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How to Shoot Layers and the Bookend Technique in Street Photography

If you want to create more dynamic street photos, shoot layers in street photography, and also integrate the ‘bookend technique’ in your photos.

Why shoot layers?

First of all, ask yourself: Why shoot layers?

For me, it is all about creating more visually-dynamic photographs, which are more interesting to look at (both for me, and also my viewer). I like to make photos that also push the visual envelope– to keep challenging myself as a visual artist and a photographer. I don’t like just shooting the same old two-dimensional (flat) photographs. When I started off in street photography, that is all I did — which was find an interesting (flat) background, and wait for one interesting person to walk into the frame (the ‘fishing’ technique). When I started street photography this was fun, but after 2 years of shooting like that, I got bored, and I wanted a greater challenge.

Initially my first progression was to experiment shooting street photography with a flash (inspired by Bruce Gilden). But after that lost its novelty, I discovered the work of Alex Webb, and was interested in shooting layers.

Ultimately, I think the purpose of shooting layers is also to capture EMOTIONAL layers. Which means, make photographs that have multiple layers of emotions in your photos.

How do you even shoot layers?

I remember when I first saw these layered street photographs; I had no idea how to even shoot layers.

I was lucky enough to witness other street photographers shoot layers. Seeing was believing. It was only possible for me to understand seeing the technique demonstrated in “real life”.

I made a video in Kyoto recently demonstrating how to shoot layers and “working a scene”. I think the video is pretty good, but I wasn’t able to demonstrate the “bookend” technique (yet).

However now with this revolutionary new GoPro Fusion technology, I am finally able to better demonstrate shooting both layers and the bookend technique in street photography:


What is a “bookend”?

A bookend is a visual element either on the extreme left or the right side of the frame, which compresses the action in your frame.

A bookend is good to block out distractions in the background, and it is good to better focus attention/energy in another part of the frame.

Also, a bookend is good because it adds more depth to a photograph. Why add depth to a photograph? It transports the viewer into the image. It is very difficult to convey depth in a photograph, and shooting layers/using the bookend technique is a good way to convey depth in a photograph.


How to shoot layers with a bookend on the side.

This is how you shoot layers with a “bookend” on the side.

  1. You first identify “anchor” subjects in the background (in real life). An “anchor subject” is someone just hanging out in the background, not doing anything. Good anchor subjects are people either smoking cigarettes, chilling and hanging out, or checking their phone.
  2. You then look left and right, and you see if there are any people about to enter your frame.
  3. Once you identify someone about to walk into your frame, you get very close (if you’re shooting with a 24mm, 28mm, or 35mm lens) at the last moment, and then click the shutter once you’re “close enough” and your subject is filling the extreme left or the right of the frame.

24mm Perspective

Also for your visual education, here is what a 24mm perspective looks like:


Photos from the video

BE BOLD AND HAVE FUN!
ERIC


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