Monday, 25 April 2011

First steps in street photography

I am one of the many who find the idea of taking photos of complete strangers who have not given explicit consent quite daunting. I have managed to convince myself – rightly or wrongly – that part of the problem is the very intimidating and obvious nature of a large black d-SLR, and treated myself to an Olympus PEN E-P1 with a 17mm lens (34mm equivalent). So that’s my technical excuse dealt with.

Before I have a proper stab at Exercise 9 I thought I’d take the camera out and get a feel for what street photography involves. I’d already picked up a couple of tips from various websites and blogs so the camera was set to manual focus at about 10 feet to reduce the shutter lag and f/8 to get reasonable depth of field.

A couple of things became quite quickly apparent:

  • with a 17mm lens you have to get very close to fill the frame with a subject. I knew this but had not really considered the implications for street photos;
  • a fairly quiet morning in Wells is not packed full of opportunities, nor is it easy to be inconspicuous in scarcely populated streets;
  • the camera noise is less conspicuous than I expected, particularly if there is any traffic or other noise,
  • shooting from the hip is pretty hit and miss – even shooting with the camera hanging round my neck is pretty vague;
  • the optional hot-shoe viewfinder is considerably easier to use than the screen on the back; and,
  • for a beginner it feels easier to sit in one place and wait for opportunities rather go hunting.

I did manage a few photos that I’m prepared to share, although I make no great claims for their quality. Of the four below I had to crop a couple quite heavily to compensate for the small size of the subject.






JanetB14 said...

I've found it quite surprising how close you can get to people and they still have no idea that you are taking their photo - even using a DSLR. I have found it works quite well to stand at the doorway to a shop whilst I wait for my husband inside and take pictures as people pass by.

Nigel Monckton said...

Will have to try the shop doorway approach - maybe next time I'm with my daughter on a clothes shopping trip :0). I wonder if it isn't that people don't notice, rather that they aren't bothered. For me, at least, the greatest barrier is certainly my reluctance to appear intrusive. The chap at the parking meter was clearly aware that he was being photographed and seemed unconcerned.