I am starting this short post saying that there could be as many steps in improving our compositions, and in photography as such, as we want. When I go out and take pictures on the streets, these are the three things I remind myself of:
keep it simple
Since I started shooting street photography, I found out I like my compositions to be clean, containing rather less than more. This of course might not be desired for all photographers, it is just the way I like to shoot. Clean image gives me straight message – what do I want the viewer to see in the picture? I ask myself questions like: What is the main focus of this shot? Is there a story included or is my composition more artistic rather than documentary? For me, usually the answer is “less is more”.
I like to look for scenes with leading lines, crossing diagonals and clean backgrounds. Then I look around the scene, consider the light, how it shapes the subject and if this is the right time of the day to be there. Sometimes, I try and come back at different time, when the light will be different (early morning or night). Lastly, I consider where I stand and how can I position my subject relative to the environment I chose for my composition. Since I shoot only prime lenses, I move around a scene a lot.
This has been one of the biggest challenges for me in street photography, as I believe it is for most. Having the right distance to subject in a street photography composition.
Consider this: I always worried about being too far, having to crop in later. I never worried about being too close.
This applies particularly when shooting people and trying to get the candid image. Let’s forget about approaching people directly for a portrait. One very good tip that actually worked for me and I use it almost every time is this: when you get close and take a picture, never make eye contact. If you do, you will acknowledge to the person you’ve taken an image of them. Rather look behind them as if you try to shoot something else and they just got in your way. Sometimes people will turn around to see what you have photographed.
On the contrary to this tip, sometimes it is nice to let people know you took the picture and have a little chat with them. It depends on how well you can assess the person’s mood and if they are ok with you talking to them.
One other tip: notice what distance to subject you are comfortable with. It will likely be a bit farther away than you would like. Next time you are in such situation, force yourself to get closer, force yourself to feel that you are not comfortable anymore. Improvement lives outside our comfort zones. I know, easier said than done.
get it right in camera
Considering above, it will be necessary to make sure that once the moment to press the shutter button comes, our settings are set in place and we are confident about them. I already mentioned one thing to get right in the camera and that is distance. It’s always better to be closer than to have to crop in later, loosing in image quality. The other thing is to make sure you don’t have to correct for wrong exposure too much in post process. Sometimes, wrong exposure settings can ruin the picture all together. This applies particularly in street photography, where the light conditions change every few seconds, with every shot.
Imagine this: sunny day with harsh light and deep shadows, what would be your settings? Or, taking a candid portrait through coffee shot window on the same day. What will be your settings? Very different.
Being able to change the exposure settings quickly, without thinking of them, and on time, is one of the most important skills of a street photographer. By learning this, we will improve our keep ratio by quite a bit.
So, there it is. Three quick and easy (maybe not altogether that easy) steps to improve street photography fast. Do you have some other tips to share? Let me know below.