Street Photography

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by iolair, Jan 25, 2010.

  1. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Somewhat inspired by Joe Wigfall and others:
    Spotlight Interview … Photographer Joe Wigfall « James Robinson Photography Blog
    Flickr: joewig's Photostream
    I made my first attempts at candid street photography today ...

    OK, so I have nothing worth showing from it. But it was still a very interesting learning experience.

    Anyone else here do many street candids with experience to share?


    I tried doing the majority of my shots shooting with the camera, on its strap, held at my chest - without looking through the viewfinder. This takes PRACTICE! In the first thirty or so shots, I only managed to get more than a small section of my subject in the frame a couple of times... for some reason I had a tendency to shoot to their right - I also made the mistake of angling up toward their faces whereas I really needed to keep the camera level. So, "target practice" is going to be a big part of this if I try it again - keeping the subject well within the frame of the photo without seeing what the camera sees is hard. Holding the camera at my chest gave a good viewing angle though.

    Finding suitable subjects was also disappointing. I went to the main city around here, but not at the busiest time - and at any rate it's "only" a city of 200,000. The main shopping street/pedestrian thoroughfare was actually quite quiet most of the time. I started just trying to get clean shots of anyone at all, but shifted my focus quickly to mostly going for twos or threes who were communicating - showing emotion and expression. People on mobile phones occasionally got expressive enough to be interesting, and there were a few people around who were just plain interesting. Still, to get a good "hit rate" with interesting subjects, I need to do this at a busier time/venue - market day would be a good target.

    Camera settings took a little getting used to, but this one part I think I've already got sorted. Shooting from the chest makes accurate focusing and light-metering impossible of course! To take the guess-work out of focusing, I focused on one subject at a roughly suitable distance then left the lens in manual focus so it wouldn't waste time hunting... I wanted the shots to be instant. I then set the aperture to /22 (the highest value on my 50mm) to maximise the depth of field. This worked great - earlier attempts at /13, /16 and /19 were a little hit or miss but at /22 most results were decently in focus.

    I also wanted to freeze the action, and I was walking while I shot the photos and most of my subjects moving, this required a fast shutter speed. Early results at 1/60s and 1/90s were disappointing, but once I went up to 1/125s or 1/180s blur pretty much disappeared. It was also important to support my camera well with both hands while I was shooting.

    To balance f/22 and the fast exposure time most of the time I was working at ISO 800, sometimes at 400. This still underexposed most of the shots by a stop or so - but that's no problem when working with RAW and eliminate the risk of blown highlights. Even walking down the same street or crossing the road would change the light levels by a stop or two and I didn't have time to keep adjusting the camera settings.


    Shooting as I did (again, virtually never raising the camera to my eye) I think in an hour only one or two people actually suspected I was taking photos - pretty much everyone carried on as normal, which was what I wanted.

    Hopefully I can try this again, and get some better results that I can share!
     
  2. Bitter Jeweler

    Bitter Jeweler Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    That's an interesting exercise to try. Thanks for pointing out all the variables and issues you had to deal with. Sounds like fun to try. I bet you couldn't wait to get home to see what all you captured. I like that part of it too. The unkown success or failure.

    You don't even have one decent enough to show? Even if it's to show how hard it is to do? :thumbup:
     
  3. Psycho

    Psycho TPF Noob!

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    That's some interesting things to try.
    I like to do mainly street photography as well. Sometimes I do alot of shooting without looking in the viewfinder, I haven't tried manual focus, I usually have it on auto and give the camera some time to focus before taking the picture. I can imaging the photos will be much quicker without having to focus.

    The setup you have described really favours fast snapshots where you point the camera quite quickly. I can imagine it would be very hard to frame the subjects in your shots effectively. I think this part is also important.

    What I ended up doing was looking through the camera as if taking a photo of something else. I would have both eyes open kind of looking around whilst I was doing this. I would then point the camera, which was already up at my face at the real subject, and could normally get a shot without the subject noticing me.

    I also found that it helps alot if the subject had already seen you when he/she enters the area, rather than the other way around. They have alot more chance of ignoring you then.

    I will have to try the techniques you have come up with though, definitely the extra depth of field will give some margin for error with the quick focussing (i've lost many good photos because of bad focus). My only issue is the quality loss and noise, but perhaps that's more acceptable in street photography.

