40 Street Photography Tips from Brutal Self Critiquing – Part I
No one could tear apart my street photography more than I could…if they did I would probably want to drive a stake through my soul. For some reason, when the brutal critiquing comes from me, it doesn’t hurt…at all. Yet, the lessons still remain. Throughout this two part series I’ll list over 40 tips that might just help you next time you’re out shooting.
Once I got 5 rolls of film developed (at thedarkroom.com), which accumulated over about two months in Waikiki, I finally had some visual feedback of how my street photography was progressing. I wasn’t too disappointed, as I know this genre is new to me, but I realized I still have a lot to learn. Street photography is labeled as one of the most difficult genre’s to pursue, which is one of the main reasons it has peaked my interest so profoundly (shoot with a film camera and the difficulty is multiplied by it’s simplicity/limits). Everything is moving and changing and you only have a split second to capture that moment in time. People watching was always considered a fun time in my eyes, but being able to capture these people while creating a story and apply design techniques?? And you wonder why I say I’m addicted.
Brutally Critique Yourself
As I looked over the 180+ images, I started to brutally critique myself. This is a normal process for me. Inside my head I hear lashings like, “Man Tavis, why don’t you pay attention!!” This is probably normal for any artist trying to perfect their craft. After I looked at the images and let them marinate in my mind, I decided to write down all of the things I could work on. I guess I could pat myself on the back and talk about the good things, but I want to learn how I can improve…not stroke my ego. So, don’t be afraid to be brutally honest with yourself. Your picture sucks, so what. Other people shouldn’t say that about your work, but you can. Admit that there are things that could be improved, learn from them, then apply it in a more positive manner next time.
Tips and Keepers
The tips below are accompanied by images that I consider “keepers.” Whether they are keepers or not is up to time…will they stand the test of time.
1. f/16, ISO 1600, 1/1000 is about 1 stop too bright for sunny days. Maybe I can only push my film 1 stop? Push to 800 ISO?
This is me being concerned about the limits of my film cameras. The Canon Canonet QL GIII’s max aperture is f/16, 1/500. So, when I shoot with a film speed of 400 and I use the “Sunny 16 Rule” (see Day 216) I’m unable to push my film (see note below on pushing film). My Minolta SRT 202 will max out at f/22, 1/1000, so it’s capable of pushing Kodak Portra 400 by two stops. So, when we look at the first note I took, we know I’m shooting a bit over exposed anyway because according to the “Sunny 16 Rule” the ISO is suppose to match the shutter speed. Hence the 1 stop too bright.
Note: Pushing film creates a desirable aesthetic look in the final developed image (see video on Day 291)
2. BW looks very muddy in darker, under exposed settings – most of these didn’t even turn out, so why waste the film?
3. If I see a subject, don’t take the picture just because they are unique. You have to create a story with the background elements.
4. Using f/16 with a crap composition is amateur looking, especially if the focus is off and the background has no point of interest.
5. You hesitate for the best shot, and if it doesn’t fit the way you want you take the shot anyway. But this “last chance” photo always ends up being crap, so don’t waste the film.
6. 1/500 isn’t fast enough to freeze the subject in bright sun. There’s still a little motion blur.
7. With bw, form and geometry play a huge role, even more than color.
8. Concentrate on separating the shapes and forms. You continually forget this and have subjects overlapping.
9. Remember to squint to see the contrasting areas and GAC (see Day 27) when working with extreme exposure differences in the same scene. Especially with bw.
10. Subjects against the ocean create nice FGR (see Day 21).
11. Get close to what interests you. Fill the grid! (see Day 83)
12. Push the limits you set for yourself when getting close to the subject. Get in there, get closer, you won’t die!
13. If the colors aren’t meshing together a unique subject won’t be strong enough to create a remarkable image.
14. If shooting color, go for the best possible outcome. Light, color, composition/geometry, subject/story, gesture/movement
15. Don’t hesitate. If you see a unique moment it won’t be there when you build up the courage to capture it 10 seconds later.
16. Afraid of being busted? Stay put with the camera to your face, act like you are taking a picture behind your subject.
17. Focus on form when shooting into the sun.
18. Think, really think before you click. Especially when you have time.
19. Knowing composition, you know what you are looking for, so “working the scene” never pays off. It just wastes film. Be a sniper, select your shots with precision.
20. Work on your horizon line, it’s tilted too often.
What do’s/dont’s have you learned from self critiquing your photography? Please share them below, I’d love to hear!