Even though I’ve been taking photos as a keen amateur for around 15 years, taking photos of people is something I have always avoided and it was all down to confidence. I’ve taken lots of wildlife photos, macro photos and landscapes but it’s only in the last year that I’ve been interested in street photography and taking photos of people. So why the change of direction? Well, I don’t think there was a specific moment when I thought I change my style of photography, it was a gradual change in mindset.
Initially I started following the superb blog of David Hobby, the “Strobist” where he tells you everything there is to know about off camera lighting with small flashguns. A fantastic resource that you can learn a lot from. It was this site that sparked my interest. I experimented a little with lighting but never really attempted anything serious because it meant taking photos of people. I was fine with the camera bit, but I was always shy when it came to putting a person in front of me lens.
Through the strobist blog, I was introduced to several other photographers, several of which were street photographers like Zack Arias and Eric Kim. After reading a lot about this type of photography, it looked like it would be the perfect way for me to build my confidence and start making people the subject of my photography. This changed my approach to photography and at the same time it made me decide to change my photography equipment too. So out went the Sony Alpha a700 DSLR and my collection of lenses, and in came the Fuji X-Pro1 and prime lenses, soon followed by the fantastic Fuji X100s, two amazing mirrorless cameras. It was a move I am so glad I made. I no longer had the luxury of a selection of lenses to cover all occasions, I now had a a set of camera equipment perfectly suited to the style of photography that I wanted to do. So now all I needed was the confidence.
Be A Better Assassin
There was a line in the film Leon that I think about when I do street photography. In the film, Leon says that the better assassin you are, the closer you can get to your target. Street photography is the same, just less violent. The better at street photography you are, the closer you get to your subject. My first shots were taken from a distance away, but at least they had people in them.
Now I’m not saying I’m good at street photography, I am very much still learning, but at least I’m getting closer to my subjects and am even talking to them too and asking if I can take their photos. For me, that is a massive hurdle that I’ve overcome and I’m looking forward to the the next stages in my photography learning.
Some Street Portraits
So here are some of my more recent street portraits that I took while out in Manchester. I carry my Fuji x100s camera with me a lot more so I can make the most of any opportunities that come up. It’s one thing carrying it around with you, but another thing having it ready for the right situation. I use aperture priority mainly and generally try and keep the aperture set at around f4 – f5.6 to make sure that I get a reasonably quick shutter speed while also having a large enough depth of field that I get the right part of my photo in focus. I then use an auto ISO range of between 200 and 6400. Yes, 6400 is very high but my cameras cope very well at that level and photography at night can need a high ISO to make sure you get the shot. If I’m out during the sun light hours then I might only go as high as 3200. I don’t use flash for street photography.
This was the first portrait of a stranger that I’ve taken where I spoke to them first and asked to take their photo. The photo is actually a slight bit out of focus, but it’s an important photo for me as it was the one that got me over that confidence hurdle.
The next photos is one of my favourites so far. This was taken at Piccadilly Station in Manchester and this chap was looking at the train times. He stood out and I liked the character he had in the way he looked so I walked up to him and introduced myself and asked to take his photo. He was happy for me to take a few shots and I thanked him and went on my way.
The final one in this set was a bit of an opportunist photo. I was in a queue of people and was taking a few shots of people nearby. It was pure luck that this chap looked at me as I pointed the camera at him. I got the shot, smiled and got a nod, so all was ok and I moved on.
So there you have it. My move from wildlife to street portraits. I would say I still have lots to learn, but I’m really looking forward to learning more. So much so that I’ve booked myself onto one of Eric Kim’s street photography workshops and I can’t wait!