Saturday, 15 February 2014

Street Photography Techniques


I posted a subject for street photographer's that all street photographer's should be implementing into their own work, the technique of layering. As the technique should suggest we are not talking photoshop here, we are talking about layering in the photograph, within the frame.

We use subjects at differing points within the frame to do this layering, so for example by using shapes too, such as circles, ovals, lines and triangles we can make points in the photograph 'pop'.

©Susan Sermoneta 2013
We want the viewer to have an interest in the photograph, and we want the photograph to be a photograph not just a picture. Here is a link to a couple of examples I have shot myself in the examples shown on my gallery page, we can see how shapes and lines play an important part in composition.

Here is another photograph which shows how shapes, lines etc can play an enormous part in street photography. In this shot we see how the NYC Photographer Susan Sermoneta has used the imposed constructed linear lines to frame and shape the photograph, with the subject matter being almost entirely in the lower third of the frame. The colour too has played an important part in the photograph the overhead lamp acting as an anchor point forces the viewer to see the person descending the stairwell in the photograph.


Colour or color depending on which side of the pond you are from, plays an important part in the layering technique street photographer's use today, however before colour was introduced circa early 1930s by Kodak Photographers used monochromatic film, so photographers were careful what they shot and became much more dependent on framing and compositing an image to be able to make a photograph. 

So here is another example of linear photography within street photography not too dissimilar from the  photograph shown above, I have used the linear technique that should make the photograph interesting. 

©David Rothwell Photography 2014
The lines take you the right of the frame, and that is were the main interest lies. This being a monochromatic shot, I have used the framed pictures on the left of the frame to lead you into and around the photograph, the people act as an anchor point to force your eyes back and out of the frame. 

The angle makes the photograph very interesting too, I am shooting from a higher perspective, rather than just a shot from eye level horizon. 

One photographer who I have mentioned before who shoots black & white photography, and uses a particular technique in layering that frames the subjects and makes them 'pop' more effectively. 

Lee Friedlander

A fantastic photographer who developed a very unique style of framing subjects to make his works much more interesting and abstract. His works inspired other photographers including Garry Winogrand

What Friedlander does is to make the photographer become open to suggestion; to interpret the subject and make it his own, and then transcend the medium to make it evolve. Abstract painting had been a movement in the 1930s with surrealist painters like Dali, Picasso and Man Ray.

Lee Friedlander makes the viewer not just look but listen, that is how I perceive his work. The tempo in the composition is often changing, forcing the viewer to move across the frame and learn what is being said, and force you to question what is being conveyed by the photographer.

An exceptional photographer who for the most part enjoyed shooting photographs from the hip, or the car or even a hotel room. Many lessons can be learned form the afore mentioned photographer's their individual styles differ, but the passion for life on the street far outweighs anything shot in the studio.

With Street photography comes the harsh reality that not everyone will like your work, not everyone will understand the message being conveyed or what the photographer wants you to see, so it is important to make your work interesting using various techniques or a combination of those techniques, to do that is view photographer's works at galleries or even better the books they have created themselves.

If you like certain photographer's then take a closer look at their work, how do they frame the works, how do they convey a message, do they use colour? Do they use colour, what shapes, tempo etc.

This is what you should be looking for when viewing other photographer's works, so if you follow photojournalism or street photography, take a closer look at the method they employ.

So if you live in a city have a look what's happening at your local museum or gallery to see what works are currently being exhibited. One thing I almost try to do when shooting street is to keep an eye out for other street photographer's; what are they shooting, etc. I tend to stay away from someone using a telephoto lens such as 55-200mm or 70-300mm this is not what street photography is about.

I have seen some photographer's just using a small compact camera, this I love because it forces you to get in closer. You have to concentrate on framing the subject matter, someone who uses a zoom/telephoto lens just wants to stay away from their subject matter, not get involved and to be honest using that focal length flattens the photograph.

©David Rothwell Photography 2013
It is a bit like being a stalker not very nice at all, using a wide angle forces you to engage with your subject matter, strike up conversation, get in close, they will warm to you.

The example left shows how warming, the subject was she had spotted me, I had actually smiled back and turned around as I passed through them in conversation, I just about face and captured this. The symmetry in the hands is almost identical to her friends in the foreground.

What I like about this photograph is the sudden burst of colour just left of centre, then we have guy just farther left of frame, this is what makes the photograph a little more interesting, he is asking what is going on? This is by all accounts a very tight composition, but that is what street photographers aim for.


So we have touched on briefly an American photographer who used framing to such an extent to make his work more abstract, more out there. Always be on the look out for the strange coincidences of gestures especially the hands. This sort of brings me on to another point, be mindful of your own hands too. 

When using primes it's easy to suddenly play with the aperture ring, or the focusing ring on the lens. Always be alert to sudden jerky movements for example a person passing by, or bumped into by a woman pushing a pram or a child running into your legs. 

I try to use linear objects to frame my subjects or you could try using people themselves for framing and that way you would also be implementing layering into your work.
©David Rothwell Photography 2014

In this example we can see how the person in the foreground forces your eyes to follow the line through the photograph, even the shopping trolleys in the far right of the frame offer the viewer the direction in which to go.

My only complaint about this is how the subjects are stretched across the frame, for myself personally I would have liked this a lot tighter.

So by that lesson we can focus on crowds to capture, post christmas shopping we don't see many crowds out there.

So be wise in what you capture.