How to Improve your Street Photography by Ignoring the Details
When you walk about in the city, do you sometimes see moments that would make for a perfect photo, if only you had a camera in your hand? Yes, me too. In fact… all of the time.
Sure, my iPhone is always right there in my pocket as I move throughout New York City, and I often grab for it to capture a fleeting image right in front of me. It’s all about how fast you can get off a couple shots before the scene shifts and the opportunity evaporates. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve missed over the years that were taken just a few seconds too late.
Use a Camera Strap to Speed Up your Response
Wearing your camera around your neck can trim away critical seconds, as you don’t have pull out your camera.
I recently bought a strap made by Peak Design (Slide Lite) for my Panasonic Lumix LX10. I got it for my family’s trip to Grand Canyon and the famous mule ride we took along the rim.
The strap was originally a one-use purchase. Why would I ever want to ruin the small form factor of my compact camera by attaching a bulky strap to it? But then I tried an experiment and wore the camera during one of my trips into New York City. And I quickly realized that strap was my ticket to better street photography.
Be Ready for the Photo
Discarding the concern that I would look like a tourist, I’ve now worn my camera several times walking uptown from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to visit my father. And let me tell you, having my camera right there near my hand is a game changer.
If you wonder why you may see any number of people walking about the city with cameras in their hands or about their necks, I think they’re all waiting for the next photo to appear. And they intend to be ready!
Point and Press
In my ongoing exploration of street photography, I’ve also been trying out an alternate shooting strategy. It’s simply to proactively point my camera at a potential scene as I walk by. Before I actually see anything worth capturing, I press the shutter a few times, move on and hope for the best. It’s all about playing the odds that the camera captured an image I didn’t have time to spot and process.
It’s about meeting a moment and reviewing it later to see if there’s actually any visual interest in it.
Happily, this technique has yielded unexpected success.
Photo Finish at the Track
My father likes to tell a story from the 1970’s when he practiced his own amateur photography with his old SLR camera. He was at Yonkers Raceway and had a seat up close near the finish line. As the horses crossed by in a flash, he simply squeezed his shutter button to burst through his 36-photo film roll.
Later, when he picked up his developed pictures from the photo store, he quickly sifted through the group. He saw a bunch of useless mushy blurs… all except for the last photo. It was perfect. It was like a shot you’d see on the sports page of the New York Post.
My father met the moment, pointed in the right direction, and his camera did the rest.
Your Speed Factor
Whether you see a moment or anticipate one, snapping your photo as quickly as possible is the key factor to better street photography. Plus, it really doesn’t matter what you see. It’s what your camera captures.
So, you might want to ignore more of the details and focus most of your attention on getting your camera going and its general position. Keep it simple. There’s often not more time for much else. You probably won’t know if you got ‘the shot’ until you review it later.
I’m still very much a student of this art form. That said, here are a few examples from my recent walks in Manhattan.