Friday, November 27, 2015

What is Street Photography?

What is street photography?

Street photography is a form of photography that is difficult to define and even more difficult to agree on. While it contains the same basic components of all other forms of photography is still stands apart as its own art form.  While a traveler or tourist may employ many of the same techniques as a street photographer there is a clear difference between the two as far as dedication to the discipline goes.

A street photographer is one who goes out with the intention of documenting the life of the people, animals, and streets around him as they interact with eachother.  A street photograph is a photograph that captures and records these moments of interaction.

While this may sound simple or like what every other photographer does it is actually quite a bit more complex than you might think. A tourist, traveler, snapshooter, may take an image on the street of an interesting interaction. It can be a very good photograph. It may contain many elements of what we consider to be street photography. It is, however, not a street photo. In this example the photo is a product of the recording of an interaction in passing. It was a moment that said to the photographer "Hi, I'd make a good shot.", a street photo however is different in that the objective of taking photos is to look for those moments in everyday life. Simply put there is little difference technically in a street photograph and photograph made by a tourist on the street. The difference is the goal and intent of the person behind the camera.

A street photographers goal and intent is to learn to see the world and streets in a specific way, to see the beauty and even the story behind it and capture those moments for others to see.  A photographer of a different type may see these moments occasionally outside of their field, but a street photographee sees them as part of his particular craft and in time learns to predict the behaviour patterns of people, letting him see a street scene unfold in his mind before it happens.

So the first thing that you should know is that street photography is not a product, it is not a technique, it is not even a specific skill. Street photography is a mindset useful for those people that want to document the streets.

As street photographers we must develop skills, and a mindset that allows us to capture more of what we want. In fact without the right mindset it is difficult for most people to take any street photos to begin with! A street photographer must develop:

1.  A photographic eye, an eye for composition, color etc. Learn a few basic composition rules, look at alot of good examples of photos, and most importantly practice taking the types of photos you want to make!!

2.  A goal, what is the point of your street photography? It can be as simple as you like the way street scenes look. Without a goal your photography is aimless and your quality suffers. You have a photographic eye, but you need to give it some direction.

3. The confidence to take a stranger's picture. While you can, and sometimes should, use a long focal length most street photos benefit from a normal or wide angle lens. The fov and distortion at these angles is better at giving a viewer a feeling of being at the scene.

While you can be a good distance with a normal lens like 25mm on m43 or 50mm on a 35mm camera if you move to a 28mm or wider you will begin to get very far into peoples personal space. One of my favorites is my 10.5mm Voigtlander and I have to stand within a few feet of people for what is nearly a full body shot!

These wide angles squeeze alot into a scene and can make it difficult to get a good composition, but they can also give you some very dramatic and powerful perspectives due to their ability to draw viewers into a scene and make them feel like they are there.

If you want these wide dramatic perspectives you need to get comfortable being close to people and taking photos occasionally right in their face. It can be a bit unnerving at first but it is part of the mindset development I mentioned earlier.

4. A camera. Any camera will do. It can be a phone, a tablet, a m43 camera, or a 35mm dslr. It is up to you. All have their own advantages and disadvantages.

With these things you are on your way to becoming a street photographer or just generally improving your documentary photography. Next time we will talk about ways to improve your courage for street photography.

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