If there’s one thing we learned from our study of English Literature, it’s that criticism is vital to every art form. Taking alterative viewpoints on board is crucial, but going one step further and commenting on something with your own critique helps the medium thrive.
That’s why when we stumbled across this article by Kimberly Gauthier on street photography over at Digital Photo School we thought it would be good to wade in with our own. Titled Street Photography for the Novice, it’s a helpful collection of tips for anyone starting out in the medium.
To Ask or Not to Ask
Kimberly generally hits the nail on the head, but there are several points that we’d like to question. The biggest disagreement we have is with her third point; Don’t photograph people without their permission.
That’s exactly what street photography, or at least a huge part of it, is all about. If you’re asking people for their photos, then you’re working more in the street portraiture space. Humans of New York is a good example – it’s still street photography, but not in the typical sense.
In fact, actually asking people for their permission can destroy any natural expression on their faces. Obviously if you’re dealing in a semi-taboo subject (as demonstrated recently in Eric Kim’s shoe article), then it’s definitely worth treading lightly. However, at any other time we’d say shoot without even getting close (unless that’s your aim).
It’s about capturing the fleeting moment in the urban space. Stopping to check whether it’s OK breaks the split-second wonder that street photography continues to offer.
Be sure to check the law within your country; the UK for example, allows photography as long as it’s in a public space, whether or not the subject agrees.
Like A Ninja?
The other point we’d like to focus on is Gauthier’s suggestion of blending in. In our recent article, tips to shoot street in London, we suggested the same thing. However recently it’s become obvious to us, and the wider community echoes this, that you want to make eye contact. Whether or not you’re shooting close or with a telephoto (both have their merits, regardless of what others say), having someone looking at the camera can make a good shot into a fantastic shot.
Getting their attention can be well worth the pursuit. There’s nothing worse than thinking to yourself “look at the camera” only for them to walk away.
Now it’s your turn. We’d love to hear your thoughts on our piece, and the original article. Please leave a comment below or join the discussion on Twitter.
For the record we tend to shoot with a telephoto as it helps achieve the effect we want with our street photography.