Anatomy of a street shooting session

16 05 2010

I was shooting the streets in the center of the city yesterday. For some reason I tried to break out of my usual street shooting pattern. Maybe the sun boiled my brain, who knows. Anyway, instead of shooting everything that moved about, I tried to establish a some sort of contact with people I wanted to shoot. Of course, this is something that should always be done, but to actually do it.. well lot more difficult than one would think!

What was also odd about this session was that I actually didn´t shoot that much. No sir, almost every picture I took yesterday is here. (Of course I didn´t include the duplicates of the each picture or the lousy picture of a police car I took.. But other than that, all are here..)

One more thing: the way I shoot most of these. Instead of trying to look invisible, I tried to look as visible as possible. I bolted a flash unit with diffusor in my camera and made it very clear for all, what I was doing: photography. This actually helped to establish the contact in some cases. Maybe I move towards this Martin Parr -type photography even more in the future. So I´ll just have to start hunting for a small softbox that goes well with HONL speed straps. That´ll make the camera even bigger😉

The bottom line: I thought it would be fun to post here the anatomy of the whole session I spend shooting. Just remember that the time between consists of loitering about and scanning the street for something interesting to see. Anyway, moving on to the pictures. Are you ready?

The first picture I shot was done the “traditional way”. Traditional for me, anyway. I saw the situation and seized the moment. Before I shot the picture, I stood there contemplating the situation for a while. They saw me, but didn´t seem to react to my interest. I took this as a sign that it is ok to shoot them.

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First one, situational. The awareness about the photographer is there, even though not visible.

Next I moved on, towards a stand where few people were telling about their convinctions and things they do to make a difference. You´ll have to guess the subject I´m afraid. Anyway, I stopped there for a quick chat, for their initiative, when they offered me a cup of coffee. After chatting there for a while I felt completely comfortable to snap a couple of pictures.

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First pic of that stop, these persons offered me a cup of coffee. After a while I offered them a chance to get photographed.

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Second picture of that stop. With her, I spend most time talking to. She seemed interested about what I was doing. At the end, I asked if I could snap a picture of her.

Third stop: a terrace at the local Tex Mex -restaurant. These gyus asked me, if I could take their picture. And I did. This proves the fact that when the camera is big & visible enough, some people might actually want to appear on your pictures.

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"Hey Mr, can you take our picture?"

Next, I returned back on my footsteps and stopped at this line for ice cream. I noticed this young chap with pink clothing and thought it would be cool to take his picture. I waited a while, so he had spotted me, and then continued to take the picture of the line. Again, I made a conclusion that it was ok to shoot him (no pun intended) because I didn´t see any signs of objection. The rest of the people on the line might or might not have noticed me, but the girl in red shirt sure did.

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Ice cream line.

The next picture sure was interesting. The girl did notice me, you can tell by the slight smile on her face. Maybe she thought that the guy with that big a camera surely is pro. So no objections there either.

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Fixing the shoe. Sure, crab your shot mister!

We are always told, that it is a no-no to take pictures of street musicians, because that subject is so worn out. I took it anyway. Again, they know very well that I´m right there, shooting the scene.

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Street musicians.

In the next picture I cheated a little. I´m guessing that the couple sitting on the terrace assumed that I was shooting the musicians, when in reality, I was shooting them. I think the wine was not that bad, it must be the “music”.

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She doesn´t think they are real musicians.

Next, once more that situation you run into very often when shooting the streets. You try to make yourself either invisible or visible. The latter was the case in here, but still there is no way to tell whether she knew I was taking her picture.

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The lady with a dog, occupied with her cell phone.

The final picture of the session was of this lady, who initiated a chat with me. She started by asking me about the magazine I was shooting for. We ended with a nice chat about life and hobbies as well as work. In the end I asked if I could take her picture and she thanked me for it.

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The lady who wondered about the newspaper I was shooting to.

So, what did I learn? It was interesting to notice how this type of approach actually gave me quite a good rate of decent pictures and situations. I think that the outcome from this shoot was much better than usual, when I´m doing the street shooting more in the spirit of HCB. I´ve decided, that I sure will try this approach again. This also proves two things in photography:
1) If you can´t get a good picture, it is because you, the photographer, build a barrier between you and your work.
2) If a photographer can´t get a goof picture, he/she is not close enough.

We´ll continue from that😉


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2 responses

17 05 2010
Cindy

I jumped on Wikipedia and read the article, but it was a lot like walking through pudding: slow going and afterward I felt kinda dirty.

19 05 2010
Mika Karhulahti

Did you mean the Wikipedia article about street photography? Or what?

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