Tips for street photography in SG


Mark Ong

New Member
Sep 2, 2015
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Singapore
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#1
Hi all! Have just taken up photography more seriously about 9 months back and just joined the forum. Apart from the usual photography during travelling, I have a huge passion for street photography, therefore the beeline to this particular forum category.

I've made it a point to have a camera in hand at least once every fortnight and just walk the streets to find interesting people and places to shoot. However, I tend to get pretty disappointed at the end of the day when reviewing my shots (and that's maybe only 10 - 15 shots during a 3hr walk). My personal interest is towards people and moments, as opposed to animals and architecture.

Would like solicit some tips from experienced streettogs here, especially for shooting in SG:

  1. Where are your favorite spots?
  2. Any preference for time of day? (golden hour, especially dawn doesn't really inspire me for the lack of people)
  3. Do you have a theme or goal before you head out, or just snap anything when the opportunity arises?
  4. Do you interact with your subjects at all?

These are some of the few questions at the top of my mind. Will post more if the discussion keeps going :)
 

Aug 25, 2014
269
1
18
SG
#2
Hi all! Have just taken up photography more seriously about 9 months back and just joined the forum. Apart from the usual photography during travelling, I have a huge passion for street photography, therefore the beeline to this particular forum category.

I've made it a point to have a camera in hand at least once every fortnight and just walk the streets to find interesting people and places to shoot. However, I tend to get pretty disappointed at the end of the day when reviewing my shots (and that's maybe only 10 - 15 shots during a 3hr walk). My personal interest is towards people and moments, as opposed to animals and architecture.

Would like solicit some tips from experienced streettogs here, especially for shooting in SG:

  1. Where are your favorite spots?
  2. Any preference for time of day? (golden hour, especially dawn doesn't really inspire me for the lack of people)
  3. Do you have a theme or goal before you head out, or just snap anything when the opportunity arises?
  4. Do you interact with your subjects at all?

These are some of the few questions at the top of my mind. Will post more if the discussion keeps going :)
From experience, Singaporean not as friendly as you think. Some will ask u delete their photo if they caught u sniping them .
 

Mark Ong

New Member
Sep 2, 2015
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Singapore
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#3
That's been my experience as well. I've tried to talk to people to make them understand why I would be taking their photos but many are still apprehensive.
 

Carlzsa850

New Member
Jul 9, 2011
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#4
If I caught you trying to take my photos openly, I will call police to report you harass me. If I caught you trying to take my photos secretly, I will definitely call police and get passerbys to hold you down before police come. Let police go and investigate you and confiscate your camera and go into your house to confiscate your computer. Sure can find porn! How I know if you take upskirts of people. I hate 'street photographers', what a lousy losers theme to choose. Don't you have something better to do? Pervs! :thumbsd:

Want to take pic of pretty girl pay for model shoot! No money dont harass people on the street!
 

davidc34

New Member
Apr 14, 2014
50
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Singapore
#5
I've found being a large ang moh helps in not being confronted :)

There are a few ways to make people hesitate about confronting you, one is to shoot them but pretend you are shooting THROUGH them, at a subject beyond. If they spot you and maybe look as though they are going to come over, ignore them completely and act like you are now trying to reshoot to get them out of the way. If they DO come over, act innocent and say "oh sorry! I was aiming at subject XYZ" to defuse the situation.

I've also seen some good tips about getting close-up candidates, though not tried myself. One trick is to get close to your subject and do something so they notice you and your camera - photograph something else right beside them, they will see you and then go back to ignoring you. Unless they are very nervous you will likely be able to shoot them close up and avoid any confrontation :)

A good trick for shooting people who then ask for the images to be deleted is to use an eye-fi or wireless card which auto backs up to your phone/the cloud. That way you can delete from the camera and keep them happy but you still have your image.

Locations are really variable in Singapore I've found. I've taken great street shots on Orchard Road sometimes yet other times it's like a graveyard. Some general advice is to consider the kind of people you'll find in any given area. e.g. MBS will mainly be tourists, Orchard is local shoppers (dare I say mostly women too, at least in my experience), yet head away from the main areas and you rapidly get into day-to-day singaporeans and their daily lives. Think about what you'd like to shoot and think what kind of area might give you the best chances.

