Seeking advice: London street shots

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by pniev, Oct 5, 2013.

  1. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    Many of you helped me realise how important street photography is. So I tried a few shots when i was in London (near Borough Market; several posted at Fujixspot as well). I did not have much time so I could not go out and look for subjects. I also wasn't very secretive. I would be very thankful if you can share your critique and advice. Don't hesitate to be blunt! I'd like to understand what makes a good shot in the streets.

    # 1 - Happy on the bridge

    #2 - Unhappy on the bridge

    #3 - Exploring Borough Market

    #4 - Inspecting what others bought

    #5 - Now what? (sorry for blurriness)

    #6 - What to eat?

    #8 - Drinks after work

    #9 - going home 1

    #10 - going home 2

    #11 - going home 3

    #12 - going home 4

    #13 - Exercise?
    • Like Like x 8
  2. serhan

    serhan SC All-Pro

    May 7, 2011
    Nice shots. I am not a street photo expert but closer shots w/ face expressions work for me better as street shots.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. christilou

    christilou SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    I'm not good at this genre either but for my eye the main fault is that quite a few of them lack any definite focus. I think in number 9, Going Home, you might have been better to try and focus on the man on the right's stillness amongst the bustle of moving figures. There's something about the Drinks After Work shot that I like, perhaps just the atmosphere you've created :) I find photographing strangers extremely difficult and admire anyone who is able to get out there and do just that!
    • Like Like x 2
  4. Petach

    Petach SC All-Pro

    Oct 22, 2011
    UK, Essex
    Real Name:
    Peter Tachauer
    I am out in 5 mins for dinner in London.....will come back to you later on this.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. PapaDee

    PapaDee SC Regular

    Apr 18, 2011
    Springfield, Virginia USA
    Real Name:
    I'm not in any way an expert or even a good novice street shooter but for some reason I really like #1. Maybe it is the smiles.
    • Like Like x 2
  6. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    Real Name:
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Me too. I think it's because #1 tells sort of a story and is a real moment between the subjects.

    Most of the rest fall into the "people walking down the street" category that lot's of people complain about with street photography. I don't look at it as a problem though - I look at it as part of the evolution of a street shooter.

    There's enough going on technically trying to figure out how to do street photography that the vast majority of street photographers start off doing a lot of this as they work out the technical part of the exercise, as they "learn to play the instrument" as it were. At first, it's the "wow, these people are in focus and in the frame and basically well exposed" thing - thrilled just to get some that work technically, because I'll bet plenty didn't. And then, once you really get comfortable with the technique, so you don't really have to think about how to play the instrument, you can start to focus on the MUSIC, or in this case, the photography. You start being more patient, looking for human moments developing, looking for an interesting composition and hope someone interesting enters the scene, looking for juxtapositions, etc, etc, etc. More shots like your first, where something is happening and the people are interacting! It takes time and practice, but if you enjoy the process, it'll come. And if you don't, you might give up on it before it starts to come, but that's OK too - its not for everyone.

    But my primary advice is just stay at it if you like it. You'll figure out what works for you and what doesn't, in terms of technique and also sometimes equipment. And you'll start getting a higher percentage of more interesting shots and a few really good ones.

    BTW, what makes you think street photography is "important"? I do it because its fun. If it was important, that would take a lot of the fun out of it for me...

    • Like Like x 5
  7. Yeats

    Yeats SC All-Pro

    Jul 31, 2012
    New Jersey, USA
    Real Name:
    I'm not a street shooter - in fact, I generally dislike the genre. I'd like to point out the 2 photos I really like, take it for what it's worth (and consider the source!) :biggrin:

    #1. You've captured a happy "moment" with good enough subject isolation and the background in focus enough for context. Just looking at that picture made me smile.

    #9. Lots of lines and squares to entertain the eye. The dark suit/white shirt cuts a fairly stark oblique line across the frame, so the shot looks really good to me.

