So if any of you guys are interested in street photography, the question might be on your mind: “Where do I start?”
Well, for starters you need a camera. The most important step is actually going out and taking photos . If you are new to photography, all you might have is a point-and-shoot (a regular digital camera). This is great when it comes to street photography, because street photography doesn’t require extremely complicated nor expensive gear. A point and shoot can actually be better than DSLRs in many ways because of the discrete body and almost silent shutter. If you have a DSLR or anything else that’s great. As long as you have something to shoot with.
So once you got your camera, you need to go out and start shooting. This is the phase in which the majority of budding photographers fail. People will always find excuses NOT to take photos rather than finding excuses TO take photos. The most popular ones I hear are: “I don’t have an expensive camera,” “I don’t have enough time,” or “I’m intimidated.” Don’t think so much about the details– just go out and do it.
The example I always use to counter the “I don’t have an expensive camera” argument is by telling them how much more convenient and effective even the point and shoots are today. The average Canon Powershot gives great image quality as well as giving instant results… and compare that with a film camera that has a steep learning curve and the inconvenience as well. Furthermore, most modern digital point and shoots have image sensors with such great image quality it is difficult to discern them from DSLR images under normal shooting conditions (during the day).
People will say “I don’t have enough time.” That is never an excuse because the beauty of street photography is that you can take great images of ordinary events, no matter where you are. So if you just carry around your camera with you everywhere you go, you can easily take photos while walking across the street, in a café, or even while walking to class. And I am also a firm believer in the idea that you can always find time for something you are truly passionate about, no matter how busy you are.
The last excuse I hear is that “I’m intimidated, and I don’t know where to start.” I have no idea what people can possibly be intimidated by. Unless you have someone peering over your shoulder every time you are taking a photo, you have nothing to worry about. And to simply start, you just go outside and start taking photos. It’s really that easy.
After a long hard week of work, I thought that I’d do something that I have been meaning to do for nearly a year but never went through with it: spend an entire day in Hollywood, just roaming the streets and taking photos. I never know why I never was able to find the time to do so when I was in school. Perhaps I was too busy with my clubs, work, research, and tests. But anyways on Friday night, I decided that on Saturday (today) I was going to go out and go exploring in Hollywood.
But before I went to go explore in Hollywood– of course I had to watch the Korea vs Uruguay game, so I headed over to my friend Jun’s place. After a painful 2-1 loss (we choked twice during the game during goal-scoring opportunities), I had some breakfast with my friend Kay-Won at Jack in the Box and then went home to pack my things.
I then went to my place and took my trusty messenger bag and packed the following things: my camera, my 35mm f/2 and 24mm f/2.8 lenses, a bottle of water, a peanut butter sandwich, my netbook, and some change for the bus. After waiting at the bus-stop for nearly an hour, I finally got on the bus and after a windy trip down Sunset Blvd, I got off the stop and started to explore.
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So once I got off the bus and started to wander around, I honestly had no idea what I was going to do today. All I know is that I wanted to see the “You are the Star” mural on Wilcox and Hollywood Blvd (which I did end up seeing and took a photo of). Therefore I walked a few blocks north to hit Hollywood blvd and I started to make my way walking down East.
I finally got on Hollywood Blvd and passed by all the typical touristy stuff (The Wax Museum, the Chinese Theater, Hooters), etc. I then started to walk around, looking for great photo ops. The first one came to me. I saw this very fashionable guy (who looks pretty metro) casually standing in front of an American Apparel store. Low and behold, there was a mannequin almost mimicking his pose, but opposite. I also was attracted by the colorful swimsuits in the top-left corner. Therefore without any hesitation, I casually stepped back and shot this image with my 24mm (I was standing on the curb…but my wide-angle helped me capture this image).
After walking a few steps down, I saw another photo op. I got really close to this lady who was nicely juxtaposed against this sign, and snapped a photo. Nobody noticed me as all.
Walking down a bit more, I saw this dad patting his son’s head. Thought it was pretty cute.
After walking down a bit, I saw another photo op. The guy on the bottom right was actually smoking, and I wanted to grab an image of him. However once I picked up my camera, he immediately put his cigarette down. Photo fail.
Walking down a bit, I stepped into this little bar. They happened to be showing the USA vs Ghana game, so I sat down and watched a bit. However after feeling a bit antsy of wanting to take photos, I got up and continued my journey.
