This is my brand new 30 day photography challenge, and I want YOU to take part too. For my next 30 posts, I’m going to be providing you with tips on how to take the photos that I’ve listed here, and sharing my own results (and I encourage you to share yours too).
As I complete the project, I will be posting links to the different photos and tips as I complete them, and the days below will turn from black to blue (links). Follow through the links for tips on how to take part yourself.
If you want to take part yourself, then just come over to my Facebook page, Twitter and/or Pinterest, and share your photos with me and the rest of the community. The best photos will be added to the posts, and shared with tens of thousands of people.
That’s all you need to know really, hope you enjoy these different ideas; they will certainly help you to improve your photography.
I was challenged by another photographer/blogger the other week, when he saw that I was shooting from the hip (so to speak), saying that it wasn’t good photography, because I didn’t know what I was taking. I didn’t challenge him on this, but I do happen to disagree, and here’s why.
Firstly, with a bit of experience and practice, the problem of now knowing what you’re going to get starts to clear itself up a bit. When I first started shooting from the hip, I came up with some pretty horrible photos, but as I started to learn what I was doing, and learned from my mistakes when pointing my camera, I came out with some much better better photos.
Part of the reason that I like shooting from the hip so much is because I’m a big fan of candid photography, and shooting from the hip is a great way to go unnoticed. I’m also really starting to enjoy street photography which is influced greatly by where you hold your camera and how you use it.
Here’s how to shoot from the hip.
This is probably the most important rule when it comes to shooting from the hip because it has so many influences on how your images come out. Firstly, it gives you a much wider field of view, so you can capture a lot more into your camera, and be more accurate. You might be tempted to use your 50mm f/1.8, but the chances are that would result in photos which were far too zoomed, where even slight movement at your hip will result in inaccurate photos.
Shooting from the hip is often used to replicate our field of view, so it makes sense to make the photos wide-angle, as it’s similar to how we see. By using a wide angle, you place the viewer in the scene, making them feel like they’re a part of it, which is part of the beauty of shooting from the hip.
Shooting with a wide angle also gives you the ability to shoot at slower speeds if you have to, without having to worry about motion blur. It’s typically said that if you change your focal length to your shutter speed (i.e. 35mm to 1/35 of a second), you can take an blur-free photo, while holding your camera (add an extra 50% to the speed if you’re shooting on a crop sensor). Using this logic, if you’re zoomed in, the slightest movement in your camera will by magnified in the distance, which means that you need a faster shutter speed to produce a blur-free photo.
Part of the fun of using a wide angle lens is that you can change how movement is captured in your camera. When something is close to the side of your frame, it appears to be moving faster than something in the center. Think of it like driving in your car and comparing what you see through your windscreen, to what you see through your side window. Don’t believe me? check out the photo below.
Use a Fast Shutter Speed
Some of the points I made above are summed up in here, because we need faster shutter speed to compensate for motion blur that we capture in our cameras. I typically shoot between 1/250 – 1/500 of a second depending on the conditions I’m in, and how much blur I would like to allow into the photo.
If you’re shooting from the hip, chances are that you’re moving when you’re taking the photo, or the subject is moving at least. When you combine this with improperly holding the camera, the chances for motion blur are high, so you need to crank up your speed to freeze this.
Use a Narrow Aperture & Manually Focus
A narrow aperture allows you to have a much deeper depth of field, which is important when you’re moving and taking photos, as it’s hard to keep the lens in focus. It allows for less light into the lens, but you can always turn up the ISO or use a fast speed film. An aperture of f/8 is really the maximum that you would want to go for, but try to aim for more towards f/11-f/16.
Another handy trick is to manually focus and get into the habit of taking photo at the same point each time. If you set your camera to focus four feet infront of you, and keep practicing taking photos of people four feet infront of you, then you will find that you’ll soon start to learn where you should be pointing your camera at that distance. Failing that, put your camera in autofocus, and set your focus mode to AI Servo/AF-C.
Shoot During the Day
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you’re shooting at a fast shutter speed, and a narrow aperture, then you’re going to need a lot of light to work with. If you’re shooting in dimly lit conditions, or at night, then you’re going to have to worry about your exposure more. Shooting at night just isn’t suitable when you’re shooting from the hip, unless of course you’re using a flash, but that’s another story altogether.
Hold the Camera by the Lens & Don’t look at it
Holding the camera by the lens and not just the grip made a big difference to my photos because it helped me to understand where I was pointing the camera. Holding the lens in your hand makes pointing it much more accurate as you have a better sense of the direction.
Secondly, you’re going to want to avoid looking at the camera, because you will more than likely want to go unnoticed when taking the photo. People follow eye-lines, so if you’re looking down at your camera, then people are going to notice. On the flip-side, if you’re looking off into the distance, but clicking the camera, people are unlikely to notice that you’re taking a photo of them.
Don’t just shoot from your hip
But the article is called shoot from the hip? I know, but I’m not suggesting that you bring the camera up to your eyes either. Bring the camera up to your chest, or rotate it portrait and hang it by your side. Try kneeling down and snapping from close to the ground level.
