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Thread: Composition in street photography

  1. #1

    Default Composition in street photography

    I've always felt that composition in street photography is tough. You have to capture the moment, and yet compose it well, e.g following rules of 3rds (just an e.g., I know that in the right conditions, "rules" can be broken) If not, I feel that the photo that comes out will just be another photograph of a person walking by. There are a lot of photos that I see on flickr that somehow lack an impact. I can't quite put my finger on it, and explain it explicitly.
    I know that there are a few of the street photogs here who do it consistently well. Maybe you guys can share on how you managed to achieve such consistency.
    I am not talking about just methodology here like shooting from the hip, but also how you trained yourself to see and capture good street photographs.
    Hope this will spark a lively discussion from those whose passion is street photography.
    Cheers mates!
    Last edited by writing with light; 6th October 2008 at 08:20 PM.
    Leica IIIa [Skopar 25mm, Jupiter 8, Industar 61, Jupiter 11,], canonetql17, Himatic7sII

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    For me, if i'm with a zoom, shooting wider is always what I'd do, followed by creative cropping later on. No one would ask you to go for a creative street shoot and pay you to do it (unless you're a journalist looking for a story), so you can probably spend more time on post processing if you wanted.

    However, if you're with a prime, I always prefer to change my AF points according to what I see fit. If the guy knows that I'm there, I'll change the AF point, bring the cam up, fire off a 3shot burst, and nod if he looks at me funnily. Same thing with people that don't notice you're shooting, difference is that you probably have more time to compose.

    It's not really good thing to recompose because the moment that you might want to capture might be gone in the split second you shift your camera.

    If the person is grown up and looks decent, you can ask for permission if you're close. If the person is grown up and looks fierce or sports tattoos, don't even try
    And if the person is a child without parents around, feel free to keep clickin'.

    Click the image for the whole series:


    Cheers,
    Zexun
    Last edited by Headshotzx; 6th October 2008 at 08:29 PM.
    Our pictures are our footprints. Itís the best way to tell people we were here - JoeMcnally | Flickr

  3. #3

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    hmm, very interesting topic.

    i have been trying to develop this "vision" for quite a while, but either im doing something wrong, practising it the wrong way, not enough practice, or just no talent (is it a talent?).

    cant really give much input on this topic, but it seems that to people who has this "vision", photographs can be made almost anywhere.
    whereas for people like me, i can search high and low, but still cant find "that" subject or picture to snap.

    i read that a good way to practice is to train one's eye to "see through the lens". i.e. if u have a 50mm, get so used to how pictures shot with 50mm will look, so one will be able to compose the shot in the head before even looking into the viewfinder.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Headshotzx View Post
    For me, if i'm with a zoom, shooting wider is always what I'd do, followed by creative cropping later on. No one would ask you to go for a creative street shoot and pay you to do it (unless you're a journalist looking for a story), so you can probably spend more time on post processing if you wanted.

    However, if you're with a prime, I always prefer to change my AF points according to what I see fit. If the guy knows that I'm there, I'll change the AF point, bring the cam up, fire off a 3shot burst, and nod if he looks at me funnily. Same thing with people that don't notice you're shooting, difference is that you probably have more time to compose.

    It's not really good thing to recompose because the moment that you might want to capture might be gone in the split second you shift your camera.

    If the person is grown up and looks decent, you can ask for permission if you're close. If the person is grown up and looks fierce or sports tattoos, don't even try
    And if the person is a child without parents around, feel free to keep clickin'.

    Click the image for the whole series:


    Cheers,
    Zexun
    I would like to train myself to get the shot right the moment i click the shutter.

    anyway, i think what the TS probably meant is not how to approach someone or snap strangers in public as what u have commented. but rather, how to develop an eye for subject
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaknafein View Post
    hmm, very interesting topic.

    i have been trying to develop this "vision" for quite a while, but either im doing something wrong, practising it the wrong way, not enough practice, or just no talent (is it a talent?).

    cant really give much input on this topic, but it seems that to people who has this "vision", photographs can be made almost anywhere.
    whereas for people like me, i can search high and low, but still cant find "that" subject or picture to snap.

