The Street Photographer

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The Street Photographer… I am not.  If you want an education on street photography, kindly refer to Vivian Maier’s work, which I recently profiled here.

It’s a form of photographic expression that I finding daunting, most probably because it feels so intrusive.  Who am I, I often think, to invade the private world of another with my camera, hoping to capture a fleeting moment of interest, for my own selfish intrigue and satisfaction?

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But it’s an art form that fascinates me and one I endeavor to enhance my skill and artistic eye.  The shots compiled here are my first forays into street photography.

First, a definition.  According to No Rules.  [Street] Photography:

Simply put street photography includes any photograph made anywhere in public places. Some people narrow it down to urban settings and some people think there must be people present in these kinds of photos. But the bottom line is that each street photographer will find their own meaning and approach therefore whatever definition they might arrive at will work just as well.

The purpose of street photography will again vary from one street photographer to another. Some photographers are interested in simply and honestly documenting life as they see it, at times adding their own interpretation to the scene. Some want to make artistic photographs of available street scenes and others basically enjoy taking pictures and do it purely for the pleasure of it.

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As I’ve been trying to get better, here are some of the things I’ve learned, so far.

First, black and white photos are commonplace in street photography for a reason, providing great contrast and removing the color which can be distracting to the story at hand.  Black and white treatment can also make a photo seem timeless, as though it could have been taken in the 1950s or today.  By the same token, in some scenes, color enhances the mood, as in the photo above where I was seeking to emphasize the playfulness of the children in the fountain.

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Another tip is to try to anticipate moments.  I watched as one of these friends began to pose and immediately knew that the second was going to grab a camera and start shooting.  So, I had my camera at the ready, which is another important factor in street photography – always have your camera handy as moments worth memorializing happen suddenly and are fleeting.

And though I sometimes wish I had a longer or different focal length lens with me, traveling light and sticking to one prime lens or one do-it-all travel zoom is best.  Being ready to take a quick shot is much easier when you’re not weighed down by equipment or need to swap lenses.

And although you’re generally looking to capture spontaneous, candid moments that occur, I’ve been surprised by how many subjects actually enjoy being photographed and pose, as this woman, wearing period attire in Skagway, Alaska, did.

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Generally speaking, action happens fast so I’ve learned that it’s important to set a quick shutter speed, typically 1/125 of a second or faster if lighting conditions allow.

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I’ve also found that it’s important, as is the case in all photographic pursuits, to be keenly aware of the background as it can help frame and distinguish the subject… or alternatively, distract the viewer away from the main subject.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned during my early days of trying to improve my street photography skills.  I’d like to invite 2 Guys Photo readers to share their best street photography tips as well.

Posted by Rey

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2 Responses to The Street Photographer

  1. Picture This says:

    A very interesting and well-done blog! I shall be visiting often!

  2. Mary M says:

    Thanks for the tips. Going to try them out.

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