Hope it helps :)
 

Octarine

Moderator
Staff member
Jan 3, 2008
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Pasir Ris
#6
If I caught you trying to take my photos openly, I will call police to report you harass me. If I caught you trying to take my photos secretly, I will definitely call police and get passerbys to hold you down before police come. Let police go and investigate you and confiscate your camera and go into your house to confiscate your computer. Sure can find porn! How I know if you take upskirts of people. I hate 'street photographers', what a lousy losers theme to choose. Don't you have something better to do? Pervs! :thumbsd:

Want to take pic of pretty girl pay for model shoot! No money dont harass people on the street!
I strongly suggest you make yourself familiar with the topic and have a look at such work. Secondly, please mind your words and manners as long as you know nothing about the thread starter and his work. A word of caution.
Last but not least: it helps to read up about the term 'public space' and the legal implications. Your opinion is not in line with the Singapore Laws. I hope you will not require a judge's decision to learn that.
 

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Mark Ong

New Member
Sep 2, 2015
22
0
0
Singapore
www.flickr.com
#7
I've found being a large ang moh helps in not being confronted :)

There are a few ways to make people hesitate about confronting you, one is to shoot them but pretend you are shooting THROUGH them, at a subject beyond. If they spot you and maybe look as though they are going to come over, ignore them completely and act like you are now trying to reshoot to get them out of the way. If they DO come over, act innocent and say "oh sorry! I was aiming at subject XYZ" to defuse the situation.

I've also seen some good tips about getting close-up candidates, though not tried myself. One trick is to get close to your subject and do something so they notice you and your camera - photograph something else right beside them, they will see you and then go back to ignoring you. Unless they are very nervous you will likely be able to shoot them close up and avoid any confrontation :)

A good trick for shooting people who then ask for the images to be deleted is to use an eye-fi or wireless card which auto backs up to your phone/the cloud. That way you can delete from the camera and keep them happy but you still have your image.

Locations are really variable in Singapore I've found. I've taken great street shots on Orchard Road sometimes yet other times it's like a graveyard. Some general advice is to consider the kind of people you'll find in any given area. e.g. MBS will mainly be tourists, Orchard is local shoppers (dare I say mostly women too, at least in my experience), yet head away from the main areas and you rapidly get into day-to-day singaporeans and their daily lives. Think about what you'd like to shoot and think what kind of area might give you the best chances.

Hope it helps :)
Thanks for the great tips David!

If someone does notice me shooting them, I usually just nod and smile, then walk away. Have not had a confrontation as yet, thankfully.

As for locations, I haven't had much luck in Orchard Road, largely because many many many people seem to be staring at their mobile, be it while they are walking or sitting. I really like street portraiture and have been scouting around for places where there are interesting looking people. I like the Bugis and Haji Lane areas. Was considering other "younger" locations like Scape / Orchard Cineleisure and will make some time to head down and check it out.
 

catchlights

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Staff member
Sep 27, 2004
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Punggol, Singapore
www.foto-u.com
#8
If I caught you trying to take my photos openly, I will call police to report you harass me. If I caught you trying to take my photos secretly, I will definitely call police and get passerbys to hold you down before police come. Let police go and investigate you and confiscate your camera and go into your house to confiscate your computer. Sure can find porn! How I know if you take upskirts of people. I hate 'street photographers', what a lousy losers theme to choose. Don't you have something better to do? Pervs! :thumbsd:

Want to take pic of pretty girl pay for model shoot! No money dont harass people on the street!

mind your language, name calling and hostile toward another member it is not acceptable here.
 

wolfton

New Member
Jun 21, 2010
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#9
If I caught you trying to take my photos openly, I will call police to report you harass me. If I caught you trying to take my photos secretly, I will definitely call police and get passerbys to hold you down before police come. Let police go and investigate you and confiscate your camera and go into your house to confiscate your computer. Sure can find porn! How I know if you take upskirts of people. I hate 'street photographers', what a lousy losers theme to choose. Don't you have something better to do? Pervs! :thumbsd:

Want to take pic of pretty girl pay for model shoot! No money dont harass people on the street!
Initially I feel very offended by this comment, but a couple of hours later (which is now), I think this is also a good wake up call for people who shoot on the street. Are you practicing street photography or just taking random pictures of pretty gals sneakily (i.e, hip shot, telephoto or tethering shots), without anything else happening in the picture?
 

wolfton

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Jun 21, 2010
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#10
As for locations, I haven't had much luck in Orchard Road, largely because many many many people seem to be staring at their mobile, be it while they are walking or sitting.
This is a very good starting point for someone relatively new, keep to this philosophy of avoid shooting people staring on cellphone regardless of where you shoot when out in the street shooting, unless there is really an extremely interesting thing happening in and around the subject (in the universe of "people on cellphone" shots, this is extremely rare) :thumbsup:

  1. Where are your favorite spots?
  2. Any preference for time of day? (golden hour, especially dawn doesn't really inspire me for the lack of people)
  3. Do you have a theme or goal before you head out, or just snap anything when the opportunity arises?
  4. Do you interact with your subjects at all?
Some short answers:

1. Personal preference will be places where I can find local people of my generation, so tend to gravitate towards central Singapore, else it will be in any heartland. (Including my residential area) Frankly, it could be just anywhere.

