All images showcased in this blog have been shot by Lee Blanchflower of Blanc Creative. Lee Blanchflower is an established Commercial Photographer and won the SWPP Travel Photographer of the Year Award 2013.
What is street photography?
Simply put, street photography is the art of photographing the world around us as it unfolds during everyday life. Candid street photography has opened up a whole new world to photographers and the voyeurs who trawl the pages of social media online. Very little is private anymore as street photography captures society at every conceivable level, from the poorest, to the richest, from the fashionable to the third world and everything in between. Documenting everyday life and society gives photographers an infinite subject matter only dictated by evolution. Every day throws a different perspective to the same places, through the eyes of different people and different photographers. It’s what makes photography the subjective choice of creatives. If you find yourself drawn to shooting photos in public and those filling the space around it.
Tip 1 – Don’t go overboard on kit.
The great saving grace about street photography is that nobody gives a damn about what type of camera you have. One of the first money saving options is definitely don’t go shelling out on expensive bits of kit if you don’t own it already. You really don’t need a specific camera to shoot with. You can shoot street photography on any camera. We’d all love to go out with a Leica-M-Edition-60 but even as a professional photographer I find it hard to justify £12000 on a single camera. You have to sell a lot photographs to cover this sort of outlay. In-fact, I personally know street photographers who will shoot with smartphones and hipstamatic because they consider it more of a challenge. Generally, smaller cameras tend to be preferable simply because DSLR’s can be bulky and make you look like a professional, thus drawing attention to the photographer. Something like the Olympus Pen with a pancake lens is a great piece of kit, however, I shoot religiously with a 5D MKIII, because it’s a tool I use five days a week.
It’s what I’m comfortable with and that makes for a lot pf sense when shooting. Make it easy and use a camera that you’re familiar with or will feel comfortable to have in your hands. One of the most important elements in the rule in street photography is keep your camera with you at all times. The amount of times I’ve been out and thought ‘Shit’ I wish I had my camera right now! The best moments on the street ‘WILL ALWAYS’ happen when you haven’t got your camera. Mark my words! They are very true!
Tip 2 – On the streets
You’ve chosen your camera, your lens and you’re ready to go for it. What’s out there on the streets. Do I shoot people, landmarks, objects? Now what do you look for when you’re out on the streets? Tip2 of5 Tips for Street Photography is: Shoot whatever you think looks Epic. Starting out with street photography, many photographers really just don’t know what they should be taking photographs of! You will develop a feel for your subject really quickly, but when I’m out shooting Street, I focus mainly on people. I personally shoot the poor, the homeless, the people who have hard lives. The expressions on their faces or their surroundings tell the story for you much of the time. For me, emotional connection of the subject to the surroundings helps to tell the story. One of the biggest problems that new street photographers have to content with is approaching people they wish to photograph.
Due to the idea that street photography is a focus on the humanity around us, this can be difficult, particularly when dealing with the street of culturally different countries. Start small. Work in your home areas where you are familiar with the surroundings and what you think or know you can get away with shooting. We’d all love to shoot the money shots, in hostile, dark, moody surroundings, but safety has to be a priority and a good portion of learning to overcome your fear is understanding how people think. If you’re polite with people and maybe explain your reasoning for the shots, you’re more than likely going to get a half decent reception. Just use common sense and don’t go waving a big Dslr with a 500mm zoom lens out in areas where you know crime is high or that is out of your comfort zone. Research where you are going to shoot and know where to avoid.
Tip 3 – Get Close
Lots of street photographers talk about the 35mm lens as being the best lens length because it mimics the focal plain of the human eye as close as possible. Let’s be honest, to me, it’s a load of tosh. More and more street imagery today seems to be taken from distance, but 5 Tips for Street Photographers No: 3 is Get Up Close. It really is a wicked opportunity to shoot your subject. How you do it will depend on your own morals for encroaching on personal space and how comfortable you feel about getting into peoples faces. The ability or need to shoot subjects or areas that may be deemed disturbing, is something that you may develop with time and will solely depend on your own confidence. Don’t photograph subjects if it will upset you, because it will ultimately destroy your love of street photography. I always try and look for the story One possible method for being discrete is to stand pretty close to someone and look above your subject, pretending to frame and shoot a picture of something above them. Lowering your camera, shoot as you come down, taking their their photo. People may think that you had no interest in them as a subject, however, this is not really an option in quiet streets unless you have a silent mode on your camera or if the subject is particularly active (High shutter speed ‘may’ work.) The second option is to wing it. Shoot on the fly with a ‘hit and run’ approach. This works well in areas where your camera is seriously unwelcome, such as non tourist areas of Marrakech where shooting was pretty dangerous and we were constantly harassed, threatened and subjected to abuse and attempts to literally extort money from you on the streets.
Tip 4- Framing
“Framing”. It is undoubtedly one of the key words for storytelling in street . To convey the message your audience, it’d really no good having distractive content that forms no part of the image you’re trying to get across. “Cropping” really can be one of your best friends for street photography but it’s worth noting that you really should be trying to nail your photos through the lens and not in photoshop. Bin the distractions and your story will unfold so much easier.
Tip 5- It’s Not All About People
Our final 5 Tips for Street Photography for beginners is: It’s not all about the people. Street photography has some misconceptions that it’s all about people. ‘s often wrongly associated with being entirely about photographing people on the streets. Street photography is about people, or more specifically about human nature, but people don’t need to be present in the scene. There are an infinite amount of opportunities out there for epic street photos without people. You just have to look for them.
But let’s not dismiss street photography without people. Urban landscapes are as much about street photography as the people who live in them. Urban landscapes can be impactive for the viewer, can tell their own stories and make for awesome storylines. Take the example above. This was taken in a residential of Marrakech on Festival of the Sacrifices or Eid al-Adha in the aftermath of the sacrificial slaughter of sheep. The image is simplistic, void of people but retains a visually impactive message representing bloodshed and death. The image content is unsettling in its simplicity. Architecture can depict life without having to include people and this aspect of street photography makes the whole process easier for people who are embracing cautiously into the world of urban photography.
I hope that this very small insight into my own perspective of shooting the public and urban life unfolding. Keeping your camera with you is a must and with practice, increased time out on the streets, you will soon be into a place where you are comfortable and know your limitations. Your imagery should flourish in a very short time. Don’t forget that The more you shoot, the more your confidence will undoubtedly grow.. So just keep shooting, learn by your mistakes and most importantly, Enjoy!