Great street photography is all about capturing the ‘decisive moment’. But how to prepare yourself for the decisive moment?
Structure versus spontaneity
On some occasions you may find something of interest, such as a humorous slogan on a billboard for example, then simply wait around: camera poised, ready for the right type of subject to enter the scene. While this can reap great rewards, some street photographers argue that this isn’t embracing the true nature of street shooting, which should occur more spontaneously and thus have more organic results. This lack of contrivance can generate equal creative air, and impressive results that are generated from a laisse-faire and arguably more enjoyable approach.
The idea of this methodology is to just go out on to the streets, take a non-planned walk around the city and shoot what you find. This can open your eyes to fresh perspectives, angles and ideas, which in turn helps to find exciting new possibilities, people and places.
For this approach to work, you must ensure your camera is only ever a press away from being activate. Swap the lens cover for a UV protective filter or attach the hood instead, carry it at your side or around your neck, and never switch the camera off, simply allow it to go to sleep and then reactivate as your press the shutter to focus.
The beautiful thing about street photography is images don’t necessarily need to be technically perfect. A little chaos in the frame adds motion and intrigue, and this could be achieved because the shutter speed wasn’t quite fast enough or you panned with the subject. Likewise the image may be a tad over or underexposed, which can add mood or emotion. The important thing is to catch the scene or the subject before the moment passes.
Raising the ISO will help to minimise blur and camera shake, should you be shooting in low light or at longer focal lengths, but use it with caution as raising the sensitivity too high can introduce noise into the picture which may distort colour and clarity, effectively reducing the overall picture quality. Some very recent DSLRs, CSCs and advanced compacts are capable of shooting at extremely high sensitivities, some in excess of ISO 12,800, but be aware that the results of these captures vary from brand to brand, and model to model.
Michael Freeman’s Photo School: Street is Michael Freeman’s and Natalie Denton’s guide to street photography. From which kit you might need, to spotting compelling images, via shooting discreetly, and honing your technique, this book will take you from average snap to great great street photo.