    i read that a good way to practice is to train one's eye to "see through the lens". i.e. if u have a 50mm, get so used to how pictures shot with 50mm will look, so one will be able to compose the shot in the head before even looking into the viewfinder.
    Well, I feel that I am not very talented either. But I believe it can be trained. I think you kinda got it right with respect to training yourself to see what your lenses can see.
    There was this exercise that Bryan Peterson gets his students to do. I read this in his book "Learning to see creatively". Its too long for me to describe here, but I suggest that ppl pick up this book to read, esp those who are still starting.
    but somehow, I still feel that something is lacking in a lot of street photographs that I see. Maybe its the kind of photos that I like to see, and that I would love to produce.
    Leica IIIa [Skopar 25mm, Jupiter 8, Industar 61, Jupiter 11,], canonetql17, Himatic7sII

  6. #6

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    I guess what I am trying to say is that how does one shoot street photographs that do capture everyday life, but still do it in a creative way. W/o it being purely just a photo of a person passing by. Like how this guy does it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kikYn...eature=related
    Leica IIIa [Skopar 25mm, Jupiter 8, Industar 61, Jupiter 11,], canonetql17, Himatic7sII

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaknafein View Post
    I would like to train myself to get the shot right the moment i click the shutter.

    anyway, i think what the TS probably meant is not how to approach someone or snap strangers in public as what u have commented. but rather, how to develop an eye for subject
    Ah I see.

    Oh well, definitely don't do it the way some Magnum Photographer did in NYC.
    Our pictures are our footprints. Itís the best way to tell people we were here - JoeMcnally | Flickr

  8. #8

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Headshotzx View Post
    Ah I see.

    Oh well, definitely don't do it the way some Magnum Photographer did in NYC.
    Lol...I hear you brother. I was actually very put off by his methods. But I must admit that his photos really do give the subject some character. He's got the balls. And I thought he only dared do this in New York, but when I saw some of his other photos from the Magnum agency, I realised that he also did similar things in Japan!
    http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/...Bruce%20Gilden
    Leica IIIa [Skopar 25mm, Jupiter 8, Industar 61, Jupiter 11,], canonetql17, Himatic7sII

  9. #9

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by writing with light View Post
    Well, I feel that I am not very talented either. But I believe it can be trained. I think you kinda got it right with respect to training yourself to see what your lenses can see.
    There was this exercise that Bryan Peterson gets his students to do. I read this in his book "Learning to see creatively". Its too long for me to describe here, but I suggest that ppl pick up this book to read, esp those who are still starting.
    but somehow, I still feel that something is lacking in a lot of street photographs that I see. Maybe its the kind of photos that I like to see, and that I would love to produce.
    haha, yes, that was where i read that
    Photo Album - Photo Album

  10. #10

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by writing with light View Post
    Lol...I hear you brother. I was actually very put off by his methods. But I must admit that his photos really do give the subject some character. He's got the balls. And I thought he only dared do this in New York, but when I saw some of his other photos from the Magnum agency, I realised that he also did similar things in Japan!
    http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/...Bruce%20Gilden
    what method does he use?
    i like the photographs in this link actually
    Photo Album - Photo Album

  11. #11

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    I guess this 'vision' we talk about will apply to all photographic genres?
    I too am in search of this elusive 'vision'.

    The feelings and emotions that we see when we take the shot, is just that; WE see.
    Only the photographer sees it coz he's right where the moment is. I am sure you have
    experience a day when you saw something and wished that you were holding your camera.
    DAMN! I am sure of that! Haha!

    Transferring these emotions to the actual photo is the hard part.
    This is done by some photographers. Hence we 'feel' their shot.

    My guess is that we 'see' things too late or that we need more time to train ourselves
    to capture emotions that are more 'powerful'. Street is one of my favourite themes, but I have not the chance to really go out and 'think & shoot'.