When I continued to walk down Hollywood blvd, I saw this picture of a woman eating (tofu?) super seductively with a pair of chopsticks, with red all throughout. Like a giddy schoolboy, I was fascinated by this image and rushed across the street, seeing that this woman (my perfect model) was about to pass through. I quickly rushed in front of her, and snapped a few photos, this one being my best one. I think it came out quite nicely–considering the awkward angle I had to shoot with my wide-angle.
I then crossed the street again, saw this awesome mural and snapped an image of it. Too bad I couldn’t get any interesting people in it.
I then see this woman, shooting a photo of a star. Man I gotta get this photo. Click.
I then continued to walk down, and suddenly a small gallery caught my eye. I entered in, and was first caught off-guard by this awesome mural on the wall. I talked to one of the ladies in front and she explained to me that this gallery was called “LACE“, which stands for Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions. It has been around for nearly 30 years, and was founded for artists to have a public space to show their work. Admission was free, and it was completely open to the public. They even sold sweet swag in the front as well.
I then stepped into the next exhibit, and out of nowhere I see this HUGE Hello Kitty outline on the wall. I wondered what the hell this was about, and one of the people sitting around told me that it was an exhibition in which the viewer was encouraged to participate. She then read me some “instructions” which were on the table. They went something like this: 1) Sit down 2) Listen to the headphones 3) Listen to what is being said, and trace it inside a hello kitty template (which was provided). Seemed simple enough. I then started to listen, and to my surprise, it was a chapter out of a Holocaust book. It described in detail how Jews were forced out of their homes and into concentration camps. Actually writing the words of the story inside the hello-kitty template made the words stick much more to me, and in this I was able to see the true irony that the author was trying to promote. Contrasting something so horrible as the Holocaust, while writing the words inside of something as innocent as Hello Kitty. I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit.
After I was done, I slowly put away the headphones and stood up. I then saw a girl (who was watching over the room) sit alone in a chair in a corner of the room, obviously looking quite lonely. I then decided to talk to her, and introduced myself as a recent graduate from UCLA. To my surprise, she also happened to be from UCLA as well. She introduced herself as Mallory Venema, which I commented was an awesome name. She told me that she had often gotten comments that people made fun of her last name for sounding like “Venom”– but I assured her that it was something more mysterious and unique than negative. Mallory then told me that she was an Art-History major, and she was part of the Art-History Club on campus (which featured an exhibition I was featured in titled: “Lost Angeles”). I then yelled out “NO WAY!” and told her I was featured in it. She then realized that I was “The Eric Kim” whose photos everybody enjoyed. I felt quite flattered by this and then we got into a conversation which encompassed her deciding to teach English in France, my Sociology of Facebook class, as well as how I got into photography.
Somewhere along our conversation, Mallory also told me a bit about the exhibition. She described that the entire theme for the month was based on “Participation”– which I found fascinating. The exhibit (shown below) she described as an artist discussing the BP Oil Spill (or as I like to call it–the Oil Geyser–for reasons I will describe later). She told me about how people from the public were encouraged to take some chalk and write what they felt. Looking at the wall, there were some insightful stuff–while some others wrote irrelevant stuff like “Legalize Marijuana” and “420.” I then decided to participate and took a piece of chalk and wrote how I felt: “Fuck BP” as well as writing: “Oil Spill Geyser!” which is a better word to describe how thousands of barrels of oil is constantly erupting from the bottom of the ocean into the Gulf of Mexico everyday.
I then thanked Mallory for her little tour, and continued on my journey.
I then continued to walk down Hollywood Blvd for quite a bit, and finally found the mural I was dying to see! “You are the Star” I found this mural pure genius in the sense that the mural really makes you feel like you are on the stage, while also putting the interesting twist of having all the celebrities look at YOU for the change, not the other way around. In the mural there were many famous celebrities (I could only name a few). However I was a bit sad to see that Marilyn Monroe was graffitied over “Love Me.” Clever–kinda, but more vandalism than being artistic. Why would somebody deface such a beautiful piece like this? Quite a shame.
Check out the full-resolution version here! See all the stars you can spot, and leave a comment!
After admiring the fine mural, I then decided to continue on my Hollywood journey.
I then kept on walking and then saw an image that made me almost as excited as that previous “lustful image.” A flower painted on a wall out of nowhere? Perfect photo opp.
