street photography 101
After having the time of my life teaching my Street Photography 101 workshop in Beirut, Lebanon with Thomas Leuthard, I thought that I’d spread the love to those of you who couldn’t make it! In alignment with my ideas on open source photography, I will be providing all of my slides as well as my outline to those who are interested. Feel free to use this information in any way you’d like–but all I ask is credit back to myself or to Thomas Leuthard (for his slides). I hope you guys enjoy and spread the love as well!
If you are interested in having me lead a street photography workshop in your city, please shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact Thomas Leuthard at email@example.com.
After teaching my Street Photography 101 workshop in Beirut, Lebanon–I got interviewed by a magazine called NowLebanon. One of the questions that Naziha (the reporter) asked me was how in the world I raised $1100 for my plane ticket to fly to Beirut, Lebanon in only 3 days. My answer for her was (you) the community.
Despite what the media and general public says, Beirut, Lebanon is not full of terrorists and no– you will not get shot here. First coming to Beirut, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Everybody told me to be careful and that it was a dangerous place. However after being here for about 4 days, I highly recommend everyone I know to come visit here. Not only does everybody speak English, French, and Arabic–but there are some of the kindest people here in the world.
In this post, I will give you some reasons which show why Beirut, Lebanon is indeed “The Paris of the Middle East,” and why it is such a beautiful country and why I don’t want to leave. In 2009, The New York Times also called Beirut the #1 place to visit as well! [Link]
1. It is a street photographer’s paradise
I would say that Beirut, Lebanon has one of the most lax laws on street photography, as there are no laws concerning photography here. Sure you don’t want to do things such as shoot photos of military or embassy buildings, but everything else is free reign.
I was surprised that most people here didn’t mind getting their photos taken of. In-fact, there were many people who would approach me in the streets and ask me to take photographs of them. Some of them even invited me into their homes to talk and some even offered me coffee.
When you are walking around the streets, you will find street photographs around every corner. Beirut, Lebanon is a city of contrasts. On one side of the street you will see a decrepit and abandoned building, while on the other side you will see new apartments and shopping centers. Not only that, but the streets are always full of hustle and bustle and people are constantly interacting with one another.
2. It has amazing food
Sure every country has its great foods, but Lebanese food is on a totally different level. I am not exaggerating when I say that I have probably gained 10 pounds in the last few days getting my hands on all these different types of foods. The food here is fresh, hearty, and always satisfying appetites.
Fallafels, lamb, hummus, olive oil, pitas, wraps, tomatoes, barbeque beef, and grilled onions are only a few of the things that will delight your tastebuds.
3. The people treat you like family
As I write this, I am currently staying at my host (Mohamad Badr’s) house. Although I did not know him at all before, he treated me like family and truly opened up his home to me. Not only that, but all the times that I went to his families’ houses to eat dinner, they were always open to me and really spread their love with me as well. Mohamad’s aunt even told me if I stayed in Beirut, she would find me a beautiful wife! (of course I declined as I already have a beautiful girlfriend/manager back home).
But regardless, the feeling of community here is very real. In Los Angeles I often feel that everybody is always out their for themselves and don’t spend enough time with friends and family. Here, people have a huge emphasis on spending time with one another and are always out on the streets having a great time.
There are a million other reasons why you got to travel to Beirut, Lebanon before you die. I highly encourage everybody out there to disregard the public inaccuracies of the media and the general consensus about Lebanon being a “terrorist country.” Definitely swoop on in and you will definitely have the time of your life.
This post was originally posted here by Neal Bingham, but I thought I’d repost it here to share it with the rest of you guys. A great resource for any aspiring street photographer. Please pass it on! Also follow Neal on Twitter!
I thought it would be useful to create a topic where people can share links to resources – whether that’s tips for beginners on how to get started, interesting articles found elsewhere on the web, or just amazing examples of street photography to give us all a bit of inspiration.
In-Public – collective of modern street photographers:
Photographer Not a Terrorist – a movement dedicated to defending the right to photograph in public – find out more about your rights here (UK only)
Magnum Photos – legendary photo agency founded in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa and others:
Michael David Murphy’s invaluable ‘Ways of working’ guide:
A view from photographer Nick Turpin on the relationships between street photography, fine art photography and photojournalism:
Opinion and discussion: 99% of street photography is crap:
Please feel free to share any other relevant or useful links below!
In street photography, one of the popular techniques that photographers employ is “shooting from the hip.” To sum it up, “shooting from the hip” it is holding your camera at wait-level, and shooting upwards without looking through the viewfinder. One of the reasons why this technique is widely popular is because it allows you to take much more candid images of people, as they do not see you shooting them with your eye through your viewfinder, and assume you aren’t taking images. Another thing is that when shooting from the hip, you often get a much more interesting perspective as you shoot from a much lower perspective.
Although there are some individuals who are opposed to shooting from the hip and consider it as the “easy way out,” simply disregard their words. As you will soon find out, framing while shooting from the hip is very difficult when starting off. For every 100 shots you take shooting from the hip, you will probably only get 5-10 or so “decently” framed images.
