Wikipedia defines street photography as art photography. Despite the name, it doesn’t necessarily have to include a street, or an urban area. Instead, it is defined by a human aspect – either the human form or objects of an architectural nature. These types of shots are usually raw, candid and unpolished. They are meant to capture the subject as if in a freeze-frame of time, in that instant when all the elements are lined up for a shot that is not necessarily perfect, but true.
Yes, a bit of an… artistic… way of putting it. Nonetheless, here are some tips to help you improve upon your street photography, and perhaps even inspire some new shots.
Focus on the Subject
Although street photography doesn’t have many guidelines, an important point to remember is that the photograph should clearly indicate its subject. Framing is very important in this instance, as correct framing will ensure that there are no distracting elements to overpower the subject or to draw focus away. For example: when photographing a person in an urban street setting, make sure that the person is up close and personal, not far in the distance to ensure that it becomes the first focus. Background elements should be slightly blurred out if they draw a lot of attention, to ensure that your subject is not lost in the maelstrom.
Setting the Tone
Street photography as an art form has its roots in dark comedy, satire and other darker art forms. It is not meant to capture the beauty of a butterfly in flight, but rather the irony of a butterfly on a rubbish heap. Usually you only have a few precious moments to capture a street photo, but before taking the shot, try and include elements which will draw attention to the tone of the scene. Things to look out for are visual puns, irony and contrast, to name a few.
The Perfect Crop
When taking the photo, allow enough room for cropping. Successful cropping eliminates unnecessary background elements which do not add to the tone of the photo, while drawing more attention to the subject. Eliminating a portion of your subject through cropping (such as cropping out a portion of a person’s face), immediately lends mystery and intrigue to a photograph. Always ensure that there is some element remaining to give context to the image, otherwise your cleverly detected irony or pun might be lost on the viewer.
Timing is Everything
Previously mentioned, timing is a very important element of street photography. You have to be aware of your surroundings and set yourself up for a shot before the shot even happens. Another important factor is that of privacy. Most people don’t appreciate having their photo taken without their consent. A good way around this dilemma is to simply take up a seat on a sidewalk cafe or bench and pretend to be snapping merrily away, not unlike a tourist. Not many people can object if their photo is one in a series of twenty taken, along with a myriad of other people.
Don’t Make it Obvious
Another way to circumvent any unwanted attention whilst capturing the perfect shot is to use a camera that has an LCD screen which can be tilted. This ensures that you can “shoot from the hip”, without having the raise the camera to eye level. This also ensures your subject does not become distracted and ruin the shot by flipping you off!
Colour vs Black & White
A dominating factor of street photography appears to be a preference for black and white photos over colour photos. In this day and age of digital cameras, you can opt for either or, however, some photographers do argue that a desaturated colour photo does not have the same effect as a “true” black and white photo. It all comes down to what you have available, how passionate you are, and the types of shots you want to take. For example, the earlier example of the butterfly on the rubbish heap would be a colourful photo indeed, however, would the tone be lost in a black and white photo, or perhaps exaggerated?
We would love to see your street photos! Go snapping and send them in, either in colour or black and white, and be sure to mention “street photo” or the like in your caption or title!