Archive for November 2010
First and foremost, this blog is about candid photography. If you ask the subject for permission, no matter how you do it, the person has time to get ready for the picture. The photographer can get an interesting and excellent artistic result, but this cannot be considered candid.
If you’re worried about privacy invasion, law-breaking, possible confrontation, or other problems, don’t do candid photography. There is no other solution. It is the same as driving a car or traveling. You can get a ticket, be mugged or just get into a bad accident. Photographers have to use common sense and accept the risks.
After you’ve made your shot, please, feel free to talk, ask permission, and give business cards or anything else to resolve a possible conflict.
Sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised from your “victim’s” positive reaction.
These pictures illustrate another point. Even a person, obviously seeing a lens directed at him, creates genuine expression of confusion. This interesting case deserves a separate topic.
I bought this lens a couple of years ago to take pictures of architecture and landscape. In the last two weeks I’ve tried it for my candid street photography. This is the widest lens I have and it requires a very close range to the subject to take a picture. Don’t even think about using the viewfinder and autofocus. The mode of operation is “point and shoot”.
This is not a small glass, but when you are very close to the person it is hard to conceal your intentions anyway.
The lens is fast. I often use it wide open. I don’t think that a faster lens would be useful. When you are in a range of six feet or less, it becomes a shallow depth of field. This makes the misfocus problem more pronounced.
For more pictures go to Shooting with Pentax 14mm f/2.8
The Rules and Myths of Candid Photography: Wide angle or telephoto lenses
Many bloggers and experts like to say that you should use wide angle lenses because they require being close to the subject. This makes street shooting a “fair” game. It seems dishonest to use a telephoto by hiding from a distance.
Hunters have the same debate when choosing a weapon. They will argue that it is valiant to select a tool that will give their victim a chance to escape.
However, we are photographers and our goal is to make great images. We are not in a contest with people on the street or with each other. The choice of lenses is governed by artistic considerations, feasibility, or convenience, not by some superficial notion of machismo.
Often I use lenses from wide to short telephoto, including small zoom. On occasion I have fun with my old long telephoto 60-300.
I don’t toggle lenses during shooting. My choice is based mostly on my current mood and situation. If I am in doubt I use a “normal” 31 mm (with 1.5x crop factor).
I don’t use a long telephoto because being far from the object (using small view angle) makes the depth of perspective compressed. But sometimes this compression is an important part of the composition.
Wide angle lenses allow the photographer to be very close to the person. Photographers can invade the personal space of the subject before getting a chance to use the camera’s viewfinder. This may require shooting from the hip or belly. Do not frame tightly in order to have latitude for rotation and cropping.
Use any lenses that you think are most appropriate for your situation. Don’t concern yourself with artificial rules that many candid street photography experts try to push.
Pentax 14mm f/2.8 for Candid Street Photography
Pentax 70 mm f/2.4 DA Limited for Candid Street Photography
My main goal when I present images is to direct the viewer’s attention to the most important areas. The basic method of viewer manipulation is to change contrast. My first instinct is to use black & white (B&W). Color usually distracts the eye and B&W is easier to control by changing the relative tonality of elements in post processing.
Sometimes, color gives me the best result. In a few instances I almost desaturate the image, leaving some colors to accentuate details or to slightly preserve the unusual quality of light.
For anything that I do in photography, my choice between B&W vs. Color is based on what I would like to present. I never decide based on the notion of what is considered appropriate. Tradition should not set rules or precedent that dictates your freedom in street photography. Always exercise personal judgment when it comes to selecting between B&W vs. color.
In any case I always shoot in color (using RAW format) and there is absolutely no reason to do otherwise. I will talk about that further in a discussion about post processing.
Through reading street photography forums and blogs, you can find several discussions about how street photography should be done. I will list some of them:
- Black & White or Color
- Wide angle or telephoto lenses
- Ask permission or invade privacy
- Use post processing or in camera only imaging
Let me say this now before we will delve into further details:
Photography is art. You have to make candid images that are the best for you, and, hopefully, somebody will express interest in them. Everything else is irrelevant.
Before you read an expert’s advice on how candid photography should be done, first look at his pictures. If you like them, read more and practice, otherwise continue looking for your own way.
I will address each aspect of candid photography in my next posts. Stay tuned.
Now it is my time to preach.
I made an icon for the blog from an over-sharpened portion of this larger image.
He is often seen protesting on Michigan Avenue near Ohio Street in Chicago. Usually he walks from one corner or street side to another and on occasion announces his critique about Russian politics. Nobody pays attention to the fruitless effort.
What keeps him going? Does it transport him thirty years back, fighting as a youth with his new loudspeaker for freedom from the Refuzniks? Did the Soviet Police break his loudspeaker or was it damaged during immigration?
Maybe my writings into the deep abyss are nearly as fruitless as his aged protestation. Still, what is the purpose of both of our efforts? Simple enjoyment.
Why would someone take a picture of a stranger’s face? Who has the audacity to surprise someone into the frame? I do. Sometimes the background prompts me or I’m just interested in character. However, I’m most enticed by the adventure of capturing a raw reaction. The first response to an invasion of privacy is what makes these pictures valuable. You cannot fake it. Some start talking, others turn their faces away, and many just stay frozen. These are the highest points of candid portraits.
What happens next is unpredictable. People will go away, show protest or strike a happy pose. The aftershock can be an interesting subject as well. Still, these pictures will have a different affect than those in the moment of surprise.