8 THINGS I DON’T DO IN STREET PHOTOGRAPHY

For me street photography is all about freedom. Each person may have their own style and their own way of shooting on public places. However, there are still few parameters left that I still follow in my style of street photography.

In my previous post I wrote about 10 things that I always try to do when hunt a street scene (Read here). Now I will write about what things I don’t do, such as:

1. Shoot in full manual mode

Means full manual system of triangle exposure (ISO, shutter speed, and aperture). Why? Because keep changing these settings can distract my focus on hunting an artistic scene. It will slow down my shooting process.

My preference setting is always aperture priority (with program ISO and shutter speed). This way I only need to focus on scene and decide whether I need shallow depth of field or not depend on what type of mood I want to create in my photo.

I realise that I love to shooting anywhere and anytime, therefore lighting condition may change drastically when I walk around. By let the camera count the right exposure, it will simplified my shooting style, which is means cut a distraction for my mind. I do play with exposure dial when need to creatively shoot in uneven light condition though.

2. Shoot with zoom lens

Same like point above, zoom lens also will decrease my speed to shoot on street. When using prime lens I will able to frame a scene even before raise camera to my eye, because I can memorise the angle of view of that particular lens. What I need to do is simply raise my camera and click the shutter.

While in zoom lens (let’s say 24-70mm lens) the only focal length that let me shoot instantly is at 24 mm angle of view. Otherwise I need to calculate my frame by move the lens barrel, which is definitely can make me lose that split second decisive moment. Not to mention zoom lens generally is bigger and heavier, which is a downside when using on public place or use as a daily camera.

Related article: Why I love prime lens

3. Shoot overlapping subjects/objects

To help create a strong presence of main subjects/objects we need to create “a clear space” between objects. Always pay more attention to any overlap objects, as it may create a busy background which is my reduce the dominancy of our main point of interest (POI).

When see a scene, gives yourself a split second time to “calculate” whether there is a distraction object right behind your main POI or not. You may need to delay click the camera shutter in half second to avoid shooting overlapping objects.

Related article: Shoot layers

4. Shoot homeless person

The reason why I pursue street photography is because I want to capture artistic moments in our daily life. Personally, artistic here means elegance, beautiful, magical or dramatic moments. Not depression, sadness, or despair.

Also, typical homeless person usually only stay in one place (not keep moving or walking). Would be harder for me to capture their moving gesture, unlike any strangers who actively walk on sidewalk. Read here for more about moving gesture. 

5. Shoot public attraction/performer

Simply because they are an easy target that everyone would able to capture. No need to waiting for the right time and at the right place to capture them. A random stranger who do unique things on public places is much much more interesting to shoot!

6. Shoot with multiple prime lens

50 mm lens (FF equiv)

Rather than I keep change lens on my camera (let’s say if I bring 35mm and 85mm lens at the same time), better I stick with one lens and will try to do everything I can to create a creative shoot. Most of the time, forcing my mind to be creative with one focal length will produce more unique image. Sometimes even able to produce an image that I never imagine of before.

50mm lens (FF equiv)

There are times when I travel abroad bringing multiple prime lens (maximum is two lenses!), but I will left one of them stay in hotel and walk the whole day only with one focal length. Then, perhaps I will switch to the other lens at the next day. Always one lens at one time. Be creative and never stop experiment.

7. Shoot with DSLR camera

Mirrorless camera is always looks more “touristy” for most people out there

No, it is not about the size. Not about weight too. But, more about the appearance of DSLR itself that “famous” as professional camera. Here in Jakarta (or many other cities in Indonesia) shooting with DSLR will attract more people to have interaction with me (like asking what I am doing) because DSLR identical with a professional photographer. People will think more seriously about what I am shooting compare to if I use mirrorless or pocket camera.

I always prefer shooting a scene in “silent” and has as least as possible interaction with my subjects. I want to unfold an artistic moment without “disturb” people’s spontaneous action. Mirrorless or pocket camera has more touristy (or beginner/newbie) looks that will make people “ignore” about what I’m currently shooting.

8. Only take one shoot at a good spot

Shot more than 15 frames in this spot

Always work the scene whenever we find a good spot. Wait for the most attractive subject we can find till it satisfied our artistic mind. Take as many shoots as possible. Be creative to play with angle too (extreme low/high/diagonal angle).

Shot more than 20 frames in this case

How long need to wait on a good spot? As long as needed till we already feel create a killer shot, then try to shoot few more frames just in case something even better happen (like an interesting sudden moving gesture from subject).

That is all about things I avoid when shooting street photography. Remember that they are not fix rules to everyone, but rather a (limited) parameter in my shooting style. Everyone’s mileage my vary of course.

What matter the most is keep shooting everyday and have fun in street photography!

Nico Harold

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