Aesthetic Considerations when Shooting Street Photography
You know with street photography as with the other two kind of example situations we've talked about today. It's a lot of the same stuff, a lot of the same stuff. But I think the difference with the street photography is that idea of observation, anticipation is even more critical because it's totally unplanned and you have no permission per se. And it's really much more like almost social observation if you like. And so again though I'm always conscious of positioning myself in relation to the light source whatever it may be, whether it's artificial light, whether it's the sun. I'm always looking at what are the backgrounds. Do I want a really colorful complex background? Do I want a really simple background? What's the kind of action I'm trying to capture in the frame within that scene? So let's go to a video of me working--
Hey, good morning. We're here at the Ballard Farmers Market in Seattle. And it's kind of a dreary morning. I've come here for the sort of first segments, first...
exercise of the class which is street photography. And my hope today or this morning at the market is to capture some of the vendors setting up and preparing for the day and also do some environmental portraits of them. Because of the weather, I know this is typical Seattle weather, but you know because of the weather the aesthetic considerations or in this case concerns that I have are that the light is very flat. So I'm going to be looking for other light sources or other ways to sort of spice up or bring some vibrancy to the scene. Wish me luck on that one. And then there's also the idea of looking at all the produce and the materials that these folks are selling and those become visual elements that add color and design and texture, so that aesthetically it gives me something to work with. And then of course there's the people. Hopefully, they're dressed kind of funky and cool. So wish me luck here all right? I'm already seeing something here. This is again we're talking about how the light is very flat. But these boxes give me some design, something to work with. Yeah and then the smoke, this is nice. Again I'm just looking for visual elements to play with when we talk about aesthetics, when we talk about what gives me an opportunity to make some picture that's interesting or textural or has some quality that makes it beautiful. Good morning, sir.
Hey, is it all right if I... Can I photograph right here and just... Thanks. Well that smells good. So I think what was going on there is and why I like using ProCamera is if I just point the camera at that scene the exposure is going to be way off because it's reading off of the sky in the very white top of the tent. So with ProCamera you can click on the bottom corner and then you get a focus button and you get an exposure button. So you can move the exposure to exactly where you get the scene the way you want it, lock it and then start shooting. Got that? Yeah you know, when I'm shooting I always think about like circling my prey, always trying to look at every angle if possible of a scene and not just fixate on one approach. Because sometimes we will tend to do that we'll see something and we'll just shoot from that one angle. But if we just actually turn around or find another angle there's a whole nother, there's a whole nother picture there to be made. We're just getting started here. I'm still in that sort of anxious mode of just beginning where I'm trying to, as you say draw first blood or first pixels. What do you think I'm obsessing with in that scene? It's crappy background with the things coming out of her head, right? That's why I went low.
Big pile with all the vegetables.
There's Jamie. Now this is cool. See, we have permission to loiter in people's lives. So I've already scoped that guy out. I'm not giving it up that I am interested in him. So we've been here a little bit at the Ballard Market and again there's not a lot going on. But one really cool thing is there's this amazing character in this yellow raincoat with this amazing beard and complexion that, it was like a little bit of serendipity. Something we didn't expect that I got to photograph. I think I made a really wonderful portrait. But in general you know, I hit that point where there's a little bit of struggle of I'm not seeing anything. And sometimes you need to take a break, you need to stop, almost sort of like refresh your eyes, refresh your mind. It's amazing how, when you do that, it's almost like taking a meditative break or just taking like a photo nap. I don't know what you want to call it. And then you go back to the same scene and you see new things. So that's what we're doing right now. I'm going to take a little break and then we'll go back at it. Oh my God, light. There's finally some light. There's some like flower vendor that I want to check out and that might be perfect because we finally have some light here, so I want to take advantage of it. Sometimes I'll shoot even though I know I'm not getting a great photograph-- Oh my God, I'm so hungry. That taste so good. Smell so good. Let me see something here.
Good day to film.
Yeah. It's a good day to be under this actually.
Oh yeah. (woman speaking indistinctly)
All right, so rain is back. So we started at the Ballard Market a couple of hours ago looking at how to do some street photography. And the weather was kind of crappy but then we got a little bit of clearing and now it's back again, but we're done. And the cool thing is that there were certain subjects and certain things I was looking for. Some of it we got, some of it we didn't. That's the photographer's life. But the great thing is that there were some unexpected subjects and moments that transpired that I think I captured and that's what makes this all worthwhile. The serendipity, the things you can't expect or plan for. The couple with their little baby in the cafe in a lovely moment. The guy with his dog. You know it's just these different moments that you can't expect. And for street photography you know that's the essence of it is capturing these unexpected and unplanned moments. And I think we got some here at the Ballard Market. All right. Questions? Yeah.
Ed, I think a lot of the questions that are coming in are still on that sort of, "Do you ask people for permission? "Do you ask them for permission after the fact? "What about what they... "Do you ever ask them if they want a copy of the photo?" Are you going to get to sort of the difference in what you see as sort of the candid street photography versus then engaging with people with street portraits?
