5 things I've learned about street photography

5 things I've learned about street photography

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I'm stood in the middle of a busy London junction. People are fast approaching from every direction.

This is my first real taste of Street Photography. I've stepped slightly out of my comfort zone and am taking an afternoon workshop with Photographer Paul Russell.

I've long been fascinated by Street Photography and touched on it in my press photography days. But I want to know more about it.

I have lots of questions to ask Paul whose work first caught my eye in the Street Photography Now book.

There are three of us joining Paul. For the next six hours we'll be pounding the streets looking for inspiration and a better understanding of how it all works. 

As the hours tick by fast and my memory card is filling up rapidly, I've picked up 5 key things to take away from today and that I hope in time will improve my Street Photography:

1. Get close - I quickly realised I wasn't getting close enough. Later in the afternoon, I felt myself becoming braver. It takes some practice as you don't want to be too obvious in taking someone's picture. I always made it look like I was photographing a building in the distance and never made eye contact. As my lecturer at University always said: Get Close, crop in the camera.

2. Use a small camera - I started off by using my Canon 5D mark III with a 35mm lens. It's a wonderful camera but its too big and obvious for Street Photography. I switched to my much smaller Fuji Finepix X100. This was so much better. I felt like I blended into the crowd much more and could easily be mistaken for a keen, snap-happy tourist - perfect!

3. Consider your shutter speed - When people are involved (and on the move), you really need a fast shutter speed. I kept mine at 1/500 or faster all afternoon to freeze the motion.

 

4. People vs Detail - Street Photography doesn't always have to mean people. As Paul explained, some great pictures can be taken showing evidence of human behaviour (e.g rubbish stacked up, pigeons eating rubbish, broken shop window etc). This is a project I'm excited to explore further. Paul showed us examples of pictures without people but with plenty going on in the image to ask questions and generate a reaction.

5. Practice, Practice, Practice - it's harder than it looks. I'll be honest, I thought Street Photography would be much easier. Capturing fleeting moments, thinking about composition; there's a lot to consider. Sometimes its hard to see the moments in the chaos. But nobody said it was easy and well established street photographers can end up taking one good photo a month.

 

What was I hoping to get out of the workshop and where do I go from here?

I feel like I've picked up some fundamental tips for doing Street Photography.  I now know which is the best of my kit to use and how best to approach it subtly. 

Most of all, I feel more confident doing this type of photography. I'm looking forward to doing more of this longer term as a side project.

I hope to pick up my camera for a few hours at a weekend and take to the street. For me its also about noticing the small details on the roads/streets everyday. A really fascinating shot could be literally at your feet.

 

Paul Russell led this Street Photography Workshop in central London. He is a member of In-public and his work features in the brilliant Street Photography Now book. Details of his future workshops can be found on his Instagram and website.

Further reading: I'm currently reading books by these Street Photographers: Matt Stuart, Garry Winogrand & Joel Meyerowitz

If you've read any great Street Photography books that you'd recommend, let me know in the comments below.

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