NZPhotographer Issue 19, May 2019

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Rules and Tips for Street

Photography

When I began photographing, street

photography books by Andre Kertesz,

Gary Winogrand, Diane Arbus, Henri

Cartier Bresson, and Wellington photographer

Peter Black opened my eyes to viewing

familiar environs in a whole new light. Like the

first music you really like, it kinda stays with

you.

THE RULES OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY

Supposedly there are rules to street

photography, such as never shoot with

anything longer than a standard lens, or never

crop your images. I suspect these were made

up by lesser photographers from observations

of the greats. So, while there’s some sense

behind them, they are there to be broken. But

there is one golden rule that you should not

break: Treat others as one would like others to

treat oneself.

That is to say; if you’re going to do street

photography you will need to develop a set

of personal ethics around it. Experience and

changing social influence may cause your

ethical stance to shift over time, demanding

frequent reflection and discussion with

peers. This is part-and-parcel of being a

photographer, but if you worry about it too

much you’ll seize up and stop taking photos

altogether. Finding a personal balance is key.

Although there was street photography

before Henri Cartier Bresson, the French artistphotographer

really defined the genre in the

1930s. His concept known as The Decisive

Moment still stands as one of the cornerstones

of photography.

“To me, photography is the simultaneous

recognition, in a fraction of a second, of

the significance of an event as well as of

a precise organisation of forms which give

that event its proper expression.” – Henri

Cartier-Bresson.

Reading further about the meanings and

interpretations of the Decisive Moment can

by James Gilberd

make your head spin. It’s far better to spend

the time looking at HCB’s photos and shooting

your own but put simply The Decisive Moment

means the point in time when all elements in

the scene combine in the best way.

STREET PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS

Have your camera prepared so that you can

quickly put it to your eye and shoot without

mucking about. With manual exposure, you

should pre-set your aperture and shutter

speed for the light conditions by metering

off the road or another mid-tone. Keep this

setting until the light changes. Somewhere

around 1/250s at f8 is generally useful. Some

photographers pre-focus their lens manually

for extra speed. Your overexposure warning

display should be switched on.

Don’t be afraid to set the ISO high enough to

get a fast shutter speed. Noise doesn’t matter

here; getting the photo does. Keep your

camera switched on and the lens cap off.

Use single shot mode as shooting bursts is like

trout fishing with a stick of dynamite rather

than a rod and fly! If you’re a chronic overshooter,

try using a 35mm film camera. It’s

cool, challenging but fun, and will help you

train your eye and shoot more sparingly. If you

spy a potential photo, wait around a bit for

something to happen.

Viewpoint Is Vital. When you spot a potential

photograph, decide where you need to be

for the best view and get there with your

camera ready to shoot (provided it’s safe and

isn’t going to upset anyone).

Don’t encumber yourself with unnecessary

camera gear and other baggage. You’ll

attract attention and struggle to move

around. One smallish camera and a prime

lens or wide-standard zoom are all you need.

Always use a lens hood for flare reduction

and lens protection. A UV filter is also a good

idea.

6 NZPhotographer

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