2. I prefer morning and evening when the sun is low, but end of the day it does not really matter. Moments, when it comes, do not choose a time. Just remember to check camera settings though, to cater for change in lighting condition and be on "on guard" mode when out on dedicated shooting.

3. It depends on which type of genre you are interested in. Street portraiture, documentary photography or just pure candid street photography. First 2 you can do some preparation first, and generally the photog roughly knows what he wants to shoot when at location. For example, the current GE rallies. Many photogs already know what they want to go for before even reaching the venue. So at location, the task at hand will be finding for the right spot and wait for that moment to happen. You can also try this method for the next week of campaigning. For the 3rd type, no amount of preparation before hand will gaurantee your trip out of the house for photography will be a successful one, and is the most difficult type, so these type of photogs will just go out with an open mind and remaining optimistic while at the street.

4. Before the shutter go off, not at all. After clicking, occasionally yes (1-2% of the time).
 

Aug 14, 2012
432
3
18
west coast
#12
Since i post stories on streets n candids, i thought i'll share my personal experience.

1.Where are your favorite spots?

Most of my shots were taken at events.
And do it with khakis as you are committed to leaving home vs staying home.

Thanks Macaroni and Wolfton! Some of my stories would not be there if not for them.

Here your presence is expected, you blend in.
Besides, more interesting things happen here.

2.Any preference for time of day? (golden hour, especially dawn doesn't really inspire me for the lack of people)
Doesn't matter to me, i don't chase the light in fact i prefer the night.

3.Do you have a theme or goal before you head out, or just snap anything when the opportunity arises?

Sometimes i have a general idea, but most of the time i start with a blank slate and just follow my instincts. I would say curiosity is my guiding light.
Look around you, look for something different.
The ideas will evolve as you shoot one scene after another.

4.Do you interact with your subjects at all?
I sometimes help them take a group photo.
I am still working on interacting with the ladies but for some strange reason it is not happening. Any tip?

One last tip, don't be fixated by what, where and how.
Be curious about the enviroment. Anything can happen anywhere, even in the darkest of place. But it is also good to have a consistent theme at the back of your head if you are doing a series.
And i prefer colour to black and white.

In the darkest of places, i shot this image last Sunday while exploring a little corner where the old pre war Punggol zoo was.
Shot with my sigma dp1m.

Visitor of the night.


Hope that helps.

In fact i am hoping to shoot at a boring P A P rally tonight at ToaPayoh stadium. Boring is good, stability is boring. Give me boring anytime.
 

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sjackal

Senior Member
Jul 9, 2008
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#13
I strongly suggest you make yourself familiar with the topic and have a look at such work. Secondly, please mind your words and manners as long as you know nothing about the thread starter and his work. A word of caution.
Last but not least: it helps to read up about the term 'public space' and the legal implications. Your opinion is not in line with the Singapore Laws. I hope you will not require a judge's decision to learn that.
mind your language, name calling and hostile toward another member it is not acceptable here.
Initially I feel very offended by this comment, but a couple of hours later (which is now), I think this is also a good wake up call for people who shoot on the street. Are you practicing street photography or just taking random pictures of pretty gals sneakily (i.e, hip shot, telephoto or tethering shots), without anything else happening in the picture?
Actually thats the reality of things in the real world. We must understand not everyone is a photographer nor interested or obliged to find out what is street photography. This is a very probably reaction, and a natural one, from anyone on the street who caught you photographing them and not happy with it.
 

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joh

Member
Jul 5, 2003
272
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54
northern singapore
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#14
This most times is the result of intrusion of ones personal space as one member puts. If your asked to delete them images, just obliged willingly and apologized. You could show him/her the picture and perhaps share it so he or she gets it too. Explain why it is a nice picture and what it represents or what u think of it and maybe after all that u gain a friend. Sometimes ya, not all the time. Hey smile is the international ice breaker.
 

