Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

Leica M9 and Off-shoe Flash

With my Leica M9 set up with my Canon Speedlite 430EX, I experimented street photography with a flash for the first time in Los Angeles (3rd Street Promenade). Despite what people say, I didn’t get punched in the face or my camera broken (although I did get shoved once hard in the back). Overall, it was quite a fascinating experience, and I learned a ton about the process. Keep reading to watch the video of  my crazy stories, and also check out some of the photos as well.

The Setup

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

Leica M9, Canon 430ex Flash, GoPro HD 960. My street photography flash setup (for recording).

First Impressions of Shooting Street Photography With a Flash in Santa Monica

(Apologies– the video gets cut out. Not sure what happened…)

Photos taken with the Leica M9 and Off-shoe Flash

When I shot these photos, I did a combination of the below:

  • Don’t ask for permission and take the photo
  • Don’t ask for permission and take the photo then give them a compliment
  • Approach a person, say a compliment, and take the photo
  • Ask the person to take their photo

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

1x1.trans Shooting Street Photography With a Leica M9 and Flash in Los Angeles at Night [First Impressions]

The guy who got pissed off and shoved me hard from behind after I took his photo

Which one of these images stand out to you? Also, if you have any questions about flash street photography, please leave me a comment below!

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  • http://jack070photo.wordpress.com/ Jacek Smoter

    That’s bad, imo. I mean, in terms of being like mr. Gilden :P

    My fav is the one with older couple.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/boliston/ Adrian Boliston

    I like the shot of the lady holding the bag made from recycled material

  • Henning Nilsen

    The couple with the batman sweater stood out to me. As well as the jazz looking character.

    I must say I like these more than Gilden’s work. Less of that in your face shock factor.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmitry_chastikov Dmitry Chastikov

    Which one stands out? The one with the sun-burned guy. It shows that any P&S with plain directed ahead flash would produce a better result than this costly Leica coupled with not-so-well-positioned off-shoe flash unit :))

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Except the P&S doesn’t flash fast enough ;)

  • http://www.85mm.ch Thomas Leuthard – 85mm

    Interesting that you got a bad feeling about it. But that’s only at the beginning.

    Some of the photos are very nice, but not all of them. I guess it’s just a different way of doing it. I would not want to do this all the time…

    The video goes off at 8:30 minutes which seems not to be the end.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Good point Thomas– it was my first time and most of the shots weren’t very great– but I was fascinated by the shadows. And thanks for catching the cut-off in the video… thats really annoying :(

  • http://www.dannyst.com Danny St

    Must be quite an adventure you’re doing :) I like the first shot with the dude with the long hair.

    Have you tried dragging the shutter? so you can show more of the ambient lights. Could be interesting :)

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/kchastain/ Keith Chastain

    you got guts my man…guts

  • http://www.briscophoto.com Brian Scott

    Easy to see why you’d get some of these photos. Lots of them stand out, but for me it was the dude with the FOURFONTAINE shirt, the older guy with the sunglasses hanging from his shirt, and the couple (woman has a Batman shirt on).

    I’d love to hear more about the guy who shoved you. Did he say anything

  • Isoterica

    I think your technique is improving with night/flash photography but I have to agree with Thomas that these images aren’t your most artistic. You are however giving a demonstration so maybe they don’t need to be. I think out of them the man drinking with the speed limit sign is the most thought provoking. I also think I have decided after Thomas being chased by an old woman and then cornered by four angry men and you being shoved in the back I am going to use more subtle means to get my photos. It’s not about percentages for me. 4500 photos and one club over the head is still one clubbing to the head. It would be my luck to meet up with the clubber. I am a beauty seeker not a thrill seeker and if people are that vehemently opposed then I have no business taking their photo. Thank you as always Eric for giving very open, honest and realistic information regarding street photography. :) Your site is very educational and few are as willing as you to share their secrets.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Thanks so much for letting me know! I really appreciate your sincere thoughts. They definitely aren’t great images (yet)– but it is a niche I am trying to explore more. However trying new techniques has really been opening up my eyes… and I think its ultimately helping me as a street photographer. Stay tuned and thanks for always being so faithful :)

  • Brent

    Curious, why the diffuser? I don’t think it softens the light that much.

  • http://wfrostphoto.wordpress.com Wayne Frost

    New to you and your blog Eric and I look forward to spending some time here and seeing the images you produce.

