I’m a huge fan of street photography. I love the way the people who are good at it are able to capture such magical yet fleeting moments. Moments that if cameras had never been invented would be otherwise lost forever. The way I’ve always tried to capture street scenes has been very reactionary.
I walk around the city hoping something interesting will happen. I do my best to compose the image but the composition usually ends up fairly bland. The masters of this art form often take pictures that would be great architectural or landscape photos even if there were no people in them at all. Until recently this has always baffled me, but I’ve since learned one tip that may help.
I wish I could credit the source of this tip but I can’t recall who it was that said this on a program I was watching. This photographer said their approach to street photography was essentially to sit in one position, perfectly compose their image and then wait for someone to walk by. A stunningly simple methodology that just had never occurred to me. Funny how that works.
Suddenly a lot of street images I’ve loved for so long made sense to me and I decided I had to try it for myself. There aren’t many picturesque buildings in my neighborhood but there is a good amount of foot traffic. I stood across the street from the oldest building I could find, dialed in my settings including manually focusing and composed my image. After about 15 minutes a man passed by and I captured the photo below. It may not be an technical masterpiece but it certainly does demonstrate how the technique can and does work!
Hopefully this tip will give you a new tool for capturing candid images! If you’d like to learn more about composition tips and techniques sign up for our Fundamentals of Photography class or schedule a Private Lesson for one-on-one instruction!
My name is Trevor Warren and I am a gadget addict. Chances are if you love photography you’re one too. The two traits just seem to go hand-in-hand and like any other addiction there are certain triggers that set us off. For myself and many others I know, the most likely thing to send us on a budget busting crazy rampage are photography magazines and blogs.
So what’s the harm right? Assuming you’re not pawning your wedding ring to buy a new lens and it’s just a hobby, what’s the big deal? Well, maybe it’s not really a big deal and I’m just being preachy (always a possibility). On the other hand, I do feel I’ve many times seen people’s affinity for equipment keep them in a rut regardless of how many times they upgrade their equipment.
A big part of the reason we think this way is because we hear it so often. So many trade magazines are little more than extensions of the marketing departments of major camera makers. Camera companies pay for the advertising and provide the access to new equipment magazines need in order to survive. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the conflict there yet we still tend to see them as educational resources where today’s lesson is always, "this new camera will give a huge advantage to anyone who owns it."
Where to Look Instead
The best way to get perspective on how to improve your photography is by learning more about photography and photographers throughout history. Doing this can be a very valuable reality check.
You probably recognize the image to the right commonly known simply as "Afghan Girl" taken in 1984 by photographer Steve McCurry. It’s one of those images that photographers dream of capturing some day and it was shot with a camera and lens that together would cost you less than $300 today. If you’re tempted to give the credit to the type of film used, Kodachrome, have a look at the Kodachrome Group on Flickr and see how many pictures come nowhere near to the quality of this.
So if it wasn’t a state-of-the-art high tech camera that made this image what did?
It was these things the photographer possessed rather than the equipment:
Knowing these things might eventually make you a better photographer but it probably won’t make you feel any better in the short term. The message that the magazines and manufacturers are pushing, "you’ll be a lot better once you get a new camera" is a lot more appealing than, "you’ve got a lot to learn about light." And because it benefits both the industry and our egos to say so, you can bet you’ll be seeing more ads like this in the future:
In the digital age of photography we mostly see pictures via our computers. Even in the profession I have more and more customers telling me all they want is a CD of images. Printing is becoming a lost art form among modern digital photographers and if that’s what a certain segment of customers want that’s okay.
Still, you should be ready to create a high quality print if the need arises and aside from that, it really is still the best way to view photography.
Advantages of Prints vs. Computer Monitors
One thing a lot of people take for granted is how bad computer monitors are for viewing pictures. Generally colors are all over the place from one monitor to the next. They also tend to be quite low contrast compared to prints so you never really get true blacks in your shadows or whites in your highlights. Computer monitors also have about 1/4 the resolution of a printed image — 72 dots per inch on a monitor vs. 300+ dots per inch on a print. That’s roughly the difference between HDTV and an Magnavox made in the 70′s.
How to Make Prints
Many of the home office printers you can buy in stores boast the ability to print photographs. As of today, printing your own photos at home doesn’t make much sense. The ink is tremendously expensive and the results are mediocre. Photo labs actually make prints from digital pictures much the same way we made prints from film before – with light and photo paper. It’s also become extremely cheap to get prints this way. A 4×6 from your local drug store will probably cost you about $0.30 and an 8×10 a couple of dollars and the results will be pretty good for most purposes. If you’re planning to sell art prints for a profit I’d recommend going to a more professional lab that offers more options however.
If you don’t normally print your photos you may be pleasantly surprised to see how good they on paper!