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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