A couple of weeks ago, Craig Ferguson invited me to write a guest post on his blog. It was something I felt somewhat honored to do since I both find him to be an excellent photographer and his blog to be incredibly useful. I’ve cobbled together this short pieceon street photography in the same vein as his “photo tip of the day”. It’s only five tips, but I hope that it’s informational enough to help newcomers interested in the genre, but not so pedestrian to be useless to more experienced photographers.
5. Use a fixed focal length lens. No, fixed lenses aren’t a quaint novelty. Generally speaking, they are faster and stop-for-stop sharper and cheaper then their zooming brethren. From the perspective of street photography, it lightens your load (see point 4) but more importantly it teaches you to pre-visualize your composition. Being able to know what you’re going to get before raising your camera to your eyes to shoot mitigates the need for you to make compositional adjustments and speeds up execution, an important skill in a pursuit where the moment must be captured, not created. In addition, using a fixed focal length lens allows you to make use of zone focusing (including hyperfocal technique) eliminating even more time from execution.
4. Lighten Up. This is partially accomplished by following tip number 5 and facilitates tip number 3. Pear down your gear into the bare essentials. The first part of this has already been covered. The second part would be to toss out your external flash. Considering that a key aspect of street photography is documenting the interaction between subjects and their environment, a flash would not only destroy the ambient lighting and natural mood of the environment, but would also interrupt that subject/environment relationship and eliminate any further opportunity to get candid, natural photos. Finally, dump the heavy accessories like battery/power/booster packs. You should be thinking portability and ease of access over power. On that note…
3. Always have a camera with you. The reasoning behind this should be a no-brainer and if you’ve followed the prior two tips, should be a non-issue. If all you have is a pro-level dSLR with a huge white (or black with a gold ring) f2.8 telezoom and permanently fixed battery pack, then you might want to invest in something smaller and more portable as a “back up” that you can carry in your messenger bag or coat pocket. There is a large selection of large sensor, interchangeable lens cameras on the market like the m4/3 offerings from Olympus and Panasonic, the Nex series from Sony, and the Ricoh GRX. For a little less money, there are also quite a few large sensor P&S offerings on the market, now too.
2. Be proud! Yes, it’s a bit cliché, but confidence is key. You will be treated according to how you behave. If you’re off at a distance, half hiding behind a wall and sniping away with a 400mm cannon, you will be treated with suspicion and possibly confronted (not to mention eliminating the environment component of street photography). If you walk around pretending to be a ninja, imagining that you won’t be seen not only are you self-delusional, but once again your behavior will be met with suspicion and you will probably be confronted. However, if you keep your camera out and photograph confidently (respectful confidence, not obnoxious confidence) chances are that not only will you be left alone but that you will be ignored. The people around you will assume that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing. Counter-intuitive perhaps, but true.
1. Leave your camera at home. Find a nice city street with loads of foot traffic and a comfortable place to sit. Now, grab a latte, relax, and people-watch. Practice reading people’s motions and interactions. Developing the ability to predict human behavior is key in being able to capture that decisive moment, much more so then something like shutter lag.
You can find the original article on Craig’s blog. He is
Have any additional street photography tips? Leave them in the comments below!