Street photography is the most out-of-convention genre of photography. It is defined by every individual in his own way. Every street photographer has a different way portraying life that happens before him, some shoot color, some prefer mono; some go for close-up textures, some believe in story telling area; some shoot with 35mm, some won’t let go of their 85mm. Its the most unique subject that can be treated in a unique way by every street photographer, but here I put forward a few points which I think should be common for every street photographer. And if you find any of these in you, its very simple, forget street photography!
- Beauty Is sexy!
If you think that a beautiful person is always an elegant or sexy person, then forget street photograph, go for fashion. The thumb rule to be followed in here is that beauty has nothing to do with being sexy; but its all about the textures, the color, the emotions, the expression which lie on the face of the person. If you think that its highly wrong for you to see a man as being beautiful just because you are a man too and obviously you are straight, then you are already on the wrong lane my friend. See the beauty that is there in every person in the world. No one is devoid of the beauty, if you have the eyes to see it. If you don’t, then curse yourself, don’t say there aren’t any nice subjects to shoot.
- My gear sucks!
This is something which has been mentioned by millions of photographers a trillion times, and yet some people cannot get it into their thick heads. “Owning a Nikon does not make you a photographer, it makes you a Nikon owner.” That is one excellent quote said by someone, not me, but I don’t remember who it was. But the main point here is if you do not know how to shoot, then no great camera is going to make you a photographer. First you have to learn to see, your eyes are there for that; then you have to learn to compose, any rectangular framing is enough for that; and then all you need to do is press the shutter, i don’t think there is any camera in the world which comes without a shutter (what the hell!). I am not saying that everyone owning a Rebel T1i is a genius and people going for the 5D Mark II is a fool. Its not like that. It is not wrong to own an expensive camera or a lens (obviously they are made to be purchased and used). But buy them only when you know what is the purpose of that expensive equipment you hold, and how is it going to help you with your photography. Don’t buy it just because you can afford it. Know the function of each kind of lens, know the basics of focal length and its relation to depth of field, know the difference between a crop sensor and full frame, know it all, and then decide on what you really need. And if you think that the above photograph is not too bad, then the surprise is, I shot it a few months back with a Samsung Galaxy cellphone of 2 megapixel camera and post-processed then using Little Photo, a mobile photo editing app.
- I’m scare that I will get bashed!
Whenever the topic of street photography arises somewhere, the most common thing that I get to hear from friends as well as strangers is that they are scared that people may just beat them up for clicking pictures without asking. Trust me, it never happens. No body has the time to do that. And not every person on the street is a hooligan as you suspect. Frankly speaking, even I was scared of the same thing at some point of time, but after reading a book by one for the best contemporary street photographers, Thomas Leuthard, I forced myself to get the courage and move forward. And guess what, I started getting much better pictures. It is not the people really who stop you from capturing a great moment, but it is you yourself. Maybe one in a thousand will ask you for what purpose did you take the shot, tell them that its for your office assignment or college project and move on. The stranger will never bother to ask you any more. But just make sure that you don’t look like a freak.
- I have an 800mm lens; I’m going for street photography!
What! Are you kidding me? Only a freak wanting to shoot hot chicks and post them on Facebook calling them their girlfriend would do that. 800mm lens is for a wildlife photographer. Respect them, and the amount of risk they take to bring out those amazing shots. An 800mm lens only reduces their risk factor by 15%. If you are a street photographer, I don’t think you want to sit at home and shoot the entire city. Probably the best lens for street is a 50mm prime lens. It gives you wide aperture (to allow maximum light) so that you can shoot at high shutter speed even in low light, and great depth of field to isolate your main subject in a crowded street. Some street photographers also go for 85mm, 35mm or maybe even 28mm prime lenses. Street photography is all about going closest to your subject and mixing yourself with the environment. It is only then that you can come out with the best shots. As the photography legend Robert Capa once quoted, “If your photos aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.”
- Life is boring!
If you already have a mind-set that life is boring and there is nothing on the streets except crowded people running around recklessly, then mate, first and foremost you need a psychiatrist. You have to learn to see the beauty of life and appreciate it. Every moment every person is doing something so unique that once the moment passes, it can never be caught again. First, realize that, and then go out on the streets. You will know exactly what I’m talking about.
- I’ll never go against my ethics!
Now this is the most controversial topic in street photography, and many of you may disagree with me, but that is your faith and I can’t change that. I have my own belief and I won’t change mine. According to me there is nothing wrong in shooting something which shows the darker side of life, after all its not manipulated. What I’m portraying in my picture is nothing but reality. Many people believe that it is wrong to shoot pictures of poverty, physically disabled, or any such thing which makes the viewer sad. But I as a street/documentary photographer believe that it is my duty to bring the truth of life in front of everyone. If you wanna get all smiles, go for the portfolio of a landscape photographer. After all life is never fair, so why not bring it out. In fact I would find it unethical to not show reality and only concentrate on the bright side. This is what leads to misconceptions in the minds of people about a particular place or society. The bottom line being that I’m not shooting these people to make fun of them, I only want to portray reality.
Kindly feel free to post your views about street photography and whether you agree or disagree with me. And if you found this post helpful in any way, then kindly share it and spread the word.