at some buildings in downtown area and just lowered my camera and snap. Its a great way to explore those inhibitions, if I may....nice to meet ya also. cheers
  7. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    I'm actually glad John posted the way he did.
    We need more conversations about different styles and this forum is the place.
    As for me, I never get enuff street talk...
  8. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Amen, Don.

    And thanks Pete for adding in your take on things, too.
  9. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    That's exactly what I was saying to John but you made the point more eloquent.
    Thank you kind sir...sometimes I get lost in my words...
  10. pete

    pete Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 26, 2010
    Phoenix, Az
    haha...thanks shooter. Im lucky I just found the words to say that....just saying

  11. silverbullet

    silverbullet Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 10, 2010
    As a young guy I was very shy and with a camera in my hands I thought that everybody viewed at me - this was wrong as we all know - later....
    To feel comfortable in the crowd I took photographs of dead items like old bycicles, doors, old street lamps etc. So after a short time on the streets the camera in my hand or in front of my face was something normal - means no thinking about it any more. It was like wearing glasses or a cap.

    To have no more this 'feeling' of uncomfortableness, my mind became more sensitive in the meaning of feeling pictures or scenarios worth to be photographed.
    But there was a big portion of luck beside because you'll never know whether you get 'The Moment' or just something without a visible hook.
    The more you are in this stream of impressions the more you are able to filter the boring scenes out. But never be charged by your aim to deliver something at the end of the day!

    To come closer to people can be trained, just (without) a camera ask for the time or the way to a special place, cinema to become more familiar with unknown persons. You'll find out that they don't bite . normally....:thumbup:

    So this kind of photography says a lot about you in your pictures than about the camera, the quality of exposures or metering the light.....
    This becomes better by doing and after a while also under pressure, means time to focus, or interact due to views or questions of the subjects you want to photograph.

    Another strategy is to have a friend with you. Together you might feel 'stronger' but you both should not exchange too much informations this will influence your interaction.

    Look at my old pics at flickr, there is only one portrait where the man didn't want to be photographed - just find it.....:wink:
    • Like Like x 3
  12. cstevens

    cstevens Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 11, 2010
    All good advice. I used to do a LOT of street photography in London about 12 years ago and felt very comfortable doing so.

    Today, times have changed people's attitudes, and by people, most photographers, we are sometimes meant to feel that we are somehow doing something wrong, when in fact we are not.

    Good advice given is photograph a scene, you will find a lot of times people are in there, but you dont feel wary as you are not really pointing the camera at them. Eventually you will find this becomes more natural and you will be able to judge events as they unfold and get the shot.

    Using a slightly wider lens will allow you to shoot people without pointing the lens directly at them. 95% of the time the people around you have no care about you or what your doing.

    All this becomes harder in a smaller town or city (I certainly feel more wary these days shooting in Sheffield than I ever did in London) If anyone ever does approach you, be open honest and smile....say its your PAD project.

    I would advise also to do some reading up on your rights as a photographer as its highly likely that every photographer on this forum will at some stage be stopped under section 44 in the UK
    • Like Like x 1
  13. cstevens

    cstevens Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 11, 2010
    Silverbullet - incredible pictures by the way - great work!
    • Like Like x 1
  14. Camerafrog

    Camerafrog Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 12, 2010
    Bernd, thank you very much for your post! Most helpful, particularly this part:

    I would love to do more street photography, but I have a mental block that most days prevents me from taking the camera out of the bag when there's people around. The few days when I'm brave enough to walk around with the camera in my hand I'm also brave enough to photograph people. The hardest part for me is that other people see me taking photos in general - not that the people whom I photograph see me. So stupid.

    I'll try your suggestion to start getting comfortable carrying the camera in public, by walking around and photographing objects - not people - for a while.

    Off to check out your photos now.

  15. noodlehaus

    noodlehaus Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 14, 2010
    Hyperfocal for street?

    Am I correct in assuming that to shoot for street with a manual lens, it's best to keep the camera's depth of focus deep so I don't have to fiddle with focusing when doing quick shots?
  16. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    well, ya can assume it and it's probably best but the m4/3 cameras don't agree... BECAUSE THERE'S NO FOCUS SCALE!!!! (subliminal message to Panny & Oly)
    so ya have to improvise.....
    like so...

    I am about 6' tall...with the 17mm on the Pen1 Hyperfocal Distance is
    5.6' at f11 ... so ... I hold the camera parallel to the ground at my eye level
    then hit the AF to the ground...I am now at 5.6' so 2.8' to infinity, I'm covered... using Aperture mode...

    At different f stops ya have to find a way to improvise... and read the distance.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. matmcdermott

    matmcdermott Mu-43 Regular

    Some of this is down to aesthetics -- do you prefer deep focus or not.

    Personally for most street photography I do, I'm shooting at f4 or 5.6, or more wide open if the subject is stationary or after a bit of engagement with them. More often than not I don't take 'quick shots' though. Usually I've identified the scene in advance and wait for elements to come together, pre-focusing on where the action will be, with aperture set to cover it but still leave the background at least slightly out of focus.
    • Like Like x 1
  18. noodlehaus

    noodlehaus Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 14, 2010
    Thanks for mentioning this!
  19. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Glad to help....
    I got a few more tricks some where, if'n I can find em.
  20. BlairMacKay

    BlairMacKay Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 8, 2010
    Calgary, Alberta
    Great thread, a lot of people I have met during my travels feel the same way. I myself will never be comfortable with taking pics of people who aware of me taking pictures of them. I feel rushed/embaressed so I never get the composition I desire. It came to a point where I just stopped trying.

    If you look at my blog pics you will see a lot of pics of the backs of people... If I get to know my subject than I will feel more comfortable taking pictures of them. During my travels I have been invited into peoples homes and after I took the pics I would get there address and mail them the prints. Obviously this is not always possible, but it eases my concious...

    Having said that, I think street pics are more than just pics of people. In some situations an abandoned car or lonesome umbrella can speak just as much as a pic of a person. I will try to give you some examples and my thought process tommorow.
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