09 September 2009

Street Photography:3 key points to sail with

I have been an avid street photographer and have seen lot of people taking interest in this genre of photography. When we see the photos from the street, we always tend to enjoy the story a face or a moment tells but people have shivers down their spine when the idea of actually getting down to the street and clicking strikes them.
Some find it terrifying to go out and click on the street and some find it amusing to move among people. Some spend their time mingling with inhabitants there and some get embarrassed by the attention they get out of clicking photos. Here is a small article which I thought of putting up to help people understand more about street photography and its elements and how to go about it.

Secret of being able to click people:
Situation 1: One morning you go out in the market with your wife for buying vegetables. You notice that there is a photographer moving around taking shots. What’s the first thing that comes to your mind? After a minute, noticing him and thinking about his activities, you move to a flower shop, where your wife is trying to pick some flowers for Puja at home. The photographer now comes here and clicks a shot of this lady (your wife in this context) checking out fresh flowers and quickly moves on. How are you feeling now? Anxious!! Perturbed!!
Situation 2: One Morning you go out in the market with your wife for buying vegetables. You notice that there is a photographer moving around. He is taking shot of a vegetable seller. After click he goes to the subject. Both look at his camera LCD and come up with a smile. After a minute, noticing him and thinking about his activities, you move to a flower shop, where your wife is trying to pick some flowers for Puja at home. The photographer now comes here and stands around the shop. He looks at you, smiles as if saying “hey there! Ask me if you are curious”. You pop up a question “Are you from press??” or “Why are you taking those shots??” and he happily replies back “that I am a hobby photographer, work with Target  and click photos around streets”. You feel satisfied talking to him and he takes a shot of your wife checking out fresh flowers. He then shows you the picture on his LCD. The picture is of a hand feeling the freshness of the flowers and you are impressed by his perspective. How are you feeling now? Motivated to click such a shot in the market! Read On.

Here are some aspects of shooting at the streets which I wanted to line down:

1. Getting ready to shoot:Lesser baggage: While you plan to go out and shoot, plan your baggage accordingly. Carrying too much of gear might not be a good idea because you might want to keep your attention on capturing life in your shots rather than worry too much about the focal lengths. The best could be to carry a nice walk around lens which can work/act as a basic wide angle and extend up to a basic telephoto lens.
Including longer lens?? Well there are different theories around this question. Lot of people say that longer lens would help you capture shots from distance and hence you would have candid shots without letting people know that someone is clicking them. The other school of thoughts says that get closer and into the frame to capture the soul in your shot. This is all quite subjective. I suggest a middle path, Initially if you are beginning into this genre, carrying a longer lens would help you curb your anxiety and avoid any attention and as you spend more time and gain experience, you can move with a wide angle lens and get into the mid of the action.
Casual dressing: Dressing might not appear to be an important variable but then it attracts attention as well. Carrying lot of stuff and dressed like a tourist might makes you feel Odd one out in a busy market and attract lot of attention. Dressing a little casually and carrying your stuff in a casual manner would make others feel that you are one of those regular visitors to the market and might feel more comfortable to all around. In some situations, the opposite might work for you. Did I say “there are no rules here!!!”.
2. Moving around in the market:

Observe: While moving around in a market place or a street, look for activities happening around. Every place is characteristic in its own manner. Try finding moments, Listen to various sounds at that place, notice hustle bustle in the market and how people are busy with their chores. Try to capture those moments. An early morning visit to a market might see people setting up their shops, cleaning around, making small rangoli, or a group of friends hanging around cup of tea near the old tea stall, fresh colorful vegetables with dew like water on them, a call centre cab stopping on the way for the employees to gulp down tea before they hit home are all moments and convey different emotions. You can also use different styles and shots to convey the mood and the time of the day as well. Fresh flowers, clean markets and hopes in the eyes are all conveyors of a morning. Look for usual places with unusual perspective and new dimensions.

3. Living in there:
Become part of the scene: The best part of being a street photographer is that you get to be the part of the frame. You can mingle with people and be at the thick of things which would not only give you a lot to ponder about but also lot of different perspectives.
Try and get involved: Most of the times I have gone out shooting on the streets, I have noticed that some of my friends would move around, click a shot and try to move out. This leaves the people around stunned, anxious and sometimes angry. The best method is to get involved with people, share a smile and not run with a photo. You never know, a smile or a small talk might give you lot of great shots.
Neither appear conspicuous, nor suspicious: Also people, who tend to sneak a shot and move on, might appear suspicious. Be very aware about such activities. It’s very easy for people to suspect you and catch hold of you. So mixing up with people not only yields better shots but gets you into lesser trouble too.
Bring home a story and not a photo:

Street photography is a genre of dealing with people. When someone lets you click their photo or you take without them noticing, you stand a chance to bring their story home. Try and talk to people rather than only clicking them. This way, you would know a lot about the place and their lives. In my interactions at markets, I have learnt a lot from real life examples of those people which is quite inspiring. So, not only click people but try to bring home a story about them.
Respect privacy: While on streets, there might be lot of situations where people feel intruded, don’t want to be photographed. That is absolutely fine. We should respect privacy of others and move on by sharing a smile with them.
Gauge the situation yourself: This could be quite important since many a times you might land in a situation which could be sensitive. You should gauge the situation yourself before clicking or taking an action. A sudden fight breaking out on the street or someone suddenly meeting an accident might tempt you to click them but could land you into a sensitive spot. With time and experience at the street, you would develop the eye to gauge the situation by yourself.
Understand Law of Land: There are lots of places where you might not be allowed to take photos so it’s imperative that you abide by the laws of land. Ex: Shooting at the railway station, bridges, bus stand are all against the law since they could compromise the security, so avoid shooting at such places.


  1. some good points on street photography put together ... good job.
    But on the last point - Understand Law of Land , i differ a bit on that. I feel as long as you can carry your camera to a place, you can shoot.
    What I should say - shoot first ,m settle later.
    If you dont do that you may miss some superb shots.


    1. thanks suvajit for liking and sharing your opinion.
      well, i think you are entitled you the way you find it correct, but still find it much safer to take a route which doesn't put one in awkward or sometimes, a dangerous shot.
      shots clicked would be recovered if the camera survives :)

      keep reading

  2. Anonymous10:00 AM

    hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

  3. well thought out and experience coming out nicely...keep it up.

    1. thanks sudhanshu. long time since we caught up. how have u been

  4. the tea looks so orangy...

    btb the second option where photographer shows the pics taken is preferable.

    1. thx shrinidhi. well, the images have been changed over period of time but appreciate your feedback

  5. Great post Saurabh! I especially love the example of the hobby photographer from Target. Thanks for sharing.

    1. thanks so much chrish. having heard from you, feels great.
      how have you been.


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