For those who might wonder about how I approach street photography – or for those considering exploring the world of street photography themselves – I thought I might write a lighthearted look at a typical street photography shoot.
‘Typical’ might not be the best word to use in this situation, as if there’s one think you can predict about street photography it’s that it’s unpredictable.
That said, I try to follow patterns and routines so that, for the most part, I can be in control of at least a few of the aspects of my shots and my environment.
I’m not too precious to admit that there are times that I have left the house without a SD card in my camera. Pro-tip: It’s pretty difficult to shoot without a memory card. I’m lucky in that I live in the city itself, so if I can’t find another card in my bag of tricks it’s not a huge hassle to return home and pick one up.
That said, if you’re commuting to the city to shoot, this could be a giant pain in the arse.For this reason, the first thing I do is a quick gear check: Camera, lens, battery charge, spare battery, SD card? Good to go.
The awkward elevator conversation
When I leave the apartment, I do so with my camera in hand – using a wrist strap. For me, this has been the best way to carry my camera. It also has the added bonus of allowing me to meet new friends in the elevator of my building.
Many times – not every time, but often enough – someone will get in the lift after me, look at my camera and say ‘Oh, off to take some photos are you?’ I’m not sure what else I could be doing – perhaps it’s Halloween and my costume is of a guy in his thirties who is off to take some photos?
Visiting the spot in Southbank in which everyone gives you death-eyes
There is a spot not far from my building that, come hell or high water, I always have to visit. It’s a new-ish apartment development and they have a cool little vertical garden as part of the building facade. I have a theory that this could make a good photo backdrop and therefore try a shot here every chance I get. No success yet – I’m still trying.
The other amazing feature of this unique geography is that, without fail, raising a camera to your face and taking a photo here will make someone want to shank you.
I’m not sure what’s going on – perhaps it’s the convergence of ley lines, perhaps they’ve built over an ancient Indian burial ground (and the ancient Indians really, really hated photographers). Either way, it’s either fascinating or terrifying depending on how far you’ve come along the ‘dealing with people’s reactions to street photography’ spectrum.
Walk the circuit
To me, there’s something about getting super-familiar with an area that really helps my street photography. I know in the past I’ve suggested that mixing things up if you’re stuck in a rut, but I’m a creature of routine – I love getting so familiar with a place that you know every inch of it back to front.
I normally take a tour along Southgate, cross over the river and check out Flinders Street Station, cut through Degraves Street and swing by Centre Place.
That will be my starting point. I’ll revisit the same spots over and over, looking for slight differences or changes in lighting conditions. I’ll take similar shots with similar angles and try them out with different subjects. For me, this is a great learning experience as I can compare different efforts and slowly improve.
Explore somewhere new
After the circuit is complete, I like to explore – normally this involves committing to a particular direction and just walking. It’s not completely aimless – mostly I am for a place where people are going to be. I often keep an eye out for inner-city festivals or events, some of which can lead to great photos. Alternatively, sometimes I just head for a part of the city I haven’t been to in a while.
Finally, don’t forget to make new friends!
Street photography can very extremely social – you’ll be making new friends before you know it! Sure, some of these ‘friends’ won’t be quite what you’re used to, but regardless – it’s going to make life that little bit more interesting.
My favorite new-friend experience was early one Sunday morning on Queen Street. I saw a guy on the other side of the road – nice clean background, trendy hat on a jaunty angle – I figured ‘Hell, it can’t hurt to ask for a photo’. The resulting conversation went like this:
“Hi there. I was just wondering – can I take a photo?”
“A photo? Of me?”
“Yeah, I’m a photographer and I think you’d be a pretty good subject – if you’d rather not, then that’s fine.”
“Oh ok, that’s fine. A photo of me… go for it!”
I raise my camera to my face…
“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!”
“I’LL FUCKING KILL YOU!!!”
And that was when I left.
If you’re considering getting into street photography, don’t wait – get out there and start shooting! It’s a great hobby and a fantastic way to experience photography. Yes, you will have some interesting experiences – and the occasional unsettling one – but it’s all worth it!
This post was originally written in an earlier version of this blog, way back in 2014.