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Octarine

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Jan 3, 2008
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#15
Actually thats the reality of things in the real world. We must understand not everyone is a photographer nor interested or obliged to find out what is street photography. This is a very probably reaction, and a natural one, from anyone on the street who caught you photographing them and not happy with it.
There is a difference between not being a photographer and suspecting (or even accusing someone of) some shady / questionable intentions behind a camera. These reactions are not necessarily probable, a lot depends on the cultural context and other (fear) factors).
With that I suggest we return back to TS original question. The debate 'photographer versus pervert' is not new and also this time it won't find any general conclusion.
 

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sjackal

Senior Member
Jul 9, 2008
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#16
There is a difference between not being a photographer and suspecting (or even accusing someone of) some shady / questionable intentions behind a camera. These reactions are not necessarily probable, a lot depends on the cultural context and other (fear) factors).
With that I suggest we return back to TS original question. The debate 'photographer versus pervert' is not new and also this time it won't find any general conclusion.

Yeah, sometimes you will bump into a crazy overreacting person. They will give the photographer a hard time.
 

Mark Ong

New Member
Sep 2, 2015
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Singapore
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#17
Be brave...be like this guy... :D
Actually, I'm a huge fan of Bruce Gilden and he's the one who actually inspired me to take up photography and street portraiture in general. Don't have permission to post a link yet but check out his shooting style on New York streets on YouTube.
 

wolfton

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Jun 21, 2010
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#18
I think one of the biggest problem in Singapore is our perception of what actually is street photography. Not many people talk about it, and I ain't really sure why that is so. Many times, when questions like what TS has brought up is asked in forum or any social media, my first immediate thought is "this person is shooting portrait of people, again."

I believe camera manufacturers here are partly to blame. Many a times, they are showing the consumers in brochures, their social media sites and showrooms (big hanging pictures) nice, sharp portrait of a person on the street (some of which are posed even, others might even be creamily bokehlicious) and labeling these as street photography and use them to market their gears. So when most people who are new go onto the street, their perception of a good street photo is one where it is taken at arms length and have a face in sharp focus can liao. I can tell you, go take a look at the pics of people from our region (S.E.A especially) who keep telling you to get close get close, what type of subject they are shooting. I can tell you, many of these people, if you place them in any part of our town area,they will become minimalists. Being close is not a determinant of whether a street photo is successful or not. It is what is in that picture that matters. The ability to shoot it close is a bonus.

I think it will be good for anyone interested in doing street photography to make some effort to study about the subject more. Slowly you will find that street photography is more of an art of observation rather than walking up to any pretty woman or old uncle and taking a portrait of him or her. It is being said to be the most difficult genre in photography for a reason.

Take a look through all the photos in the links below:

http://gracielamagnoni.com/#/project-a-foreign-insiders-view-of-singaporians-2012--ongoing

http://petapixel.com/2015/01/02/self-taught-chinese-street-photographer-tao-liu-eye-peculiar-moments/

http://invisiblephotographer.asia/2013/08/29/streetphotographyasiaaward2013winners/

http://www.miamistreetphotographyfestival.org/#!2014-finalists/ce0d

Lastly this is by Newghost, the moderator of clubsnap:

http://www.japancamerahunter.com/2012/06/featured-photographer-newghost/

The above are really successful street photography, almost impossible to be repeated. These are pictures which I wished I had taken them myself. If anyone noticed, there is hardly any portrait (consisting of only a single person in the picture) in any of the them.

So ask yourself, why worry about getting scolded by a stranger for taking a close up portrait of him/her without the result being worth the scolding?
 

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Mark Ong

New Member
Sep 2, 2015
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Singapore
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#19
Initially I feel very offended by this comment, but a couple of hours later (which is now), I think this is also a good wake up call for people who shoot on the street. Are you practicing street photography or just taking random pictures of pretty gals sneakily (i.e, hip shot, telephoto or tethering shots), without anything else happening in the picture?
I personally don't like shooting from the hip due to the inability to control much in terms of composition. Not being in control kind of puts me off. I tend to be rather close to my subjects (probably 2 - 3 meters max) as I've been using mainly a 35mm and a 50mm prime.
 

Mark Ong

New Member
Sep 2, 2015
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0
Singapore
www.flickr.com
#20
Being close is not a determinant of whether a street photo is successful or not. It is what is in that picture that matters. The ability to shoot it close is a bonus.
This is true and Henri Cartier Bresson is a testament to that. The problem with street photography is that though it is a genre all on its own, its also very broad within and open to many interpretations.
 

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