I then stuck around for a bit, waiting for interesting people to pass through. This one definitely has to be the best. A guy riding through on a pretty small bike… with a cowboy hat on. The image doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, but the tension between the star, the man on the bike, and the flower interest me.
As I continued to walk down I saw a ton of soccer fans dressed in American apparel. I asked one of the bystanders if the US won. They told me that unfortunately they lost, 2-1 to Ghana. There were a ton of people just milling around, and I thought I would join the fun.
Walking and wandering a bit more, I came upon this crimson-red building. On the top I noticed it said, “Home is where the heart is,” which struck a personal chord with me. After backpacking and traveling through Europe, that was the one quote that stuck with me. Putting it on top of a apartment complex? Genius.
I then continued to walk around, and saw where all of the US soccer fans came out of, which was a huge sports bar/pub named “Dillon’s Irish Pub.” Simply curious, I stepped inside the door and observed the place. Tons of fans, beer, and TV screens. Sweet. They even had an upstairs! I hurried up the stairs and started to snap a few photos, when I saw a waitress walking up. Still using my wide-angle, she nearly bumped into my camera when taking this image below. Quite possibly my favorite photo I took all day.
I then left, and continued my journey. Saw some sweet double-decker parking action.
I then came upon a man on a ladder, putting up the letters for a premiere. I had never actually encountered anyone actually in the process of doing this, so I took a moment to simply stand and stare at this man do his job. Him, noticing me, yelled out to me, “How are you doing?” I replied that I was doing fine, and we struck up a conversation. He told me about some of the strategies that he used when centering the text, by calculating how many spaces were on the bottom vs on the top. He also told me that it was difficult to spell out the words, because he had to write the words “backwards” to get it to show up correctly. I also told him that it was interesting how he did everything by hand– something that looked almost like an art. He then commented and told me that some other people just stand on the bottom with a pole and hook and put up the letters like that, but he felt that it wasn’t as nearly personal as doing it by hand. He also commented that in putting that “personal touch” it ended up looking better anyways. I agreed and told him that it looked great.
He then realized that he was missing a few letters and quickly descended his ladder and went inside to fetch them. He wanted to continue our conversation, so he told me to “…just wait right there.” I stood around for about a minute, shifting my feet while looking at some of the posters outside. He then quickly hurried outside and we continued our conversation. Standing next to him, I was impressed by the strength that exhumed him. First of all, he was physically built. Huge bulging biceps, solid and protruding chest, as well as a square-chin which made him look like Rocky. However at the same time his old age peeked through, which was apparent through the few grey hairs peeking out of his jet-black hair, as well as the sun damage in his skin. However, he still permeated youth, as he was quick on his feet and ascended the ladder again quickly. I continued to talk to him for a bit, and then told him that I would be going on my way. He wished me the best, and I continued my journey.
I wish this journey was longer, but it soon ended afterward. I was quite tired, and hungry, and figured I had enough pictures and story to share. I walked back unto Sunset and started to wander around, looking for the bus back home. I ended up eating a hot pastrami sandwich at Togo’s before heading back to the bus stop.
If you read all of this and looked at all of these images, I congratulate you. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think! Also if you liked this, feel free to “retweet”, “share on Facebook,” or “like” this!
Another huge obstacle you will face as a street photographer (and a general photographer) is that at times you are not going to feel a lack of inspiration to go out and take photos and let your camera collect dust on your shelf. Although it can be healthy to put down your camera at times and not to feel compelled to take images, I would say it is very detrimental to your photography if you go for around a month without taking any images.
Street photography is all about capturing the beauty in the mundane, which is every-day life. The ability to take a slice of life and capture it in an image. By not taking photographs for an extended period of time, you almost lose a part of yourself. I consider my camera an extension of my body, a 6th sense in which I am able to connect and interact with the world. It is as important as an appendage to my body as my arms or my eyes.
Imagine not using your arms for an entire month. Just visualize them losing strength and muscle as well as the ability to make precise movements. And after a month of not using your arms, they may feel foreign and unknown to you. But you soon realize how much you have been missing out in life without them; the inability to write, the inability to embrace others, and the inability to itch your face at will. Suddenly a surge of empowerment rushes through your body, and you swear to yourself that you will never live without your arms again.
