I have been interested in street photography for the last year or so and follow and read about many of the great street photographers online like Rinzi Ruiz, or the In Public photographers, the great Magnum Photographers like famous Henri Cartier-Bresson or the wild Bruce Gilden. There is one street photographer whose name crops up over and over again, and is on my list of great street photographers, and that’s Eric Kim. His blog is constantly being updated with book reviews and advice on street photography and his images aren’t too bad either. So when Eric announced he was running a street photography workshop in London, I booked a place on it straight away.
So all the people doing the workshop met up in London on a Friday evening and had some time to get to know each other. It was a great bunch of people, a good mix of characters, interests, styles and nationalities… and lots of Leicas! Right from the start we knew we were going to pushed beyond our comfort zone. Street photography is all about confidence, especially if you are photographing people, and even more important if you are to get as close as Eric wanted us to.
After a good critique session on some of our recent work, we were all given projects for the weekend. The idea of the project was to end up with a collection of 10 images that follow a theme but have a set of 3 that you thought stood out as the best of the bunch. My project was all about street portraits, but all within 0.7 metres of the subject, so that meant getting really close. Scary! We would all get a one to one session with Eric too where he would help us and push us to improve our street photography. So after a few beers at the end of the evening, we all headed back for a good sleep before a full day of street photography on the Saturday.
Saturday began with the group splitting into smaller groups according to their projects. Myself and 3 others had similar projects so we had the pleasure of one to ones with Eric first while the other groups headed out into London to start on their own projects. Straight away, getting close to the subjects of the photos was the challenge. First we got to try it out on each other, which was a bit of fun, but then we got going with the proper photography.
I’ve wanted to do more street portraits for a while now and after a bit of pushing from Eric, I got into the swing of it. I didn’t actually find it too hard to go up to someone and ask to take their picture, in fact I really enjoyed it. I actually kicked myself for not doing this before. For me, speaking to the person, having a chat to them and asking to take their picture was something quite rewarding. If I had gone down the other route of photographers like Bruce Gildan where you pretty much pounce on someone and take a shot without permission, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it quite so much. Putting myself in the other person’s shoes, I don’t think I would like a camera and flash shoved in front of me without my permission, but if someone came up to me and said hello and asked for a photo, then I’d be much more willing to let them take it.
So I was off to a good start and I was starting to get some shots I was pleased with. Here are a few shots from my street portraits I got that weekend.
All these images were taken with my Fuji X100s digital camera using a custom black and white jpeg setting. I decided not to shoot in RAW but in hindsight, I kind of wish I had, just to give me more flexibility with the image in post production. However, the minor edits that I did in Adobe Lightroom proved to be sufficient and I ended up with some images I am more than happy with.
You can actually download my Lightroom 5 preset for free that I used for all of these images. Just go to my Free Stuff section of the web site and follow the links from there.
So after a full day of shooting, we all met up again to share our stories of the days adventures. As we walked to a restaurant for food and a few beers, Eric gave me a little advice for using flash with me camera. Flash is something I don’t use much in street photography but with a few pointers from Eric, I tried it out along the busy Oxford Street in London. The settings I used were P mode, so both aperture and shutter speed were decided by the camera. I set the ISO to 1600 and turned the flash on. I set the focus to manual and used a focus distance of about 1 metre. Simple as that really. Here’s an example of the sort of shot I was able to get.
When you do this sort of photography it’s all about the scene and composition, it’s all too easy to just take lots of random photos, you still need to think about your shot…. just think quickly. I can’t say these shots with flash were a huge success for me, but it’s certainly something I am going to try again when I get the chance.
So after a long day shooting on the Saturday, everyone was tired but keen to get back to their homes or hotels to look through their images and pick their selection for the Sunday critique. We still had a couple of hours on the Sunday to do more shooting and I got a few more images I was happy with.
So we all had our final set of images and on Sunday we got the chance to do a bit of editing before we presented the images to the rest of the group. Unfortunately for me, my new Apple MacBook Pro laptop decided to fail on the first day of the course, but another photographer on the workshop kindly lent me his MacBook Pro so I could do a quick edit.
The critiques were honest and constructive, which is so much more useful than someone just saying “ooh, that’s nice” and I think we all got a lot out of the critique session. I certainly did so while I produced a set of good images that showed a big improvement over my previous work, there was still a lot of room for improvement. Getting more expression from the people in the portraits and also making sure the backgrounds compliment the portrait instead of distract from it. Things I will be working on a lot more on my next photography trip.
I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend in London. I met a great bunch of photographers, learnt a lot and got a collection of images that I’m very pleased with. Eric was a great teacher and pushed everyone to be better. He also didn’t force his opinions on you and made sure that each person got pushed in a direction that they wanted to improve in. He made sure the workshop made each person a better photographer and wasn’t just an opportunity to show off and say what a good photographer he was.
I also learnt a bit more about how I can improve my workshops and I’ll be putting them into practice when I start both my online and offline workshops early next year.