Monday, 24 February 2014

Street Photography Techniques

Colour features in a lot street photography, since the colour medium began in the early 1930s, photographers were not quick to accept that quickly, however three main photographers began to use this medium and lead the way as pioneers of that format. 

©Saul Leiter
Photographers like of those pioneering the medium, William Eggleston, Fred Herzog and Saul Leiter. Yes, there were others too that would eventually follow in their footsteps. However these main three were pushing the envelope on composition, that would incorporate abstract, linear, shapes, texture and in the case of Eggleston the subject matter itself, would become his landmark identifier. 

In the case of Leiter, we see a lot of the subject matter being a singularity, a single colour influence such as his work ‘Pink Umbrella’ one of a series of works centred on an inanimate object sometimes within a pattern perspective or as a stand-alone piece. Leiter went on to produce some of his outstanding works from an abstract perspective, they really are inspiring works of art, that make you feel connected to the subject matter.

Looking at a person standing outside a steamy window during the rainfall, or a traffic signal or even a person sitting in a car, as Eggleston has also captured someone in that similar style.
All three photographers have created profound timeless pieces, one such piece I wanted to share with you was this incredible mass of colour created by Fred Herzog. 

The reason for this is simply because to me, the work is like no other photographer I have seen before, the colour and the layering involved really does make you think, laterally. The works are like puzzles, the reason for this during this era; 1950s, 60s most photographers who were shooting models were still using monochromatic film, for advertising purposes. 

Colour features in magazines were quite pricey, and if this was not in your budget then black and white photography was still the way to go unless, colour was called for. Hence the style of photography of Eggleston, the subjects may not have been composed in such a dramatic aspect like a typical model shoot. 

These were undoubtedly the reasons why these colour aficionados were truly inspiring, masters of colour photography, they quite literally saturated you in colour.
©Fred Herzog / Equinox Gallery
The layers of orange in this composition are resplendent of a sunburst that is so striking, the colour literally jumps out at you. The other aspect to the photograph is how Herzog leads your eye into the photograph, the anchor point is the orange store point and the triangle imposed using the windows, then your eyes move down and towards the fore of the photograph. 

The blue store front, forces your eyes to the left, incredible viewing but this is how Herzog wants you to view the photograph. 

Intelligent composition, I am sure you'll agree. Though the photograph does not depict every colour of the rainbow, it does cover a broad range, and this is what keeps your interest in the work. 

It takes me back to those early days of colour flip charts you remember as a child with the numbers, this is how I perceive the work. 

It is well worth remembering that point too, it is important to know how a photograph makes you or others feel. Eggleston is known taking or rather making photographs of the banal. Most of his photographs have a deep understanding of his origin, his place of being and his very existence. 

For an outsider such as myself or you who is not native to the area of Memphis, then the place may seem rather boring, that is obvious. However for someone who thrives on the unoriginal style of photography, then photographing the obvious is beautifully banal

What I mean by that statement is be mindful of your own style and technique, develop your own style; and do so with the utmost confidence. After all we are all on a learning curve, there are no rosettes for following someone elses' style, so work on your own, be influenced by these past masters and create something anew which is original in execution, as it is with the passion you have to create it. 

©David Rothwell Photography
The image here is something which has been photographed by myself and yet done with the passion, and influence of all three afore mentioned photographers. That is to say it has been captured with the belief that this is art.  The photograph shows a damp day, road works, vibrant colour of red, and amidst the dark and dank interior of the truck, we see the lush green colour of artificial turf and then the punctum in all of this is the yellow glow of the petals of the Daffodils placed atop the artificial turf. 

Why was this? I spotted this scene walking down towards another objective, and from the corner of my peripheral vision; I glanced this deep yellow of those petals. Whilst the empty fluid container mirrors the white graffiti signage in the deep red wall, this was a mass of beautiful colour. 

I had learned that when exclusively shooting in black and white, then when you begin to notice that certain colours, will make for a better monochromatic photograph, the colours begin to 'pop'.  I shot this on digital using my Canon EOS 60D not my usual camera for shooting street photography granted, though I was happy to get the shot by all accounts. 

I feel this photograph makes a bold statement to probably many critics out there, it looks like a boring photograph, yet it is quite banal, and by that definition it is original in its concept, I took one shot of this scene, no more was needed. 

That being said was there any other way of improving this photograph? Not from my perspective, the vehicle was about to move, I only had one chance to get this right, the photograph is very much in focus, the exposure is maybe half a stop under for what it should be. 

That works for me though, otherwise the dark and dank truck interior being too bright, may detract from the bright yellow petals, and thus the emphasis on those flowers is lost. 

So whenever you are out walking the street, keep your eyes open for the less exciting, banal shots. They may seem like a boring photograph, but you never know, that is what the art world may be crying out for. 

Until the next time...


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.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Master Photographers

Saul Leiter was one of many early photographers who was also a painter, he learned his compositional craft at the easel with a brush and knife. Colleagues later urging him to get into photography, he was like William Eggleston a colourist.

He extensively used black & white film when he first got into photography and for most of his commercial work used that medium. However for much of his personal work, he shows an interest in colour. He uses the colour with such intellect that the photographs seemingly pop out like a montage, some offer a surreal view of the world, and give the viewer an abstract perspective.

Subtle nuances of red and yellow feature highly in his works, some of the works show shop fronts beings used as reflectors to create such pieces. Something of which inspired Lee Friedlander with his unique framing technique, though most of his works are extensively shot in monochrome.