    I like some of the images of the “characters” that you captured with the flash set-up, but I’m not sure it is a good idea to flash first without asking permission. It’s one thing to more or less unobtrusively get a street shot in natural daylight, but it is a whole different type of aggressive ambush to trigger your flash in the face of some person who does not know you or your motives, and could prove to be dangerous to you.

    While capturing images of everyone out in public is fair game, the reality is that you should not be surprised if one of your subjects does not tolerate your intrusion. Is it really worth getting your lights punched out for a shot?

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Wonderful to have you Wayne! In response to your question I think the biggest question is: when you ask for permission is it really street photography?

      • http://wfrostphoto.wordpress.com Wayne Frost

        I believe that if you can capture strangers you encounter on the street, whether surreptitiously or brazenly, whether with permission or without permission, as long as the images of the people that you capture are not contrived by any manipulation by you the photographer, and are indicative of humans interacting spontaneously with what ever or who ever is in their surroundings, it’s all street photography.

        (Damn, that was a mouthful of a sentence.)

      • Kollellre

        WHo gives a damn if it’s called street photography or not..

  • chispa

    “I think the biggest question is: when you ask for permission is it really street photography?”

    Does your question mean that the Chris Sorenson portraits are not street photography?
    Or, how do you limit (define) your photographic experience if you only take pictures w/o the permission of the subject?
    The thought comes to mind of the beautiful lady with the tattoos who said “thank you” after having her picture taken. I would have told her that she was beautiful and could I have some more pictures of her.

  • http://robertkruyskamp.blogspot.com Robert

    It’s probably just me, but I think annoying people (or worse) isn’t a “style” – it’s disrespectful.

    Not something I would go for, as a photographer. Sorry.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Thanks for your input Robert :)

  • http://okanphotography.com/ okan

    Hi Eric,
    About two weeks ago I found your site in one of the photo blog sites, and following since then. Just a technical note, I’m shooting off camera by using wireless connection (cost around 50-60 bucks both receiver and transmitter) which is you don’t need to fight with the cable. Another advantage is if you have a buddy or someone together with you, like an assistant (my wife helps me on this one) he/she can hold the flash from a different angle and you shoot, outputs are very surprising and artistic.

    • http://www.erickimphotography.com Eric Kim

      Sounds interesting– do you got a link to the product you’re using?

  • http://www.bycostello.com bycostello

    looks an awsome set up u got there…

  • Aaron R. Turner

    My favorite for is of the old guy holding the coffee , mainly because of his expression and the texture in his face.

    I recently discovered your blog and saw the video shot with the HD GoPro it really inspired me to start shooting street photography .

    Keep up the good work man!

  • http://www.facesoflondon.co.uk Marco

    Amazing Eric, glad you enjoyed the experience. You’ve certainly got balls, I’d never shoot with a flash – being a ninja photographer is more my rap.

  • Peter Becker

    great shots Eric!

  • RrR

    hi great shots! what kind of post production did you do on the photos? can i get the same look on a canon 60D with a 35MM lens?

  • David Rodriguez

    First of all,let me say I am also a photographer and am very tolerant of others in pursuit of their art or creativity.However I fail to see anything creative or redeeming in your results.It seems your actions are not about photography,but more about working out some weird sort of aggression towards society.You shock people with your flash in their face and then throw out some insincere complement to get them to like you.I do admire a lot of your work,just not this.They are boring and not worth the ill will you leave in your wake.Sorry.

  • Kostadelmar

    Hi Eric,
    I have to say I like the guy with the skateboard, the woman in the straw hat and the dude with the lay sipping from the bottle. that one is probably my favourite.
    I find flash can be very obtrusive in street photography and I think it becomes more a street portrait.
    I read someone’s comment that they don’t like bright lights in their face – so they don’t zap people with them either.
    very interesting results though. there is definitely potential to getting interesting night portraits!
    I am planning to try this in the not too distant future!

    keep up the solid work :)
    Kosta

  • Insixiangmy

    Eric,

    I prefer you approach to speedlite flashing over Gilden’s usage of it. It’s not so much about being in a public space and I have the right to photograph you; but once you get inside of a person’s normal comfort zone (arms length) your in “my space and intruding”. People really only allow someone they are comfortable with inside that zone.

    When I out shooting i prefer to talk to the person and I ask. I like to take photos close and being inside someone comfort zone; for me requires permission.

  • Anonymous

    Hey! That’s Robert McKee in one of those pictures! (mckeestory.com)

  • Rae

    Loved it! I’ve been trying to get up the nerve….

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