Thoughts on Street Photography
In my experience, most people are happy when they discover that they’ve been photographed. So not everyone is going to be happy about having their photo taken. But that isn’t enough reason for me to stop. I often talk to people on the street as well. They aren’t always welcoming either. So that’s life! There is an element of chance involved. But I’ve never been threatened or feared for having taken a photo.
I live in a city where there’s as many as 10 million people in it at any given time. And yes, I’m an extrovert. But to not engage with other people is a strange concept to me. We all live together in this world and connecting with others seems like a natural thing to do. Street photography gives me permission to be in the world. Did Diane Arbus say something like that?
While in London out with friends and shooting the streets, I saw a man standing talking to another man. He had a beautiful film camera in his hands. I walked up to him and said what a beautiful camera! He said that he was going to give it to a woman photographer friend. I said, oh that must be me! He handed me the camera and said it’s mine! I responded that I was just kidding. He said that he’s serious. He had bought the camera at a market. It’s a beautiful Voigtlander Vito B film camera. Okay so it’s a beautiful paperweight as the shutter release doesn’t work. Regardless, I had an exchange on the streets of London with a stranger and it turned out better than I could’ve imagined!
I don’t talk to people before I take their photo. But I do sometimes talk to them after I’ve taken their photo. Shooting the streets and talking to people on the streets are both methods of connecting with the world that you live in. I find it very satisfying to meet people in a random way and to be surprised by their humanity and generosity. So maybe this article isn’t entirely about street photography but more about a mindset that makes it more conducive. And perhaps it’s my curiosity in life that really drives my desire to connect with the streets! Street photography is about connecting with life and participating in the world. Happy shooting!
Street Photography Tips – Camera Choice
“A lot of photographers think that if they buy a better camera they’ll be able to take better photographs. A better camera won’t do a thing for you if you don’t have anything in your head or in your heart.” – Arnold Newman
Let’s start from the beginning. The first thing in street photography is your camera. The first thing in any kind of photography is your camera! It’s your tool. You take the photo. Not the camera. Any camera that you are comfortable using is a good choice. I used to use big DSLRs to shoot street photography and they worked really well for me. Many people on my workshops and photo tours shoot with full frame top of the line cameras. Whatever works for you is the best choice. Some people are uncomfortable shooting street photography in general and that is compounded using a larger camera.
My choice to switch to mirrorless cameras is in part because DSLRs became too heavy for me. I don’t mention mobile phone photography because quite frankly I can barely use the camera on my phone and I never like the results. I also don’t plan on getting better at that. That’s not my style. There are people who do some very nice work with mobile phone cameras. Does that make everyone a photographer? In a future issue I will discuss that!
Oh, but film cameras are also very cool and I do still shoot film from time to time. Shooting film is fabulous as it really changes the way that you see things and it really provides perspective on how you shoot with a digital camera. In general, you’re likely to take fewer photos when shooting with a film camera. You have to rely on your mind more than just eye candy. Typically people are more discriminating when shooting with film cameras.
Many decisions go into the choice of camera. They are always personal and not about brand name or cost. How much money you spend on a camera does not guarantee the kind of results that you will get in your photography. People are often made to believe that the more money you spend, the better the photo. Nothing could be farther from the truth. All cameras have limitations. Some are better for certain kinds of photography than others. When it comes to street photography just about any kind of camera works. That said, you may eventually outgrow your camera. If you’re shooting weddings and portraits you may find that the range of cameras gets narrowed down a bit.
Start by becoming comfortable with your camera. Get to the point where your camera is working for you and where you can have a reasonable expectation of getting the desired results. All digital cameras have far more functions than most people will use. Once you become comfortable with your camera you may want to experiment with some of those mysterious other functions in your camera. Happy shooting!
From Issue 35 of the Shoot New York City Newsletter. You can subscribe
Here are some more photos from my recent photo tour in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn and it is great for street photography.
I provide photo tours in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn and it is great for street photography. Brighton Beach is called Little Odessa and it’s residents are mainly Russian and Ukrainian. It doesn’t look like Manhattan! Here are some photos from a recent photo tour that I did there. On my site it is listed as Coney Island and Little Odessa. You can do either one or both!
Photography is not a Crime. Flashback from 2014.