What is Street Photography?
To define street photography is quite a challenge, directly based on the name, we can argue that street photography is photographs or images taken on the street, however it is more complex than its name. Wikipedia define it as a branch of documentary photography where the subject's is taken in candid situations. While the key word here is candid, not necessarily all candid photography can be street. Confused much? The one which makes street photography different than any other candid photography is the moment which we take the images which is called “the decisive moment” but more on that later.
There are few things that makes Street Photography unique. First, it can be taken by any kind of camera by any kind ofpeople.Cartier-Bressonmight be using a Leica M9 during his days, but somebody with a Blackberry or iPhone to say can also capture street photography nowadays. Second, the moment you captured can’t be repeated in time, true you can’t do this with any landscape pictures as well however you can always visit the place and take another stunning pictures or make it more creative than the one you did at the last time. Third, street photographer and photography care more about the detail on the images rather than the usual composition, exposure, and richness in colours heck the best street images is mostly taken in mono thus enhancing the details rather than captivating the viewers with the colours.
As been said before any camera can be used to take street images or as to put it on Chase Jarvis’ words “The best camera is the one you have on your possession”. Practically you will need these things to create your imagesratherthana70-200mm f/1.8 fancy lens; high observation skills, lightning reflexes, great sense of humour, a lot of imagination, plenty of patience and a dash of serendipity but the most important thing is to put your heart on every images you took.
The Decisive Moment
Before I talk about “The Decisive Moment” in street photography lets review what street photographer has to say regarding the photography and the process of taking the images itself.
“When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice."- Robert Frank.
“Primarily Street Photography is not reportage, it is not a series of images displaying, together, the different facets of a subject or issue. For the Street Photographer there is no specific subject matter and only the issue of ‘life’ in general, he does not leave the house in the morning with an agenda and he doesn’t visualise his photographs in advance of taking them. Street Photography is about seeing and reacting, almost by-passing thought altogether.” - Nick Turpin.
By looking at the words above we can say that all the words justify that photography is indeed a very subjective matter, however there are still aspect that been agreed, that it is a form of a very beautiful art, regardless of what people might comment about it.
Now back to “The Decisive Moment”
Imagine the one day you get married with the person that your parent choose for you, you become a rebel first and argue with them but no avail you still get married, but on the date you decide to run with the person you truly love, that is the decisive moment, a split second decision which will make or break the whole picture in which in this case your life. Fortunately though we won’t go through to that extreme.
Let’s put that into photography senses, the decisive moment only show up in a fraction of a second like example of images I’ve shown in this material. On Bye by Hade Maulin, we can see that there’s a Somalian boys waving goodbye to him, however on the background we can see that there’s another boy waving at him, if he misses this and only capture the boy on the foreground probably the image wouldn’t be as powerful as the one he captured. The same with Jumping by Tse Seng, the image is under the very impression that the girl is jumping from the boat on the foreground to the one in the background, if let’s say he misses this he might still get a good picture but then not entirely striking as this one.
We can conclude then that “decisive moment” could not be achieved by simple snap-shooting or just any candid images. There are some level of discipline needed to create the images with decisive moment shown, as been said in the beginning as well we only need a dash of serendipity as compared to a greater amount of other things.
Tips and Tricks
Photography is a subjective matters indeed, however there are several tips and/or tricks that can be useful for taking great street photography. High observation skills, lightning reflexes, great sense of humour, a lot of imagination, plenty of patience and a dash of serendipity are all depended on you and your luck now I’ll explain all the other things that beyond your control.
1st You will need a camera, which is sound very obvious but I’ll add that you’ll need a camera which you know inside out. You should know how to get good exposure from it, you should know its flaws like the shutter lag or the lack of image stabilisation and you should be always sure that you have a fresh formatted memory card and great deal of battery juice.
2nd Study the subjects, the places and the time when you’re taking your images. Imagine you wanted to take a street photograph in a cemetery at 3 AM, you might get something worthy to be photographed yes, but you will not fit the purpose on the first place. Remember I only said to study the people’s and places’ behaviour, you can’t really get stuck with your own with your mindset of what images you wanted to take.
3rd Practise, practise, practise. Go out, take your camera and get as many images you can take or go to exhibitions, read books and catalogues find inspirations in those and then take more pictures. You can join photosharing site as well, ask for critiques and questions. Never give up and keep taking em images.
4th Is to remember that the rules are there to guide you, but then it is up to yourself to find your pace, know which rules to break and keep. Be unique, be creative, 5 person can take 5 landscape images which contain the same composition and exposure at different times of the year, but if one of them put one element that break the rules, guess which one will capture the attention.