Street Photography Then and Now

Street Photography means different things to different people. To me it’s not just about portraits of people or complex chance arrangements, colour/gesture matches and ‘interactive’ fucking billboards – it’s all of that and more.

It’s certainly not long lens photos of pretty girls, let me make my stance very clear.

I feel I’m getting closer to finding my rhythm, I’m almost ready to start seeing properly but sadly I’m nowhere near there yet, not by a long shot. I’m still not sure what I want to visually make, I’d like to be able to build complex compositional scenes but I don’t have the time to practice.

I understand someone like Alex Webb will go through 5 or 6 rolls of film at one scene to get the picture he wants. I don’t have that much time or money, I’ve got a ‘real job’ to work at and a family to care for.

I’m an amateur and a beginner and I’m happy with that right now.
 

Then and Now
I started off with just my iPhone and the photos were pretty much hit or miss especially when ‘shooting form the hip’ which I did very often. I even bought a long lens because I thought it would make it easier.

old photo

old photo

The fear was too strong to lift the camera-phone a lot of the time which was later aided with a few stratagems, but as you keep going you get more used to it but the fear is always there.

old Photo old photo

When I was out yesterday making photos with Louis I noticed that as I started off in the morning the fear was strong, but from experience I tried to stand closer to the edge by taking a few warm up photos, like the guy in the bubble – that was candid but easy.

I then saw the guy with the Elvis style jump suit and asked to take photos of him. I said I was interested in getting a cape photo and that “I’m looking for the details”, he was cool with that.

I asked for a portrait but unfortunately it wasn’t any good and the background was bad. This was the warm up, no ‘real’ photos were taken.

Two years ago I would’ve shit my pants around now and crawled into a small black hole, so what’s different? I really know that what I’m doing isn’t wrong, I’m confident that my photos won’t misrepresent the people and make them look stupid or whatever.

I know that some people won’t want me to make a picture with them in it but I normally see that in their faces and I can respect that to a point.

Here’s a few ways that have helped me find some confidence …
 

Meet Ups
Working in a group is a great confidence boost. Find someone else that shares your photographic interest even if the style of photos you make differ greatly. Even if they aren’t by your side all the time you certainly can feel the added emotional strength. I think this has been a good help with me.

Also, working with a group no matter how small I find connects my ‘social circuits’. I can now approach people and speak to them because I’ve already been speaking to someone in the group and it’s not a sudden weird shock to start talking.

For instance, I was out with Louis yesterday and although we’ve briefly communicated online I’d only actually ever met him once before so in essence he was really a stranger; this was a good mind set to start out with.
 

Be Positive and Enjoy It
As the day went on I was more able to speak with folk and ask if I could take their picture.

“Hi, can I take your photo?” – “yeah sure” it’s that easy as long as you approach with a friendly attitude. I don’t ‘like’ cars or have any interest in them but I said nice car. I guess it was, it was shinny.

Some photos are candid like Scooby Doo because I didn’t see it until it was too late and only just got there in time, sort of.

Although it’s something I’ve been doing more recently, not everything has to be close.

Although not good this photo got a laugh from everyone, I nodded and said thanks.

“I like your dog” – depending on the owner that works out fine but I’ve noticed that most Edinburgh drunks/tramps don’t like you photographing their dogs. I was actually threatened for taking a photo of a tramps dog, an empty threat mind but that was a lesson on how not to approach them.


 

Preparation is Key
Prefocus and pre-meter and you’re good to go.

If you see me walking around edinburgh with cameras you’ll often see me either metering my hand with my iPhone if I don’t have my Sekonic light meter or bending over to prefocus a distance using the ground to focus off.

Make it as easy for yourself as possible and it’s great for pigeons!


 

This post was about just a few observations I’ve made over the past few years of me trying to make street photos. They’ve helped me get more comfortable so I can then forget about ‘the fear’ and concentrate on hopefully making good photos.

I’m in no way an authority but I’m sharing them in the hope that it can help someone else.

Le Fin

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5 thoughts on “Street Photography Then and Now

  1. Great post. A lot of it hits the nail on the head. The confidence is something that comes and goes. Unfort I find myself back at the “fear” stage again for lack of practice. You on the other hand are pretty on top of it these days. Keep it up!

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  2. It does help – I was away for a week in Bratislava and Vienna and while the architecture etc is pretty stunning it is not really the sort of thing that I enjoy photographing so after a couple of days I reverted to my usual efforts of shooting people – some candid and some requested. This is fun in a foreign country!!.
    I even done some from the hip street stuff — all shit but at least I gave it a whirl.
    You and your street work remain an inspiration.

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  3. I like being a beginner. That’s where it’s most fun for me — figuring out how to make it work. When I’ve gained a lot of experience, I start to get bored.

    I don’t do much street shooting but when I do I like to take something like my Olympus XA, load Tri-X 400, set it to f/8 or f/11, and let the built-in meter worry about exposure from there.

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