Sadly this great past master of photography passed away, a week shy of his ninetieth birthday last November (2013). A year before his death though a film maker namely Tomas Leach created a warm and intimate view into this fascinating photographer, the film was titled In No Great Hurry and shows the aspiring artist how this photographer operated, his vision, and how his works inform and set a major bench mark for aspiring colourists using that medium of film.

I have read the reviews of the film, and I was very impressed in the way that the film has been received.

Reviews from New York Times and the Jewish Week online, so read the reviews of the film, I am sure you will be impressed by the films reception.

©Saul Leiter
For now though let's discuss more of his work, Leiter had his own unique perspective on Manhattan. It shows greatly how this photographer was thinking literally outside the box, one such photograph is that most people will relate to is that of the singular colour of red in the photograph 'Red Umbrella' Circa 1958.  It shows amazing skill with colour to be able to single out a scene and compose a truly inspirational piece which is timeless.

Leiter had learnt how to isolate colour in this medium and to frame the photograph with the colour. This piece is a fantastic example of his early colour works, however when you move forward the pieces became much more avant garde, and the framing much more abstract.

The works would feature much more complex compositional points of interest; working with linear, shapes, curves and depth of field. Something of which some street photographers try to imitate with people, not so much colour but certainly using people in interesting positions to anchor a part of the frame.

This is what every street photographer should be aiming for, I myself should be doing this to such a great extent. I like playing with shapes, and perhaps this is one project I should begin to work on. Playing with shapes is certainly one aspect of Saul Leiter, to learn from.

I have posted a link to the pages of interest, so that you too can investigate and hopefully learn from and inject that learning curve into your own interpretation of street photography. One thing I have learned is that everyone is different, we all have our own unique way of seeing the world.

Saul Leiter has his perspective, and created magnificent and intriguing timeless pieces for us all to enjoy for generations to come.

Until the next time, bye for now.


Saturday, 8 February 2014

500px Prime and the unacceptable 30% commission rate

Welcome once again to another interesting post on A Click A Day, many photographer's out there who may be starting out in this competitive but fickle world of art and reproduction, are wondering where best to upload my photographic works, what are the benefits of the sites out there?

I know some of you use Photoshelter to publish your work some of you use the site because of the SEO tools and their Beam platform. SEO tools are important for search engine optimisation to market your works out there by using certain key phrases, so that people such as illustrators or graphic designers who don't have the time to produce a photograph can search through a plethora of photographs that cover certain subject matter, and if that work has a certain working license such as creative commons, can be used for those purposes by another.

The other aspect about Photoshelter is they offer a secure cloud storage, in context this is a great idea however, in practice it is not. The reason why is how secure is their storage, are the servers they use always going to run okay? Are they backed up on a disc elsewhere thousands of miles away in a secret shed in an Antarctica? Probably not but you get the idea, I always use a back-up drive for my works, to be sure.


I have used Redbubble myself for some time, I have sold works through the site, have I seen any commission? No not at all, the reason for this is the item purchased, were bought as a small item rather than the photographic work itself. Which quite frankly pissed me off a bit, someone likes the work, but they do not want to commit to purchasing a bigger piece. One that could fill say a 16"x20" frame would be nice. The commission is like Getty Images fairly low roughly 20-30 percent commission.  

The Pros

What I do like about Redbubble is the fact that you can turn your work into illustration which can be placed upon other media, such as a T-shirt, a Hoodie great for this time of year. They also make stickers, which to be honest I couldn't see my street works being sold as a sticker. I like things big, in fact the bigger the better. That is why when I print my stuff I use proper photographic paper, it is the only way to make a work that is great become much better. 

Presentation is key in this business, so if the work is presented in such a style that I make an investment of $50 - $250 to get the work printed I want a greater return on my investment. My investment is key to my success, which brings me to another point of view and another website community. 

The Cons

A great photo community should be a creative hub, one that defines itself by sharing ideas, intellect and passion for the art. One that offers great advice to up and coming artists and one that should stick together and fight for what they believe in. 

The site I am referring to is 500px don't get me wrong it is a large hub of creativity featuring some of the worlds best unknown photographers, though some do very well from it. 
Recently 500px decided to launch a new way of purchasing / selling photographic works on the site, they opted to give this new service a title Prime. Not too sure if this in relation to priming the user for another service they could be launching at a later date or if this is transformer based, if you pardon the pun. 

In reality though it does seem the latter, and like some gargantuan mechanical fist, laden with the very negative news of the hypocritical rate of commission for selling your photographs of offering the user 30% commission just smacks of disrespect to the very users, for which the site should be truly thankful to its success. Have decided to throw down a gauntlet, that gauntlet though has been met with some very strong opposition (myself included). 

I have decided to post a link to the site and the comments, if you are a member you can get involved and post your comment too. Comment on this

If you would like to go farther you can get in touch with Dustin on the site: 500px/Prime 

Photographers are not here to only receive 30% commission of their work, this is wrong on so many levels. Which does lead me to the point of how and why Magnum Photos was set up by those past master photographers, who put up a fight against the editors who were cropping their works for publication. So the message in their respective photographs would be misconstrued, or the interpretation was wrong. 

Magnum photos was set up for that very purpose, by photographers for photographers, it may be once again, that we now find the 'digital set' perhaps taking stock of what they want from the photography world, and how the media should be used. 

Until the next time,