Monday, 5 March 2012

Braving traffic, crowds and pigeon excrement may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but shooting in public allows street photographers to document everyday life in all its unpredictable chaotic glory. Here, three street photographers share their tops tips on getting that perfect shot…

Be nifty on your toes
You’re likely to be shooting on the go, so before you head out, make sure you’re fed, watered and armed with kit that is easily portable. “Learn how to use your equipment well and comfortably,” says Jack Simon, joint winner of the 2011 Street Photography Now project. “Although many people pre-focus using a zone method, I have no problem with timing using autofocus or manual focus, as long as I am using a prime lens. Go with primes. I find 35mm ideal but also use 28mm or 50mm.” Street photographer and course teacher David Gibson agrees that less is often more when it comes to lenses: “Don’t use a long lens. There’s a quote I heard recently that summed it up, something like: ‘The best lens to use is your feet’. It is so true, don’t be lazy, get closer… use your feet.”

Spontaneity takes preparation
Street photography doesn’t necessarily have to happen in a street but it must be unplanned, un-posed and in public. As a street photographer, you’re watching out for rather than setting up photographs, so you can’t predict exactly when that perfect shot will come along – but you can be geared up for its arrival. “Always carry a camera with you and be ready to use it,” says Jack Simon. “Some of my most interesting photos appeared when I was not looking for a photograph – on the train, in a restaurant, or at a museum.” In fact, one of Jack’s most popular pictures was taken in an airport lounge at the end of a trip that had been full of far more obvious photo opportunities. “Find an interesting background because it can sometimes be half of a photograph,” advises David Gibson. “And then hope that one or more elements might move into the scene to make it more complete.”

Photographing strangers
One of the most daunting things about starting out as a street photographer is not knowing how people will react to having their picture taken. David Gibson has a tip for avoiding feeling self-conscious when shooting in public: “Believe that you are half invisible on the street. Of course you are not, but it is an important mindset.” David Solomons, a finalist in last year’s International Street Photography Award, favours a natural approach: “By that I mean by trying not to make any sudden movements, being confident and not hesitating about taking a particular shot,” he says. “I also mostly avoid eye contact with the subject in certain more crowded situations.”

The legal stuff
It’s not illegal to photograph in public places. As the Metropolitan Police website states: “Members of the public and the media do not need a permit to film or photograph in public places and police have no power to stop them filming or photographing incidents or police personnel.” However, some spaces you might think of as public – a shopping centre, for example – are actually privately owned so security guards or police may ask you to stop taking photographs. David Solomons says: “If you do get questioned, always treat them with respect but remember that they have no power to ask you to delete your photos.”

More info…

Website showcasing the work of street photographers.

Photographer not a terrorist 
Campaign for photographers’ right to take pictures in public.

London Festival of Photography 
The Festival runs street photography workshops and an award for student street photographers. Check out the page called “What is street photography?”

WYNC Street Shots: Joe Wigfall 
Street photographer Joe Wigfall talks about how he works. A search on YouTube will throw up lots of other great street photography videos.

This article originally appeared on IdeasMag.

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