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Location! Location! Location! for street photography

The whole essence of street photography is that, like human behaviour, moments are unpredictable, spontaneous and elusive. Therefore having your camera with you at all times ensures that you have the opportunity to capture them, and won’t regret the dreaded missed opportunity, which will inevitably occur!

Canon EOS 350D, 50mm ƒ/1.8 lens This image was shot at a pro-Burma protest that many monks had attended. I spotted these two monks taking a picture of the crowds, and noticed how they were both dressed and poised similarly. Protests can provide a great backdrop for images, and shooting at such an event requires less inconspicuous behavior as many others will also be capturing their own moments, and you will easily blend into the crowd.
Monks; London, UK
Canon EOS 350D, 50mm ƒ/1.8 lens
This image was shot at a pro-Burma protest that many monks had attended. I spotted these two monks taking a picture of the crowds, and noticed how they were both dressed and poised similarly. Protests can provide a great backdrop for images, and shooting at such an event requires less inconspicuous behavior as many others will also be capturing their own moments, and you will easily blend into the crowd.

Locations needn’t be predetermined or planned in advance. A major advantage of street photography is that it is not limited in terms of locations or subjects—the possibilities are endless. Wherever there is a ‘moment’, there is a photo to be made—in cities, in suburbia, on public transport, in parks—the list just doesn’t stop. The best street photographers are flexible, quick to adapt and to blend into the surroundings.

Crowded locations

  • City centres — shopping centers (malls), markets, cafés
  • Popular tourist spots
  • Beaches
  • Parks
  • Public events such as parades and protests
  • Public transport and roads

In all these locations it’s relatively easy to blend in with a camera, as there may be many other people taking photographs. In these surroundings it is less important to be inconspicuous as you will not be drawing attention to yourself. In fact, taking pictures in these places may well be the norm, in which case you’ll be able to shoot openly without any fear of being spotted.

Masks on the Tube; London, UK Canon EOS 350D, 18–55mm ƒ/3.5–5.6 lens I captured this moment after a protest, where masked campaigners got onto a train. Trains can provide a sea of possibilities in terms of characters and behaviors. Just before the train pulled away I spotted four of the masked campaigners all sitting next to each other staring straight ahead.
Masks on the Tube; London, UK
Canon EOS 350D, 18–55mm ƒ/3.5–5.6 lens
I captured this moment after a protest, where masked campaigners got onto a train. Trains can provide a sea of possibilities in terms of characters and behaviors. Just before the train pulled away I spotted four of the masked campaigners all sitting next to each other staring straight ahead.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. A packed train or elevator, for example, while full of people, are not places you’d usually be photographing in. So you still need to be unobtrusive as the distance between you, the photographer, and the subject is much closer than is normally the case between strangers.
Shooting on a packed train requires a different method of shooting compared with say, walking around a busy and noisy zoo with a camera at the ready.

Quiet locations

  • Suburbia — quiet streets
  • Rural areas
  • Museums
  • Libraries

Jesus wins—Jinja, Uganda Canon EOS 350D, 18–55mm ƒ/3.5–5.6 lens I was walking down a quiet suburban road when I came across this child peering through a door, smiling at me, even before I lifted up my camera to compose. The combination of the child, the position of the opening, and the sticker prompted me to capture this moment.
Jesus wins; Jinja, Uganda
Canon EOS 350D, 18–55mm ƒ/3.5–5.6 lens
I was walking down a quiet suburban road when I came across this child peering through a door, smiling at me, even before I lifted up my camera to compose. The combination of the child, the position of the opening, and the sticker prompted me to capture this moment.

The location or setting can be just as important as the subject, as it puts the subject into context. An image is a whole entity and each frame must be treated as such; pay attention and be observant to what is visible in the frame.

Thinking creatively

Some of the places are obvious locations for street photography, while others are not. Think creatively—street photography doesn’t necessarily have to have you literally out and about on the streets. When you’re travelling in cities that suffer from traffic congestion or heavily used public transport, try shooting from within vehicles. It can open up a whole new world and perspectives that you might not have previously considered, with just a pane of glass separating you from your subjects.

car beggar—Mumbai, india Canon EOS 350D, 18–55mm ƒ/3.5–5.6 lens Beggars in India do not hesitate to approach taxis and to reach into them to ask for money. This is a sight I was initially unaccustomed to, but one I was lucky enough to capture here.
Car beggar; Mumbai, india
Canon EOS 350D, 18–55mm ƒ/3.5–5.6 lens
Beggars in India do not hesitate to approach taxis and to reach into them to ask for money. This is a sight I was initially unaccustomed to, but one I was lucky enough to capture here.

Whether you shoot with a digital SLR, a Holga or the camera on your phone, today’s cameras let you seize the moment and shoot whenever and wherever you like. This makes them perfect for street photography, the genre choice of some of the greatest photographers of all time, with names like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Weegee and Robert Frank turning gritty reality into iconic images. In The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto, Tanya Nagar will open your eyes to the photographic potential of our urban world, offering the tricks and techniques that put you in the right place, at the right time, and let you create amazing photos.
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New-Street-Photographers-coverThe New Street Photographer’s Manifesto by Tanya Nagar
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