    I am interested to see your results.

    -EDIT: Just saw that guys flickr pics, wow that guys is really good, he must have gotten very close! Amazing. I wish I were that good
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2010
  4. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    Interesting exercise but it seems to me you're making it hard on yourself. Why not just put the camera to your eye? People are not going to eat you. You'd actually be surprised at 1/ how many people don't even notice you and, 2/ how many enjoyed being photographed when they do notice you. Yes, some people will tell you to get lost. Just respect their wishes.

    If you want to keep shooting blind, it will be a lot easier with a 35mm (or equivalent for your camera: 20-24mm) lens. The 35mm does give you a decently wide view without too much distortion while your 50mm is too long a lens (on your camera) requiring more precise framing. Also, the wider lens will give more depth of field when focusing manually (when pre-focusing is what I meant). This is a technique I used a lot as a PJ when it wasn't possible to have the camera at my eye.

    You will need to practice aiming a little but it's not that hard.

    But there again, I'm not sure I see the point. The AF does not take so long.

    Here's Javier's thread of street shooting. Worth a look as is his website.
    http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/photo-themes/169495-capture-stranger-street-style.html

    The only thing no one can really help you with is finding places with a lot of people. But market days are a good idea. So are any kind of event in town. Best of luck with this project.
     
  5. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Two reasons not to put it to my eye ... firstly I DON'T want people to notice before I take the photo: I want to catch people spontaneously. I don't mind stopping strangers and asking if I can take their photo, but that's not what I'm about on this. Secondly, I want to see my surroundings - see fully what's going on around me - not just see through what's through the viewfinder.


    You're absolutely right. I note that Joe Wigfall, for example, usually uses a 28mm or 35mm (on a Canon 30D - virtually the same as my camera). However I currently have the lenses that I have, and my 28-200 is a dinosaur that will ONLY SHOOT WIDE OPEN on a digital EOS, meaning its depth of field is too little for this exercise. So the 50mm is not the best lens for this by a long shot, it's just the best one I currently have. (Next on my purchase list is a 28mm prime, however).

    True ... even in the hour or two I spent on this, I improved a lot ... another session or two and I should be getting a reasonable proportion of pleasing if not perfect results.

    My 50mm 1.8 is not always the quickest to focus, but also I prefer the style of having everyone in the street scene in focus - these aren't portraits I'm trying to take.

    Thanks.
     
  6. florenceinitaly

    florenceinitaly TPF Noob!

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    Do you have to have those ppl's permissions to take their pictures? Or put them online?
     
  7. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    As long as it's in a public place, it's perfectly fine to take their pictures and to share them online - however to make any profit from them directly (e.g. as a stock photo) then you'd normally need the subject to sign a model release form.

    This is the case for the UK, USA and Spain as far as I know anyway. Other countries may vary.

    Clearly if someone expressed they were unhappy with me using their photo, I wouldn't...
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2010
  8. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    No you don't. Only if they are used for commercial purposes. Sell them as art and you don't need a release. Here in the US anyway.

    Of course, who makes a profit from art photography? :lol:
     
  9. iolair

    iolair No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've been back out today (stranded without a car while I had a new windscreen), taking a mix of "shoot from the chest" and conventional aiming... Mostly with focusing (instead of prefocusing), I still lost a lot of shots to blur but this time got a reasonable proportion of half-decent ones. Let's take a look...

    1. Mr. iBook
    [​IMG]

    2.
    [​IMG]

    3. On the phone
    [​IMG]

    4. Coat of Many Colours
    [​IMG]

    5. Anybody Listening?
    [​IMG]

    6. I don't want it.
    [​IMG]

    7. Background
    [​IMG]

    8. Two Scarves
    [​IMG]

    9.
    [​IMG]


    As always, feedback appreciated.
     
  10. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    Really like #3, 4, 5, and 6.

    You know, I was thinking about your blind shooting. Ever thought about getting a TLR? They are wonderful for shooting without bring the camera to eye level since they have a waist level finder and because there is no mirror moving, they are also extremely quiet so that you can take someone's photo from right in front of their face and they may never even know :lol:
     

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