The art of capturing or documenting day to day life activities happening around comes under this genre of photography – Street Photography. As the name says it all, we often come across interesting people, faces and situations on streets that drive us to create or store that breathtaking moment in our cameras. To capture that one moment, one happening and to witness it what keeps the photographer up for it. Like how it happened with me last week while I was rushing for my photography workshop, I saw this very interesting kid with a mask of Lord Hanuman walking towards me as he was collecting some revenue for local society function. I was busy paying off for the cab, getting late for the event and he was in a lot more hurry than me to click even one picture. It was then I decided to come up with a post focusing on street photography.
What is Street Photography?
Street Photography is a candid photography done on streets with a photo journalistic approach wherein a photographer is concentrating on the lives of strangers on the streets rather than some specific personality or figure. It is one of the very powerful genres as it brings out the reality of world through the camera. The reality natural and not staged usually.It mostly involves people doing activities in populated and crowded environment coping up each day with what life is offering. The story of a person should be conveyed through one or some series of photographs but the subject should be unaffected so to capture the natural essence of the environment.
What do you think this mean? Why do you have to be daring about doing an art? Knowing all the technical aspects, tips, angles etc is useless unless you push yourself to actually have courage, go ahead and take a picture. Right now, it may look like a piece of cake going out with a camera and start shooting but trust me it takes way more than the knowledge. It’s not always possible that you will get an environment which is comfortable and friendly. You might find people looking straight into your cameras smiling, giggling and not doing their actual job which you might not always want. But always be pleasant and warm in your gestures, behaviour, and dress like you are one of them. Do not stand out in any way, always deal with the situation calmly, do not show aggression. Yes, it takes a lot of courage to invade someone’s private space by photographing them without taking permission. Think of your motives. Ask yourself are you doing anything wrong? Will you be comfortable if you were on the other side of the lens? Get answers to these and your heart will know what to do.
Ethically, you should take permissions or let people know that you are around their space shooting but this may ruin the natural spontaneity you are looking for in your photographs. You can choose to go and interact with your subject once you have got your shot and then ask if he or she is comfortable with you using the picture anywhere.
Do not Leave Your Camera at Home
Wherever you go, CARRY your camera. The camera is an extension of your vision. As I told you street photography is candid, it is spontaneous and waits for no one. Your camera is your visual medium to share what you witness. If you are serious about doing Street Photography always have it with you. Be decisive about taking shots as you will have only a few seconds to create an amazing photograph.
Deciding which Lens to Use
Telephoto? No. It’s a big no from my side though its much more convenient to stand in a corner and zoom in and then zoom out to get your shots but doing so will be harmful than good. I would rather suggest you use wide angle lenses and normal lenses for portraits. Get a wide angle lens, get lost in the crowd and go close to get the details. Huge lenses with black and white rings are scary and creepy, they make you look suspicious. These are some reasons that many great street photographers use compact gears. Also, using wide angle lenses gives you a high sense of immediacy which is one of the key factors as I told you in my last post. It is one of the very important factors for an evocative photograph. A perspective drawn by a wide angle lens draws you in the picture.
What should be the Settings?
The most preferred settings for Street Photography is Aperture Priority (AV) mode although as professional I will always suggest to shoot in manual. But when on streets you can’t afford to lose moments busy doing settings. AV mode allows you to set aperture and ISO while camera sets shutter speed for you. You can always compensate the shutter speed by only adjusting aperture if it goes below your camera handling capacity. This is useful if the actions happening are in hurry but if you have ample of time then shoot MANUAL, where you have complete control on the camera.
Get Close to Your Subject
Always step closer towards your subject physically rather than using the zoom in your lenses. Always use the zoom ring to frame your subject than to get close to it. Many successful photographs are taken few metres away and sometimes few centimetres away. Using wide lens and moving back and forth gives an edge over your image than the ones using the telephoto.
Shoot from Hip Level
One of the most common tips but yet ignored while shooting. Basically while shooting on streets, there are times when you can’t raise the camera to your eye, so shooting from the hip is a very useful method. It helps you take more candid photographs. Initially, it will be weird but through practice and understanding of focal length, you will start capturing great photographs.
Image Quality isn’t Everything
Getting the story in place with the right light and drama will speak. Image quality is nothing if you have high definition image poorly composed, with bad lighting and no story in it. Does this image make any sense? No. Focus on what’s important that is what will make a great street photograph.
Think Outside the Box
Explore different angles and techniques when shooting streets. You will have a lot to absorb when you are shooting streets but to create an effective and unique image you need to observe more than clicking. Try framing your subjects creatively using different rules and breaking different rules. There is no hard and fast to follow things when shooting.
Street photography gets refined with practice. the more you will observe and shoot you will develop your own perception towards life which will get reflected in your photographs. In street photography, you should keep minimal to no post-processing approach. You should do the maximum of your job in the camera itself. You are here, bringing out life from the real world to the real world which has to be natural and not manipulated or edited. Let’s meet the reality!
Once you’ve tested the waters of Street Photography, why not take a dive – deeper into Portrait Photography!