KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID – KELLY JOHNSON
A quote from Kelly Johnson that I think really suit my working flow in street photography. Make everything simple, focus on shooting and making composition, other things are only complementary.
Here are things that I think we need to simplified in process to “work” in street photography world:
Do not ever think to not start or keep shooting on street because we do not have camera that we desire. Always remember Camera is only a Tool (Read here). Basically we able to shoot on the street with any cameras in market right now, do not overthink about image quality or specification. I believe all modern cameras produce decent to great image quality, none of them is bad. Choose a camera that we feel comfortable to shoot with (some factors like buttons layout, menu layout, and size).
Also, it is totally fine if we become an active street photographer by using only smartphone camera (I know some people who produce amazing street photos with their phone), or any cameras that we may already have in our cabinet (even film or old digital camera is fine). Street photography is art, art is coming from our vision and imagination. Camera is only a light recorder. Start shooting with any camera you currently have.
I love prime lens (lens that can not zoom) on the street because their simplicity (5 Reasons why I love prime lens). Instead of keep bugging my mind which focal length I need to use when see a scene, I will try to “compose” a photo in my mind first and then shoot it.
I like the fact that I only have 1 focal length, therefore I only need to be creative with it, instead of keep confusing myself whether I should shoot a scene in wide or tele angle. Because when use prime lens after certain amount of time, lens will become the extension of our eyes. We will be able to visualize a shoot even before we raise camera to our eye.
My regular camera set up for street practically is always the same:
Auto ISO (200-6400), Auto Shutter Speed (Program, minimal 1/500s before reach ISO more than 6400), Manual Aperture (Aperture priority) and Autofocus (Read here for Tracking Autofocus).
Why not shoot full manual? Because my mind will get distract by the fact that I need to check my camera setting all the time instead of focus on moment that lies around me. There is a chance moment already gone when I finished set up (even one second different can ruin a great moment).
I do still use manual aperture setting due to my style to shooting street. There are times when I think shallow depth of field (big aperture) able to enhance surreal effect of a scene, while at other times I need all elements in focus (small aperture). However, only need to change aperture frequently is still a simple step that I can do easily. Will not make me miss a moment. (Thanks to Fujifilm lenses that have dedicated aperture ring).
If I need to change my exposure (to underexpose or overexpose a scene) then I change it with exposure compensation dial. Again, thanks to Fujfiilm camera with dedicated exposure dial, it is really suit my shooting style.
RAW vs JPEG?
My habit is to shoot everything in RAW + JPEG format. Most of my shoots are result of RAW file that I post processed in Lightroom CC. Main reason is because RAW give me more freedom to post pro, better recovery of highlight and shadow if needed. I do still make tweak process simple though, by apply same presets to all of my photos (1 preset for colour, 1 preset for black and white). I do not need to confusing my self anymore which presets will suit my photos.
In case you are wondering, my street colour preset is Fujifilm Classic Chrome, and for black and white is Fujifilm Acros. Honestly, I do have a ton of presets in my Lightroom, but in the end I just want to simplified my workflow by only use 2 presets above.
I also shoot in JPEG when I do not have my laptop with me. Especially when I’m on trip to other city or overseas, because I feel laptop is too hassle to carry around. Thanks to today’s technology, actually JPEG result already great in most of modern cameras. If you think shoot RAW is too complicated (not all software able to read RAW), then shoot with JPEG is a good move as well, and nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it is more simple and faster to do.
Do not underestimate the side effect of complicated workflow, I know few people who love to shoot (like everyday), but in the end they only store most photos inside their hard drive, because they feel too lazy to post process them. Note: If you feel too lazy or do not have spare time to post pro, then just shoot JPEG.
Street photography is all about create art based on decisive moment. The contents inside our image is in top priority. Focus on select a scene, compose, and capture it. Make our workflow as simple as possible so we will have more time to give our attention to moments that happen out there.
Keep shooting and make it simple,