Although I do not use shooting from the hip as my primary type of street photography, I will try my best to walk you through how you can effectively shoot from the hip and get amazing candid images of people.
In lieu of the popularity of my last post about the “100 Things I Have Learned about Photography,” I decided to make a new list that pertains to street photography specifically. Also if you don’t know, I am currently writing a book titled: “Street Photography 101,” and the excerpts are being posted here. This new list is a homage to the Street Photography 101 book that I am writing.
Note that there is some overlap of some of these points with the previous list that I wrote, but I thought it may be essential for new-readers to note. Also, feel free to critique, comment, and share this list with anybody you want. I would love to hear your feedback.
Haha–tricked you. As there is no “best” paintbrush for a painter, there is no “best” camera when it comes to the street photographer. The camera is merely a tool, and there are different tools required for different situations and tasks at hand.
In street photography as well as general photography, photographers can sometimes become more obsessed about camera gear over actually taking photos. Photographers who are obsessed with camera gear often feel that their images are lacking due to their equipment, when their underdevelopment of photographic vision is the culprit.
Therefore many individuals fall into this trap and go on a never-ending chase in the hope that buying more expensive camera bodies and lenses will help them get better images. However most of them are quite dismayed when they realize that when they buy the newest and most expensive equipment, their images don’t get any better. Now don’t get me wrong—nice bodies and lenses can indeed give you images with better sharpness, resolution, and color, but they won’t give one intrinsically better photos.
When it comes to street photography, I like to believe that the best policy is to have the least obtrusive camera and lens as possible. The antithesis of an ideal camera for street photography would be a 1D Mark IV with a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 L lens attached to it.
Although my knowledge of cameras may be limited when compared to the 20+years plus photo veteran, I will try my best to outline the pros and cons of different cameras that street photographers use, including rangefinders, DSLRS, or compact “point and shoots”.
Rangefinders are glorified for their ability to take images without a battery, being small and unobtrusive, quick in operation, and virtually silent in terms of a shutter sound. Rangefinders are fully manual, meaning that you have to manually focus and manually control exposure through aperture and shutter speed.
The most popular rangefinder (by far) when it comes to street photography is the Leica. It carries all of the fore mentioned characteristics and has a tradition for being built like a tank with superior optics. Shoot—the granddaddy of all street photography (Henri Cartier-Bresson) used a Leica for his entire career.
Taking photos with a rangefinder is much different than many other cameras because what you see through your viewfinder is not necessarily what your photos show up as. There are superimposed grid lines showing the borders of how much your camera will actually capture which many photographers claim that gives them a sense of freedom and seeing entire scenes.
However there are obviously cons with using a rangefinder camera. First of all, rangefinders are fully manual, meaning that one has to learn how to constantly adjust for the changing lighting in an environment with aperture and shutter speed, while modern digital cameras can do this automatically. Although many advocates of using fully-manual settings do not see this as a disadvantage, the aspiring street photographer may have a difficult time constantly adjusting his or her settings.
Furthermore if one decides to get a digital Leica rangefinder, they are most likely going to drop a huge chunk of change.
It seems that nowadays many street photographers use digital SLRs (DSLRs) to take their photographs. DSLRs are massively popular due to their overall image quality, quick shutter speed, and their ability to interchange lenses, and relative affordability.
However the downside to DSLRs for street photography is that they are relatively large and clunky, and look intimidating to the average person. Furthermore due to the fact that it has a mirror inside, it makes a loud clicking (or clunking) sound when taking photos, which can disturb the serenity of a scene. There is nothing more apparent than the loud mirror-clacking of a DSLR on a quiet subway.
However that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to use a DSLR for street photography. I currently use a Canon 5D for my street photography and in order to make my camera more stealthy, I covered up my “Canon” and “5D” logo with black gaffers tape. I feel the advantage of this is that it converts my “professional-looking camera” into any old generic-looking camera. This makes the camera look less conspicuous in public, and makes people feel less anxious when you are taking photos of them.
Furthermore, DSLRS have great high-ISO capabilities, which make them ideal for shooting at night without having too much noise in the shots. The 5D is infamous for having creating clean images at even high-ISO’s. I never hesitate to shoot my camera at ISO 1600 or even 3200 at night when capturing scenes with faster shutter speeds.
Furthermore, another huge advantage of DSLRs is the ability to interchange one’s lenses. Therefore, one can switch up his or her lenses once in a while if you want to shoot at different focal lengths.
Generally for street photography, I recommend a 35mm “full frame equivalent” lens.
Point and Shoots
There are currently a handful of high-end point-and-shoots on the market that many street photographers use for shooting in the street. These cameras tout larger image sensors, which gives better image quality as well as cleaner images at higher-ISOs.