    But I do know, some of the good shots - you dont have to think too much. Shoot, and if you get it through your gut feeling, it turns out better!
    The sooner you get it, the longer you enjoy it.
    I welcome you @ www.benaw.zenfolio.com

  12. #12

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by writing with light View Post
    I've always felt that composition in street photography is tough. You have to capture the moment, and yet compose it well, e.g following rules of 3rds (just an e.g., I know that in the right conditions, "rules" can be broken) If not, I feel that the photo that comes out will just be another photograph of a person walking by. There are a lot of photos that I see on flickr that somehow lack an impact. I can't quite put my finger on it, and explain it explicitly.
    I know that there are a few of the street photogs here who do it consistently well. Maybe you guys can share on how you managed to achieve such consistency.
    I am not talking about just methodology here like shooting from the hip, but also how you trained yourself to see and capture good street photographs.
    Hope this will spark a lively discussion from those whose passion is street photography.
    Cheers mates!
    I am not an expert in this, but I think using a prime and getting used to the range helps. I was on a 25mm full frame equiv when using a dslr during the early stage of my photography and it took me three months to finally estimate accurately how a frame would look like before raising the camera for a shoot. A wide angle lens will have distortions, the wider it is, the wider you need to estimate your frame. Many of my contacts seem to agree my last batches of photos on my 25mm were my best.

    Now I am on a 28mm on a grd2, I am surprise how much difference 3mm makes. Week 1, and I am missing all kinds of shots with it because I am so used to 25mm. I am now a month into using the 28mm, it starts to feel better, but I still need some time to grow with the range before I can estimate my shots like I did before.

    My advise is to find a good prime, stick with it for a few months and let the range grows into you. Soon you'll see like how the lens would and it'll help in framing spontaneous shots. I recommend a 28mm or 35mm equiv as it's the most flexible range for street shooting. I am on a 28mm for that reason. 25mm sometimes distort a picture too much and suffer in flexibility.

    In the end, it's your ballgame, and your choice to make of course. Good luck.

  13. #13

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by The Dry Box View Post
    I am not an expert in this, but I think using a prime and getting used to the range helps.
    or using a zoom like a prime. the main idea is consistency and previsualisation, i.e. you roughly know what you're going to get when you raise the camera, or without even raising the camera.

  14. #14

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    talking about composition in street photography
    i remember rui palha..

    that guy always makes me wonder..

  15. #15

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    do you guys shoot in continous focusing mode when shooting street?

  16. #16

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by Zaknafein View Post
    hmm, very interesting topic.

    i have been trying to develop this "vision" for quite a while, but either im doing something wrong, practising it the wrong way, not enough practice, or just no talent (is it a talent?).
    I believe somebody famous said that talent is 98% hard work and 2% god given.
    Personally, I believe that if we put in the hard work over a long period of time, we will be amongst the best in the field. The talented ones will be the best of the best. I can settle for just being the best.

    It's a bit like when I was back in secondary school and a tough maths problem has me stumped. I kept thinking hard about it for a few nights and by the end of the week, I will have the answer, just like that. In the same way, if we keep questioning why a photograph looks good and understand the reasons behind it, I believe that after a few hundred photo analysis, it will be second nature to us. However, this is hard work and requires a lot of commitment. Some people achieve this very easily, that's talent, however through hard work, we can achieve similar results.
    Last edited by cimman; 6th October 2008 at 10:09 PM.

  17. #17

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by night86mare View Post
    or using a zoom like a prime. the main idea is consistency and previsualisation, i.e. you roughly know what you're going to get when you raise the camera, or without even raising the camera.
    Yes, that's it. Heh, forgotten that's what I did with my sigma 17-70mm. Lock it at 17mm and roll.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Learn from the best. Take a look at their pictures and disect what makes it "work". Incorporate into your own pictures and slowly develop your own style.

  19. #19

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by milamber View Post
    Learn from the best. Take a look at their pictures and disect what makes it "work". Incorporate into your own pictures and slowly develop your own style.
    Who are the "best"?

    Can you show some images which you took which showed how you incorporated their "best" into yours?

  20. #20

    Default Re: Composition in street photography

    Quote Originally Posted by night86mare View Post
    or using a zoom like a prime. the main idea is consistency and previsualisation, i.e. you roughly know what you're going to get when you raise the camera, or without even raising the camera.
    Quote Originally Posted by The Dry Box View Post
    Yes, that's it. Heh, forgotten that's what I did with my sigma 17-70mm. Lock it at 17mm and roll.
    Hoho, same for me. Mainly at 24mm on my 1.5x cropped body. But sometimes, i do cropped to isolate my subject la.

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