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January 14, 2013
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5 Steps

Journal Entry: Mon Jan 14, 2013, 2:14 AM
Step one is to be there. That is the most important thing. I always keep a quote from Andrew Zuckerman in my mind when I'm not shooting, when I'm sitting at home and contemplating whether or not to get out of the house. I'm paraphrasing but it goes something like this: "Creativity is the product of curiosity and rigor." Curiosity gets you out of the house and going to specific places—likely places you have never been to before. Rigor gets you doing this consistently, even when you're shooting bad photos and feel discouraged. To get the good shots, you have to be there.

With that out of the way I do have a few specific techniques and ideas to keep in mind when shooting people in the streets. Since we already covered the first step, we could call this step two. Step two is to know your gear and be comfortable with it. Shooting needs to happen instantly without any fumbling with your camera. It should always be ready to shoot and set in a way that allows you to react instantly. When the camera is in your way, it hinders the creative act. But when you become 'one with the camera' it enables you to create effectively. So you must know your gear's quirks well and how to compensate for them. For example, my camera often overexposes on cloudy days. So I know to set the EV to something like -.7 when it's overcast. Another thing you can do is preset your manual focus lens to a certain range and shoot subjects at that range. This is called zone focusing and allows for some very fast composition.

Wipe me, grandad by StamatisGR street photography by papon1008 Between Yellow and Blue by Dfujevec 12 by flax-

Which brings us to step three: composition. The word 'composition' comes from the discipline of painting. This is a bit out of line with what we do as photographers in the streets of a city, since we can't add or remove elements the way a painter can. Another way to look at composition is to consider the subject's isolation. When framing, we can try to isolate the subject and bring focus to them by removing elements from the frame. This is a matter of timing and positioning. It doesn't just have to be taking away elements however (otherwise we'd all just be shooting our longest lenses at f/1.4 to bokeh out everything but the subject). Certain elements are necessary in the frame to provide context, which in turn gives us a story. The decision to keep or remove these elements is often limited by circumstance, but it's something that should be kept in mind.

Puckered and Squared by MARX77 one_nine_four by OskarAlfons Tough Times by mister-kovacs F L Y . A W A Y by k-tones

So how do we tell a story with a photograph? Well a good story needs characters. Step four is to create characters. Notice I don't say 'find characters' but rather 'create'. Now I'm using this word loosely because you don't actually go out and create people. But we can use our framing and timing to decide when and how to take the photo. I want emphasize this point because it's really discouraging to wander the streets waiting for something to happen, since sometimes it never does. What's important is to keenly observe and find moments when a person on the street becomes a character, when they express their soul and emotions in a subtle or not so subtle way. This might be a vague way of looking at it, but it's what separates a boring photo of a random stranger from a fascinating photo of a human being.

please be careful this time by arslanalp Snooker Story by Nattygrego Lost in Havana 32 by BorjaPascual Dig Dig by drifterManifesto

To bring it all together the last step is to anticipate and make predictions about the scene. In many ways urban photographers must react to what's happening around them. This doesn't give you much time to compose the frame, so every extra second counts. If you see a woman about to step or jump over a puddle, you should get ready to take a photo. People are spilling out of the train station during rush hour? It might be a good idea to get into a good position and wait for something to happen. Think of yourself as a wildlife photographer. Many times it's necessary to lie in wait and let the subject come to you.

be patient by arslanalp Reminiscing by batmantoo Partition by El-Amigo-Chico The Stage by boyrd

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:iconchelseawzx:
ChelseaWzx Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Student Filmographer
Great instructions!
Painting is like doing addition, and photography is like doing subtraction.

And I myself sometime may get hesitated while shooting strangers, I may consider would it be polite, would it be too aggressive. I think this should be common for new street photographers like me.
Have you ever got the same feeling? Cuz I don't see any hesitation in your shooting, and I wonder how you treat such thought while it comes to mind.

Thank you!
Reply
:iconburningmonk:
burningmonk Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013   Photographer
I hesitate all the time!! :D It's very difficult to just take people's photos like it's the perfectly normal thing to do. I always feel that if the person notices me taking their photo they will become upset. I'm not worried they'll get angry and yell at me. I just don't want to ruin their day of make them uncomfortable. I feel this is kind of irrational however, as most people don't really care or they'll quickly forget it even happened. I know I don't care if people take my photo on the street, for example. So lately I've been forcing myself to take photos of people who can see that I'm doing it. I've been using a 28mm lens which forces me to get close. I always smile and try to look like a tourist or journalist, and not some creeper with a camera.

And it's been going great! So in short, everyone struggles with this. You'd almost have to be a real asshole if you completely ignored other people's feelings when shooting on the street. But in most cases it's fine, and you just have to practice, practice, practice to get over the fear and get the shot! :D
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:iconchelseawzx:
ChelseaWzx Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Student Filmographer
Thank you for sharing your experience and the instructions!
This does help pretty much.
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:iconhuodi:
huodi Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013
This is both thoughtful and helpful!
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:iconburningmonk:
burningmonk Featured By Owner Jan 21, 2013   Photographer
I'm glad to hear that! :D
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:iconpavboq:
pavboq Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013
Thanks for the clues!:)
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:iconburningmonk:
burningmonk Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013   Photographer
No problem! Thanks for reading! :D
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:iconaricafoix:
AriCaFoix Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
I like it very much, important steps to be considered. It's great to see the explanation accompanied with photographs.
I would like to add a Step Six: daring to take the picture, leaving behind the indecision and the fear :) at least this is important when we're starting on this.
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:iconburningmonk:
burningmonk Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2013   Photographer
I totally agree! I think a Step 6 about fear is important. There is a kind of apprehension that I still feel after a few years of street shooting. For me, there is something a bit perverse about what we do, and there is always the fear of being found out and embarrassed. The funny reality of it is that most people don't even notice you! :D So as you say it is important to overcome the fear and just pull the trigger when the shot presents itself! :D
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:iconchelseawzx:
ChelseaWzx Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2013  Student Filmographer
haha, I think I've found your answer.
Thank you anyway.
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