Re: Street photography question
- From: Pete A <pete3.attkins@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 20:31:17 +0000
On 2011-12-15 03:29:49 +0000, tony cooper said:
On Wed, 14 Dec 2011 19:11:06 +0000, Pete A
I have always lacked the confidence to attempt "street photography",
partly because I hate being photographed myself therefore it seems
unfair to inflict it on others, and partly because I cannot logically
justify doing it if someone challenges me. Saying "Because I want to."
doesn't seem like a good enough reason.
The other day I was told that now is a good time to start - people are
so preoccupied with Christmas shopping that they probably won't even
notice a photographer. I've taken the first step by measuring the
incident light in the shopping street (after sunset): even at ISO 6400
I get only 1/60s at f/4, which isn't much to work with.
I'd appreciate help with selecting a suitable lens to use with my D700
before my first attempt, bearing in mind I have very shaky hands:
16-35 mm f/4 with optical image stabilisation (OIS)
50 mm f/1.4 (no OIS)
85 mm f/1.8 (no OIS)
The 50 and 85 mm will need to be used at f/2 to give me a fast enough
shutter to avoid camera shake, but I like the idea of shallow DOF for
subject isolation. Conversely, the wide-angle will enable me to capture
the street scene without having to pick a subject - perhaps the
detachment this affords would be a better starting point.
I do "street photography" more than any other type of photography. An
excellent starting point for learning more about this is the Digital
Grin forum "Street and PJ". ( http://www.dgrin.com/ and go to this
It's a forum where you can upload your images and have the other
participants view them and comment on them. It's not like the other
venues (that I've seen) in that this forum is strictly on the subject
of candid street photography. Decent traffic with several new
submissions a day.
You will find some excellent attempts at street photography, and some
not-so-excellent examples. Many of the not-so-excellent are my
postings. You can't access the EXIF data from the images posted, but
many of the contributors list the equipment they use in their data.
The contributors are from all over the world.
I'll look into that later.
Thanks very much for your post, Tony. After I read it I went into town this evening and took some shots with my 16-35 mm!
I started out using my 55/200 Nikon lens and my 18/270 Tamron lens,
but I've moved on to a Nikon 35 mm 1.8 lens which gives me a sharper
image but requires me to move closer to the subject.
My 50 mm would give me about the same angle of view as your 35 mm so I can see why that would be a poor choice for me to start street photography.
At first, I was too shy to get close to the subjects.
My shyness became so overwhelming in July that it prevented me from taking photos anywhere other than my own back garden. I have no idea what caused it to get so bad, but your post, and Philo's, gave me the incentive to overcome it.
A word of caution...the regulars in the Street & PJ forum - and
especially BD Colon (the guru of the group) seem to think the only way
to present Street stuff is in black and white with strong contrast.
I was hoping to try that style next year. Where I live has too many heavily overcast days, especially during the summer, making the town look very drab.
You'll get critiques and comments, and the critiques are often very
harsh. BD can be especially harsh, but his comments are usually
dead-on. You can't be thin-skinned and survive in this forum.
I really need to "grow" a thicker skin - mine is thin due to lack of self-confidence.
I rarely experience a negative reaction from a subject. Of course, I
avoid aiming the camera at families and children and young women.
My voluntary work in the public services sector has made me acutely aware of what is and what is not acceptable photography - it's almost the antithesis of photojournalism.
Most of the time, though, the subject doesn't notice you. I generally
do a "swing" maneuver where I bring up the camera and turn and fire at
the last second at the subject if the subject is likely to notice me.
Also, I shoot "continuous" and usually get three or four images at a
After reading that, today is the first time I've ever used continuous shooting mode. I set it at 2 frames/second so that I didn't have too many images to look through when I arrived home, but I don't think that rate was fast enough to be useful.
One last point...you have to look at the "street" genre different from
your other work. Most of the time we pay a lot of attention to
composition and background. You really don't do that in "street".
Street is basically grab shots without a lot of set-up and mental
composition before the shutter is activated. The good street shot has
more to do with spotting what makes an interesting photo than it is
setting up a good photo. Street is about interesting subjects more
than anything else.
When I went out today I _tried_ to remember everything you, David and Philo have said. The bitterly cold wind plus extreme nervousness made me lose the plot. I didn't manage to capture a single interesting subject :-(
At least I remembered to dismiss everything about my other work and start with a clean slate.
I think, starting out, if you'd take your camera mounted on a monopod
and just lurk around a reasonably high traffic area and wait for the
subject to come to you, you'd do well. You'll fade into the woodwork
with this approach, and the monopod will give you a little
stabilization with good maneuverability. Pick a view where there's an
interesting background and wait for people to pass in front of it.
My experience today has been a sobering lesson. Using a monopod would not have made me more conspicuous. Perhaps I'm wrong, but it seems that once a stranger has scanned me up and down their attention quickly switches to something more interesting than a guy with a camera.
I suspect - just suspect, mind - that your biggest obstacle will be
over-thinking what you're doing. Street is a reactive endeavor, not a
I kept that paragraph firmly in mind while I was walking through the town. For the first time in my life I managed to keep most of my thoughts focused internally (doing something unplanned that is purely for myself) rather than what I normally do: trying to remember a plan while worrying about what everyone else might be thinking about my presence.
Digital Grin also has forums on other photographic interests and on
other photography related themes. All moderated (moderately) public
Thanks again, Tony, for the wealth of information and for your encouragement.
- Re: Street photography question
- From: tony cooper
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