As a way of showing some shots from this weeks very short couple of ‘Street’ trips I thought I’d tell you about my current shooting methods. They’re not ‘tips’ as such, I’m not qualified to offer any, if they are ‘tips’ then I advise you to read through very, very, carefully and then do the absolute opposite if you want some successful photographs!
Over the last twelve months my Street Photography shooting style has changed, you could say evolved. One of the main reasons for the decision to swap to Leica some years ago was that it would slow me down, allow me to consider the frame I was capturing and gain a little more discipline in my photography. For the majority of my other photography that is still the case. Portraits and Weddings are shot for the most part at large apertures (f/0.95 - f/4) and with a rangefinder that requires precision manual focussing, my eye is glued to the view finder. A couple of randomly selected examples in the archive from client shoots;
I used to practice the same technique for Street, nowadays though as I mostly shoot at small apertures (f/8 or f/11), it’s off the hip, or more often at chest height. We’ve discussed before that I use the Hyperfocal method for Street Photography, no need to focus, I just manually change the shutter speed or ISO for my exposure if the light changes. I don’t use ‘Live View’ on the camera so it’s purely guess work, simply hold the camera in front of me and click. Unbelievably and for the majority of the time I get what I imagined would be in the frame. It’s really down to practice, which we know we can never get enough of.
I’m not shooting in this way because I’m trying to be sneaky or disguising the fact that I’m taking a photo. Generally I’m close enough with the 35mm that people are well aware of what’s happening, clicking away with my camera just in front of me, as can be seen by the expression of the lady in that opening shot! It’s partly because I’ve always shot at the height of the subject matter; people often make the mistake with portraits, and I’m thinking specifically of those with children, of not getting to the same level as the subject and consequently they shoot downwards at them thus making for not great portraits. Simply crouch down and shoot. Okay, sometimes it can work if you’re going for a particular look of a high up perspective. Another example from the archive and of me contradicting myself, but I’m sure you knew what I meant;
Back to what we were talking about and that’s Street Photography…
So it’s mostly a matter of perspective, it also due to the fact that I’m over six feet tall and not as young as I once was. By the time I’ve crouched down put the camera to my eye and focussed that fleeting moment will have long gone. As I say, perspective is the key here and attempting to make something less boring than it might otherwise be. I try to capture gestures or expressions, if that isn’t happening I’ll look at different perspectives so I haven’t gone back to the days of photos with people just walking along. Looking back through my archives recently and I can see that it’s very easy to get lazy; shoot just one type of shot, one type of scene, people walking along, silhouettes. Take these shots of people walking past a white van I took a while back for example, it gets boring really quickly;
So, back to the current photos from this week. Sometimes I’ll get really low and tilt the camera upwards slightly. This can work, but occasionally it distorts the scene too much for my own taste, especially if you’re using a wide angle lens;
However I do like keeping it low to the ground, camera level and some interesting things can, or if you know Street Photography at all well, don’t happen! Not much going on in this one except I liked the blue of the case, the sky, peoples denim and the window to the right.
It really is a waiting game whatever method we use. Just like these two and the seagull busy crabbing when I was in Poole Harbour earlier in the week. Again camera almost to the floor so we can see their catch;
Or this ticket lady, we saw her hand in the opening shot desperately grabbing at potential custom. Here she’s waiting, but busy doing her nails:
Meanwhile back in Bath a couple of days ago I was waiting for some layers to happen. It’s tricky because you’re in the way of pedestrians, far too many people are concerned with what it is you’re doing or why the hell you are almost laying on the ground. After I took the following shot I got up and half a dozen different tourists were all down there trying to see what I was photographing.
What I will say is that timing is crucial, as it is with all types of photography. The plus side of my current method of shooting ‘Street’ is that you can take quite a lot of shots easily thus increasing your chances of capturing something and if you see it you shouldn’t miss it whilst you’re fiddling around with exposure and focus or lifting the camera to your eye. I don’t use ‘continuous’ or ‘burst mode’, to begin with the buffer in the Leica won’t handle that sort of behaviour. I only click one at a time of something that catches my eye. We’re using digital so why not fire away? Well, I used to spend two or three hours in Bath and end up with 70 or so images on the SD card, shooting off the hip and with the hyperfocal set up I come back with 300 or more on a longer session. The negative to that is you have to trawl through them all and that’s not something I particularly enjoy, somewhere in the middle is where I want to be, 100 or so different shots.
As I said at the beginning, no way are these photography tips. Try them if you wish or don’t. My main point here is that there are many ways to shoot, find one that suits you or like me just keep experimenting. Here’s my last shot, still on the floor though this time looking at a guy creating some pavement art. I mentioned before about timing and I missed what I wanted here, which was him drawing between someones stride. I clicked too early, but it still sort of works. Perhaps there’s a message about art or photography being only as good as your last piece of work.
As always my sincere thanks go to anyone taking the time to read this blog.
All images can be opened by clicking on the thumbnails and are taken using a Leica M with Summicron 35mm Lens fitted.
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