Yeah. So again unless I'm doing portraiture, I don't want to engage too much as I said with people. It's tricky, it's a mixture of you know, it's a mixture of being quick and sly and unnoticed and in some cases really weird. But at times it also requires being very obvious and even asking permission. Sometimes I'm stalking my prey. I know that's weird, where I'll like latch onto someone and something and I'm like kind of, especially if they're moving it's weird because then I'm sort of following them. Like I really am literally stalking them. but I'm doing it in a way where I don't want them to know it. You need to read the situation. It's something we come back, everything with photography is you've got to be able to read your situation. Partly for making better photographs, sometimes for your safety. I guess if I could be invisible doing street photography that would be ideal. Or if I could have the camera implanted. Google's probably working on that. As I say, you need a sense of, sort of to understand when you can get away with something, when you need to interact, when you don't interact upfront. There are times where I will, I'll read a situation and I'll think, "There's no way I'm ever going to take a picture, "a candid picture of that person without having a problem." So it's better to say, "Excuse me, sir. Excuse me, ma'am. "This is who I am, this is what I'm doing. "Can I photograph you?" And then I'll say, "Please forget about me." That's not like true true street photography, but it is something occasionally you need to deploy. Like especially if it's in a situation where you're not just wandering the streets, you're in a kind of a scene if you like. It could be a farmers market, it could be a park. It could be something where you want it to be natural and fluid and candid and you know that the subject matter you're interested in will remain in that in physical environment and you're just sort of saying, "Excuse me, can I photograph you?" Hopefully they say yes. Then you think, "Great." And then you sort of pull back and then you let life resume, whatever is happening and then you go in and out and work it. Does that make sense? Yeah, okay. Because it's also this thing about moments, you don't to miss the moments and asking permission destroys that. Sometimes you have to be very friendly and outgoing as you've seen. Where I look at it and I think I'm like shamefully like silly or whatever. But it's sort of whatever it takes... Whatever you got, whatever you can use to make people feel comfortable to gain their permission to allow you to photograph them I think is important. Sometimes I shoot and run. I really want to get a scene and I know that it could be a problem. Sometimes I'll do something where I'm, especially if I'm walking, I'll photograph and then I'll start to fumble with my camera. So I'll purposely look like I act like I don't know what I'm doing. Because then I'll think maybe that guy... Usually a guy, but not always. Maybe that person will just go, "Whatever." Whereas if I'm standing there like I know what I'm doing, then you're more likely may be a target of their anger. Does that make sense? So let's see, I want to... That's another thing, another thing about, and I think maybe we talked about this but that idea of sometimes you need to be big and you need to be big and strong and sometimes you need to be small and make yourself very sort of humble, so that you're not threatening. It's a very interesting, very weird endeavor. And some of it, it's fun too to sort of figure all this stuff out. Because ultimately all I want to do is just... Ah! Break equipment, no. All I want to do is make a picture. And sometimes what is involved to getting to that point where you hit the shutter, there's a lot that goes into that very simple act. So I'd like to share with you a video now of, I think this is where I'm interacting with the guy in the yellow coat. Let's see, let's see.
May I help you?
No, I'm just shooting.
Almost didn't handle that one very well. No. This is a subject I like.
It's in the bright color, it's pretty good.
Well, thank you. So the fact that you're going about preparing and then some dude with the camera starts photographing you. You're not disturbed by that?
Not at all. I started in photography. I still have my old Nikon F3.
All right. Well hey, I'm Ed. How you doing?
Excuse me, guys. Hey, I don't know, you saw I was photographing you guys a few minutes ago.
I didn't know if that was us or it was here.
No, it's just this beautiful scene where your son was just, whatever. It's just a lovely scene but I didn't want you to, you know because you have a kid anyway I just wanna... My name is Ed. How you doing? Hi.
Hey, how you doing? So I'm photographer and I'm working with the local company CreativeLive where they do videos about, and courses about photography. So I'm doing one on mobile photography and we were covering the Farmers Market this morning. And this was just a beautiful, natural scene that I saw. And that's one of the funny things about doing street photography is, if you ask permission then the moment is gone. But if you don't ask permission you can sometimes upset people, scare people, so on and so on. So I just wanted to, in case you are wondering who the creepy weird guy was with the camera, that's me.
At first we thought that you were taking pictures of a scene over there. But we're totally cool with it.
All right, good. Thank you, thank you, thank you, all right. There's like too much coffee. (laughs) Videos are real equalizer in terms of learning about yourself. (laughs) So it's interesting, even for me to like watch that, that I can sense... I don't know if you felt that a lot of nervous energy. Some of it was, it was in the morning and I just had just like a triple cappuccino but, but some of it is nervous energy. Because I'm a little anxious about, even though I'm confident about myself and what I'm doing, I'm a little anxious about... And this is something that happens at the beginning as I sort of alluded to when you're just getting started on something, it's like until you... Until I've started to make pictures and have some progress then I always feel like I'm starting at zero and so that makes me anxious. But the lesson here is that, it's not good if people see you as anxious. I talked about that, how the way you, the energy you exude kind of impacts and rubs off on your subjects.