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George

16 - Street Photography

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Street photography is enjoyable, so much so that many professionals shoot street as a hobby. It is also a genre with an endless learning curve. Even if you’re a master with a camera, there is so much to experience in real life that mastering street photography is probably beyond any one person’s capabilities within a single lifetime. Street is all about people and their stories. This is probably why those who venture into street usually find themselves pursuing a lifetime passion that never loses its fire.

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One problem with street is being overwhelmed by what to shoot. If you wander into a market for example, there is so much life happening that capturing it all is impossible. If you try to capture everything, more than likely you will wander aimlessly through the day and head home with less than pleasing results. You need focus. One way to achieve focus is to pick a specific subject or theme. One day in Paris on a photowalk I chose hands and had an inspiring day. Did I capture the entire market and photograph everything? Nope. Did I enjoy the day and go home well pleased with myself? Oh yes.

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You may have heard that street is only genuine if you use prime lenses, like a 50mm or a 35mm, and that it’s all about getting close. No it isn’t. Getting close can be a thrill, but it can also get you into trouble. Street is about candid photos, so zooms can be just as perfectly suited to street as any fixed prime. You won’t get pictures like these using a wide angle prime. 

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You may also hear that limiting yourself to a 50mm will improve your photography as it means you have to use your feet to zoom. That may be true with food and interior shoots, but street is more like wildlife and it is all about capturing the moment. If you have a zoom, use it. Try getting a shot like this with a short prime!

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If you feel you need to employ a 50mm exercise to improve your street photography, stick your zoom on 50mm and try it. If you want to catch more candid moments, use a long zoom if you have one. You don’t see wildlife photographers creeping around with 50mm or 35mm lenses trying to improve their skills. The more distance you have between you and your subject the more naturally they will behave, and this is true in street photography as well.

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Now, I’m not advocating a change from small compacts and wide angle lenses to telephoto zooms for street, I’m saying there’s a place for both. This was shot at 50mm.

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Black and white makes for excellent street photos. For some reason, stripping the colour really brings out the life in an image. I now shoot street exclusively in black and white.

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