Blacktop Backdrop

This blog post was originally written for the Click Society.

There’s this notion that street photography is strictly for those who don’t really want to interact with the subject or for landscape/architecture photography. I guess that can be true for some, but really, it’s taking any type of session into the streets and making the magic happen. Whether it be a complete stranger, stand out architecture or a styled shoot with a model….shooting in the streets can be really eye-opening.

Other photographers (professional, just starting out and hobby) ask me a lot of questions when they see my street shots. Most of these questions are:

 

  • How do you frame up the shot?
  • What kind of lighting do you use?
  • How do you style your shots?
  • Where do you go to shoot?

 

So today I’m going to share with you the 4 best tips that I’ve learned over the years and hopefully they will also help you!

I think the first time I was ever really proud of one of my shots was when I saw an image of the Eiffel Tower on my upload screen and from that, a love for photography was born.

It was a simple photo. I snapped it with my point and shoot digital camera as I was walking through the streets of Paris and saw the famous structure for the first time. I know, you’re thinking: uh, duh, it’s Paris, but I honestly never thought about composition or framing or lighting or any of those things before that very specific moment, looking at my screen.

For thirteen years I was a teacher in the classroom and I guess you could say that these photos are like the students I taught. Doing the same thing every single year, but seeing things in a new and different way.

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It wasn’t until seven years later that I knew what type of photography I wanted to create. Street Photography. I’ve always been a city girl at heart and I’ve always loved the look of the streets and the people in it. I wanted to approach my photography, the way I approached teaching: You don’t know what you don’t know and I was determined to learn more about capturing the moments as they happen. Natural moments. Happy moments. Sad moments. Moments without the artificial. Non-posed moments. In a phrase…I wanted to capture life as it happened. Unscripted and not staged. So I did a lot of research and contacted a few photographers in New York City and I finally settled on the professional I felt would be able to truly show me how to shoot in that way.

It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We walked all over Manhattan and I was taught how to look for the perfect shot, how to frame up what I wanted to capture and how to make it authentic and not seem awkward.

NightMarket (1 of 1)

 

  • How To Frame Your Shot

 

The biggest advantage you have in street photography is the abundance of material you can shoot; buildings, unsuspecting humans, animals and/or your client/model. But you have to be patient, especially if you’re wanting the shot that perfectly screams your style.

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I always try to frame my shots up in a way that leaves something for the eye to look at in every corner. In this photo, take notice of the statue to the far right and the gate behind her. I intentionally put those in the shot so that the eye doesn’t stop, it keeps going. If you make things interesting in the image, people are more likely to find it pleasing or thought provoking and will remember it. I could have certainly cropped the statue out, but to me, it made the image more interesting.

Depending on what the image is conveying, I’ll use the “Rule of Thirds” or “negative space” in the shot to add more interest and/or depth, but once again, this goes back to your particular style. If you’re unsure of these terms and their meaning, there are great articles out there. I encourage you to do some research on these photography fundamentals. It seems simple, but will have dramatic results.

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In this landscape image, framing it up to where there are multiple points of interest was my goal. The bridge, the fish market, the graffiti, all of it is in one frame to keep the eye moving and interested. Like I said before, this is my style…everyone shoots differently, but hopefully this will be a good jumping off point for you when you’re walking around and see something that’s a street-worthy shot.

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In the image above, I was simply looking over a balcony and saw a flash mob dancing and thought it was interesting.

  1. Finding The Best Light

With indoor photography, there’s this frustration of “finding good light,” but with street photography, the light is there and there’s a lot of it. I always try to shoot 45min after sunrise or 45min before sunset, that usually produces that “golden hour” glow and pretty lighting. However, if it’s overcast, then your shooting day just got easier and if you’re in a big city (like NYC), then the buildings offer great light bounce and you’re not in direct sunlight.  

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Here, I used the buildings as my natural light bouncers and made sure to find some color that would pop in the photo. I didn’t use flash or any type of reflector, just the natural light of the good ol’ outdoors.

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In this photo, we were shooting in Times Square and luckily, even at 11:00 at night, there was plenty of light from the screens so that I didn’t need to use a flash. I know this isn’t always the case, but I felt it was enough.

  1. Styling The Shot

Framing a shot up interestingly is style. Sitting in a spot for however long it takes to get a person to interact with that one location, for that perfect shot, is style. Having your model in certain clothing, their hair and makeup a specific way to tell the story is by definition style. Sometimes, I can head out for the day, with my camera in hand and just people watch. I may not have a particular type of “style or theme” in my head, but when I see it, I know it. Other times, I’ll have a very specific style in my head and the only way to get it out of my brain is to see it come to life on a person. I’m sure many of you reading this can relate. Editing your street photos a particular way is also style. How you crop it, if you desaturate it or up the contrast…all of these elements portray your street style.

Some photographers like to use props. I approach my style a little differently. I like to start with that street, that canvas and let the story write itself. Let the world be your studio. The elements of a great photo are already out there, it may just take some new insight with a new sense of adventure and curiosity to capture it on screen.

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  1. Finding A Location

I trained in NYC and go back there frequently; all of the example photos in this post were taken in the streets of Manhattan. For instance, this one was in Chinatown. However, finding a location to shoot street style really isn’t that difficult because hopefully there’s a street somewhere around you with people walking or has interesting architecture, just look for lines and pops of color. Local farmers markets are good places to shoot street style, a pretty busy location in your downtown area or state/county fairs, outdoor concerts. All of these events/locations lend themselves to lots of interesting people, buildings with character, pretty lighting and lots of color. This type of scouting can work with unplanned shoots and planned, specifically styled, and model shoots.

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If you haven’t dabbled in any form of street photography, I encourage you to just walk around with your camera one day and click away! Or, take that next step and find you a model, style their hair, makeup and clothing. Take them into the streets for a session they’ll never forget! It’s a lot of fun and hopefully you’ll learn more about your shooting style. Don’t worry about the other people who make it into the shot (like in this image above, with the produce-picking man). Remember, street photography isn’t just for the non-interactive or landscape artist, it can be a new adventure for you stylistically and hopefully offer a different sense of adventure in the process.

If your wheels are turning right now and you have a question, email me! ablewisphotography@gmail.com

I would love to hear from you!

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