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Introduction to Street Photography

Introduction to street photography

Seeing is not enough; you have to feel what you photograph.Andre Kertesz

The street

Since I was very young I loved being on the street, walking, searching, observing, listening, smelling... the street is the scenario of life and we, the passers-by, are in a certain way the actors on that scenario. Street photography for me is to capture everything I walk, investigate, observe, listen to, smell... in that scenario, that doesn’t only need to be the street, but also the subway, museums, public transport, on the road, in my portal…. it’s to photograph a moment and make it beautiful, photograph life, give my opinion with an image, which must never be prepared.

The best place for taking photo

I have been told on numerous occasions that living in a big city like Hong Kong or New York is a plus for doing street photography, or India, where you find children throwing themselves into the Ganges while a cow combs a fellow citizen with its tongue while he’s shaving with a knife, or in Cuba where the street musicians coexist on the sidewalks of its streets with beautiful mulatto women dancing in American cars of the 50s... after having shot thousands of photos in several countries I realized that the best place to take pictures is where you are at that moment. I have enjoyed the already “edited” skies of my small town south of Madrid, with its shadows, its low houses with square windows by about a meter or so from the ground, I’ve looked differently in the street markets of Taiwan, I’ve taken some photos inside a taxi stuck in Bangkok, I have a picture of a gate of an industrial ship of a town in Spain, also in Cuenca where it was only my wife, the cold and I... it’s not the arrows but in Indian, it’s not the place but your eye.

The best camera for Street Photography

Another question we street photographers have to answer is about the camera we have, it seems that we are the ones with the best camera and the others always the worst. The best camera there is for street photography is the one you have at that time, no more, no less, although there is the law of how much more and how much less.

1. The heavier your camera is the less you will take it out of the house

2. The lighter your camera is, the more photos you will take

3. The more photos you take, the more you will learn

4. The more you learn, the more photos you want to take

5. The more photos you want to take, the happier you’ll be that your photo is small

Although there is no better camera than the trained eye

There are people who have admitted to me that they’re a tad afraid/ashamed/shy to shoot close to the scene and to people, that is why they have opted to get a camera with telephoto and thus shoot from a safer, more prudent distance, very respectable, but my opinion is that I haven’t seen good street photographs with a telephoto lens since it reduces the framing too much, under my opinion and experience I think the right lens is between 18mm and 35mm, being a 27mm the most used by me since I know I can be on the scene at about two meters, distance that is possible to be very aggressive from if you are learning this beautiful art but you will see that over time you’ll learn to go unnoticed and you will feel much better thanks to your results. There are compact cameras the size of a pack of cigarettes that give very good results, are quick to shoot, light in your hands, unnoticed for your photos as well as giving a very good quality when printing the photographs.

Manual or automatic

Other questions that most Street Photographers have when they start is about the camera settings, there are people who have admitted that they don’t have time to change the diaphragm, ISO and shutter speed when they see a scene to photograph and that they have lost the photograph many times just because they changed it, what I’ll say next will sound strange and for some even insulting but you can go perfectly in automatic, yes, perfectly, it’s also what I recommend unless you have time to prepare the scene (let’s call it fishing) and want something specific, then you can set the setting of your camera to the parameters you like. I spend a lot of time on the street and my camera is always on and ready (I'm changing the ISO when entering and leaving shopping centers, meters...) tucked into a leather bag that can look like you're carrying anything but a camera (the “going unnoticed” starts before shooting) and when I see the scene and, knowing the light that is in every moment, I know my photograph will come out focused, which in the end is what I want. Reminding you that I shoot at about two meters and knowing what or who I'm going to focus, there are days that I go with F5.6 or F8 and with manual focus of 2 to 5 meters, these are the brighter days and with an ISO of 200 and 125 shutter speed is more than enough for the results that I’m looking for. But these are very technical things and this course is to learn to observe, these boring things you will learn on your own.

Hunting or fishing

Many times we go down the street thinking about the picture we want to make and suddenly we find a situation worthy of being immortalized and we, who have a very well trained eye as well as our gesture to take the camera, photograph it, having found a scene and photo in a casual way in a moment and place that we did not expect, we'll call that in this course Hunting, instead there are other times where you like what you see, well because you are a lover of geometric figures (we’ll be speaking a lot about that during this course) through the stage or whatever, you have time to frame, choose the setting of the camera and wait for the human figure (or anything else) to pass and complement that photo that you had previously imagined, that's what in this course we'll call fishing.

Both of themwill help us learn to observe a little better every day.

What to photograph

I’m one of those who think that almost everything is photographed, you just have to find the right moment and angle, but that is not reason enough to take photos in burst of everything we see like a soldier with a machine gun, I’ve done that, arriving home with more than 300 useless photos that you have to visualize one by one on the computer, it’s exasperating, as well as boring and can make you quit photography altogether. Be selective, be creative, be more provocative and try not to photograph what everyone already knows and photographs, the trick is to look at the street in a different way, today we see in social networks thousands and thousands of photos, a lady with an umbrella walking down the street, a man with a baseball cap, a kissing couple, an elderly man crossing a pedestrian crossing, a very young child, a very young girl and a very long etcetera ... they don’t stop being a lady with an umbrella, a mister with a hat, a couple kissing, boys and girls but they don’t say anything else to the spectator, something we have to take into account, the spectator, since we not only photograph for us, we photograph to capture the attention of the one who visualizes our photo, we photograph to communicate and explain a story, we photograph so that someone would stay for a while looking at our picture and smiles, nods, is moved, applauds, cries, laughs...