This is my second YouTube video, and for it, I strapped a video camera to my film camera, and went out shooting a street photography video. You can watch as I take photos around my city, passing through St Patricks Day celebrations, Rugby Games, and an ‘English Defence League’ protest, surround by police officers. You can check out the full album of photos here. The video is in colour, but the photos are on black and white film, using an old(ish) camera I have.
Black and White street photography on film is an artform that still lives on today, even though technology has far surpassed it. I got some photos back fromt the lab today, which were shot on film, and used to capture some street photography. All of the photos that you will see below were taking in the space of three hours. Two hours were spent in London, and one hour was spent in Brighton, which just goes to show that it doesn’t take long to capture good photos.
PSA: Don’t take black and white photos of homeless people. It’s not artsy, it’s cliche, and a little bit demeaning.
Rule number one with street photography is to always carry a camera with you. Even if it’s just your iPhone, it’s better than nothing, because you can’t take a photo of something if you don’t have a camera on you. I was sitting on the tube in London the other day, and for anyone who’s travelled on London public transport, you’ll be familiar with the eery silence which resonates though the carriages, as if talking is socially unacceptable. I wanted to capture the separation between the passengers, while using my wide angle lens to magnify the open space. The angle is quite voyeuristic, which really gives you the feeling that you’re part of the photo. Classic London for me.
Hundreds of thousands of people pass up and down these escalators every day, so it was only a matter of time before someone caught me with my camera. I purposefully waited until someone was looking at me when I took this photo, so that I could create some dynamic tension for the eyes which naturally want to look straight up the escalator, but are drawn to the eyes on the right side of the photo. Dynamic tension is a great tool for street photography, and you can read more about it here.
Try to look for a frame within a frame when you’re exploring the streets. I spotted this couple standing in the entrance way to Victoria Station, and the natural frame was obvious. I took my time taking this photo too, but they were too preoccupied to notice that I was taking a photo of them. The black and white aspect of this photo really brings you back in time, as it become much harder to put an age on the buses and buildings in the background, which is part of the appeal with the film too.
Mirrors always make for interesting subjects because you can take a photo of other people, without them really even noticing. As I was taking this photo, my train was arriving, so I had to be quick. You can see the children behind me running for the train, and my slightly longer exposure captures this, while providing me with enough light to make the exposure. That’s not all that’s in the photo though, there’s the mirror itself and the tiles and camera, which surround it. These two contrasting elements allow your eyes to explore for longer, as there are many more directions to travel in: in the photo, to the left, the right, and even backwards.
Shooting from the hip is a great way to capture unexpected photos, and shooting on film really builds up the excitement to see what you’ve captured. As I was walking, I zoomed all the way out on my camera, and brought it up to the chest. I set my exposure, and then fired. As you can see, the further out of the photo you go, the more movement there is, and this mimics your eyes. It really feels as though you’re a part of the photo, like you’re moving through the scene. The is probably my favourite photo of the whole set, but I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether you like it or not.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different angles. I was walking under a train viaduct near my house, and the first photo I took was symmetrical, looking through the arch which is off to the right of this photo. On my walk back, I had come to the conclusion that this was probably a little bit boring. And it was. There are much more places for the eyes to explore in this photo, whether they’re trying to look down the road, completing the arch that is separated by the pillar, following the line of the lamppost, or simply looking through the arches.
You’ll notice that a lot of these photo have been shot at very wide angles, and I’ve actually used a 17-40mm f/4L, and the reason for this is not only because you can capture more in the photos, but because you can take photos of people without them realising that they’re the subject. This has happened time and time again in these photos, and it’s pretty clear when. Not only that, but our field of view is naturally very wide, so if you want to make it look like a point-of-view shot, it pays to have a wide angle.
If you’ve read my tutorial on horizons, then you’ll be very familiar with the advantages to placing the horizon high or low in the frame, and I’ve opted for high here. It’s not technically street photography here, but I wanted to capture where people had been, with the footsteps that have passed along the sand. Again, the black and white help provides and element of age to the photo.
You don’t have to get up close and personal with everyone to make good street photography. Step back, and embrace other aspects of your scene instead. I actually stood here waiting and fiddling with my camera, pretending to do something until the lady on the left got close enough. Her vertical shape, neatly mirrors that of the lamppost of the right, and the lines across the car park tie them both together. Your framing usually has to be very quick, but every now and then, you can take your time and capture the image just how you want it.
Be quick with your photo taking. I saw this photo as I was travelling up the escalator on the London Underground, but this wasn’t actually how I wanted to capture it. I wanted to see people spread out across the photo, with posters in between, going from edge to edge. This provides a feeling of repetition and allows the brain to assume that it carries on indefinitely. I came into two problems when taking this photo. Firstly, and rather classically, I had left the lens cap on, and secondly, I had the camera on lock, which meant it was effectively off. Be ready.
Keep your eyes pealed for what’s going on around you, and capture the moments of other people. It’s not often that people take photos of other people taking photos, and that’s exactly what I chose to do here. London Victoria Station, a popular spot for most tourists to pass through, there is always going to be people around who are preoccupied, and won’t notice when you take their photo. Busy locations such as this make for a great place to capture plenty of street photography.
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