The advantages of point-and-shoot cameras for street photography is that they are small, have a virtually silent shutter, and that they are unobtrusive. However on the other hand, many point-and-shoot cameras have shutter-lag, which can make it difficult to capture moving people without getting them blurred out.
Micro 4/3rds cameras are also a fantastic option in street photography, because of their near instantaneous autofocus, small form factor and weight, as well as solid image quality. Their image sensors aren’t as good as Aps-c DSLR sized sensors, but they still make beautiful images you can’t complain about.
Learn more about street photography equipment
Check out my newest and up to date recommendations on cameras for street photography here: Recommended equipment for street photography >>
When it comes to street photography, everybody has their own style and techniques. What interests one street photographer may not necessarily catch the eye of another street photographer. However in order for you to get a better grasp of what kind of styles there are in street photography, I have compiled a few elements that street photographers like to use to their advantage when constructing their images.
Play with Juxtaposition
Juxtaposition is a big and fancy word that artists love to use. If you are not familiar with the word, it simply means drawing a stark contrast between two elements in an image. One could use juxtaposition in his or her favor by creating an image that is interesting, ironic, or just plain uncanny.
For example, if you were to see a sign that says “get fit” and you see a woman eating an ice cream, that makes for an image with great juxtaposition. Or you can see a sign that says “get big” with a small person standing next to it.
Hope you guys had a great weekend and are ready for the rest of the week!
Anyways recently, I had the great pleasure to write a guest blog post for a photography site called “7×5.” I wrote a somewhat easy-to-read post written very colloquially how a beginner can get started with street photography. Definitely not the most eloquent or comprehensive guide, but an interesting read I still think anyways! I got lots of great feedback on Twitter about this post at @erickimphoto as well!
Read the guest post here.
Serendipity. One of the most beautiful things about street photography. Stumbling upon something totally unexpected, but so intrinsically unique and beautiful it cannot be put into words. All of your sensations tingling, giving all of your sensory features a feast from a thing or a place that you have never known existed.
Serendipity. A reward for being adventurous and daring. Taking the road off the beaten path. Not being a dumb tourist and following everyone else like sheep. Being a nomad; thirsting for new sights and adventures.
Serendipity. Being in the present and on the prowl, like a jaguar in the streets. Disregarding your “common sense.” Taking the “scenic” rather the quickest route.
Serendipity. Your own little jewel. Taking it and forever keeping it in your box of memories. Taking a photo of it for a keepsake and making it immortal. Wanting to share it with the world, and wanting others to experience a small slice for themselves as well.
Serendipity. Living life without a map. Spinning around in a circle while closing your eyes, then throwing a dart on the map—determined to go wherever the hell it lands.
It is not the destination, stupid. It is about the adventure.
Serendipity. Taking your time and being patient. Not rushing to the nearest attractions but appreciating the beauty in the mundane. Looking for ordinary things, rather than the large and glamorous.
As a street photographer, you must jump into experiencing serendipity. Grab nothing but your camera and storm out into the streets, and letting your curiosity lead you.
Now it’s your turn.
Before you go out and shoot, you must decide where to go out and shoot. I usually go to an area with lots of people walking around. Museums, parks, or any downtown area work very well. The more people you have in a certain area, the more likely your chance of finding interesting subjects to shoot.
However you shouldn’t only limit yourself to heavily-populated areas. The beauty of street photography is that it has no limits. You can shoot photos anywhere; it doesn’t only have to pertain to the streets. You can probably find great subjects for photographs in very mundane places like the grocery market or even the library. The entire world is up for grabs.
Above all, the best way to go out and shoot is to pick a location and simply go out. Have a few places that you want to check out in mind, and let your curiosity guide the rest of your little mini-journeys. When I go out, I prefer to take an entire day walking around while taking public transportation to get to my location, be it the subway, bus, etc.
I also bring all of my stuff in a messenger bag, as it makes taking things easily accessible. I typically only carry around 2 prime lenses (my Canon 35mm f/2 and Canon 24mm f/2.8) along with some water and some food. Also just in case, I make sure to pack an extra battery and memory card along with any other random necessities I may need. However I try to always keep my bag as light as I can. Just for reference, I use the Timbuk2 Commute 2.0 bag which I highly recommend that holds nearly all of my stuff. Although it is a bit pricy, it is made out of fantastic materials and also has room to carry my laptop as well. Messenger bags don’t have to be expensive, however. There is a great deal for several in different colors on Amazon for under $20.
Once you walk, bus, or metro to your destination, just feel free to walk wherever you want. Lead yourself down barren alleys, into random stores, and toward strangers. Open up and talk to the local people in the area and strike up a conversation. Tell them about your photo journey and if they have any places that they recommend you check out. Don’t be too picky with what photos you decide to take. If something just attracts your eye for one reason or another, take a photo of it. Don’t feel obliged to only take photos of what you would consider “street photography.” Keep your mind and options open.
After a long day of shooting, go home, download your photos from your memory card to your computer, and have the fun of picking your best images, while reliving your exciting little adventure.
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.
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.