Photography is very much the same thing. If you quit taking photographs and using your camera for a month, it might feel awkward and foreign to you. You try taking photos again, but they lose that precision and touch that you used to have. But once you start taking photos again and get in the groove, you realize how much you have been missing out on life. Those little slices of life that you were unable to capture such as the man waiting at the bus stop, the woman walking with her child, or the two elderly men playing chess in the park. Suddenly a huge sense of inspiration rushes through your body and you vow to yourself that you will never live without your camera again.
You don’t have to go to the most exotic places to take great photos. Often when it comes to street photography, we think of the masters like Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Doisneau who shot in the streets of Paris or hardcore street photographers such as Bruce Gilden in New York. However just because you do not live in a huge city like San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London doesn’t mean that you can’t take great photos. Sure you might not see as many people in the streets, but that is hardly an excuse.
I know a street photographer by the name of Tom Kaszuba who lives in a very small city in Norwich Connecticut where there are barely any people roaming the streets. Although it does make the process more difficult to find more people, it doesn’t deter him from still getting breathtaking images that convey the beauty of every-day life. He would go to street fairs or any other events in which had a large gathering of individuals and would take amazing candid portraits of individuals walking around the streets. His subjects come in all different colors, sexes, and sizes. Although he may not live in New York City or Los Angeles, his vision and determination to photography has helped him create memorable images of a seemingly “unmemorable” town.
So these are some presets that I made in Adobe Lightroom 3 and frequently use when converting my images into color or black and white. Granted that I will still do some fine-tweaking to each image after applying these presets, they are a great starting point for the starting Lightroom 3 user. Also make sure that your images in RAW when applying these presets, or they will come out really funky! Enjoy!
So the other day when I stepped out of my office on 3rd street to go take some photos during my lunch break, I was spotted by a group of Christian missionaries handing out fake one-million dollar bills to passer-by’s. They had interesting caricatures of what I perceive to be famous celebrities in place of some of our beloved presidents. As they noticed at me gazing at them, one of their representatives walked up to me and asked me, “If you were going to die tomorrow, would you definitely be sure that you would be in heaven?” Wow–what a loaded question. I then casually responded, “Of course not.” The man then asked me for 2 of my minutes and during that split-second decision I thought to myself, “Sure, why the hell not.”
For the last year or so, I have actually been working on a “Street Photography 101” book that I plan on publishing into an ebook. However, considering that I don’t know how long it will take before I have a finished product, I plan on posting several bits and pieces of it into this blog for your critique and reading pleasure. First part of this series, a quick intro into Street Photography 101.
What is Street Photography?
There is not one definition which defines street photography. Depending on who you ask or where you find your information, you will come upon conflicting responses. Some street photographers will say that it is about capturing the emotion and expressions of people, while others may put a higher emphasis on the urban environment. However I believe that the most effective street photographs are the ones that synthesize both the human element as well as the urban environment. To capture a moment in which a person is interacting with the environment or in which the environment is interacting with the person is a true mark of a skilled street photographer.
But when it comes down to it, it is basically taking photos on the streets. So instead of chasing sunsets and exotic creatures, you look for ordinary places and ordinary people and creatively compose them in a clever way. Anybody can take a good picture of a sunset. Although there are many technical details which go into capturing a perfect sunset, anybody can simply point their camera and capture a sunset which is inspiring. But when it comes to street photography, you must constantly be looking for either contrasting elements in an environment which make a photograph interesting.
Simply put, the main focus of street photography is taking the everyday and the mundane and making it into something unique and beautiful.
So at the online advertising agency that I work (AKMG), the CEO there has a real great taste in art. He owns several Todd White pieces, who according to his website claims himself as the “critically acclaimed modern master and
portrait painter for the 21st century.”
This piece actually hangs in the bathroom, which is quite funny as some of my female co-workers have complained to him that is creepy that it looks like a bunch of photographers are taking photos of them while they use the bathroom. I, however, found it a quite fascinating piece (being a photographer and all). This image says a great deal about society and celebrity-worship, as the piece puts you in the shoes of a celebrity and shows you how it feels like to have all those cameras pointing at you. It definitely does make you feel a bit unnerved and uncomfortable, as the images of the photographers are abstract enough to actually portray face-less photographers. However as a photographer, I feel completely comfortable in front of a camera (as I am the one usually wielding it).
Hey guys, so this is going to be my new blog in which I will post photos, essays, tips, and insights about street photography and more. Don’t worry– erickimphotography.com will still be alive and well. Please leave a comment below and tell me what you think of the new look and what suggestions you think I could incorporate!