    Most of the others look too random-ish for my taste, but then again I'm not a street-shooter, so I'm probably missing something, or lots of things. I think, though, that this is just a part of the process of learning the genre.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. TraamisVOS

    TraamisVOS SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2010
    Melboune, Australia
    Photo #1 is excellent in my view. Composition not bad at all, but the subject matter of three people genuinely having fun really comes through in a spontaneous unplanned shot.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. stillshunter

    stillshunter Super Moderator Emeritus

    Nov 5, 2010
    Down Under
    Real Name:
    Great advice Ray. You're a gentleman! :thumbup:
    • Like Like x 2
  10. Petach

    Petach SC All-Pro

    Oct 22, 2011
    UK, Essex
    Real Name:
    Peter Tachauer
    Ray says pretty much all, yep. The only additions for me are:

    1. It is in the eye and mind of the shooter, the shooters interpretation of what a particular scene means
    2. I look for expression, fashion, emotion, juxtaposition, irony etc (List is endless)
    3. Shoot for you, not for anyone else. If anyone else likes it.....count it as a bonus.
    4. I concur with Ray about shots of people just walking....and I still do it. I am just a baby at it, so for me I count it as practise, I know that I post far fewer street shots than I used to, so I must be maturing? :0)
    • Like Like x 3
  11. retow

    retow SC All-Pro

    Jul 24, 2010
    1. Do they tell a story?
    2. Do they capture a "decisive moment"?
    3. Do they make the viewer feel like a participant?

    If it is "NO" to all three questions, it`s a delete. For the first shot, question 1 can be answered with a "it`s sort of a story, but a pretty mundane one". The rest, I`m afraid, does not pass my simple test. I don`t know whether this will make you feel better, but most of my shots don`t pass my test either.:smile: Just practice, practice and practice and if you get one real keeper out of 100 call it a success.
    • Like Like x 2
  12. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    Thanks everyone. Great advice and highly, highly appreciated! I definitely can work with the very concrete hints and tips. If I will succeed is another matter. ;-)

    Ray: regarding the “importance”. I used the word almost unconsciously. Probably because of a prior thread about my feelings about street photography. While I initially considered street shooting as spying into other people’s life, the various comments taught me that I was plain wrong. There is much more to the genre than the paparazzi-style of shooting. I still love doing nature photography more (than people photography), but in 50 years from now no one will look back to old nature photos (unless taken by the Ansel Adams’s of the world, of course) but they will be interested to learn how people lived and what they did. And thats what people - and perhaps - architecture - photography does. So besides the fun” factor (which is, like you, my reason for trying this) there is also “importance” attached to (good and great) photos taken. People like yourself and others are building a legacy for future generations. These photos say something about the subjects and the photographer. Does that make sense?

    Retow: I don’t feel bad at all. I've learned in my work that a good report takes about 7 iterations to mature into something good (I’m afraid my photography needs more iterations) and learned to contain my (automatic) threat response towards critique because I my work could only improve. Your questions are a very valuable guideline.

    Pete: Your remark “shoot for you” really resonates. Each of our brains are wired differently and interpret things differently when we see things. For one reason or another I like photos of people moving. It makes me wonder where they’re going and where they’re coming from. Probably in these cases the context (being on the bridge with some spectacular views and people not noticing it because they’re so used to it) helped. But that’s not noticeable in the end-result.

    Some of my goals are:
    • pay attention to focusing (I should have used zone focusing);
    • learn to determine what the story/moment/music is of subject and context;
    • assess the viewer-perspective and differentiate between my personal experience (which is linked to the context of the photo) and what other people see;
    • practice, practice, practice. delete, delete, delete.

    The first opportunity will be on Oct. 12 when I’ll participate in the Fuji x-m1 roadshow trip. The theme is travel and people photography.

    Let me end by saying THANK YOU again!


    BTW: did anyone see streetshooter’s photos of his two angels? Fantastic, isn’t it?
  13. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Real Name:
    Also not a street photographer.

    I'm with Yeats. #1 is good, #9 is potentially good. You could try cropping #9 - drop the lower part and right hand side and focus on the structure of the group of people in the black/white combinations.

    #1 works for me because you have given it some space. A lot of contemporary street photography is too claustrophobic. That may be the style but look back at the some of the great photographers of the past (Brassai, Kertesz, Cartier-Bresson, L'Artigue etc) and you will see that people were often quite a small element in the frame. What was important was not just the people but people in their urban environment. Close is fine, but don't get too close.

    Also, you may be fan of black and white but just because it's called street photography doesn't mean it has to be black and white. Perhaps you should try shooting (or processing) in colour as well.

    Good luck.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    Jun 10, 2013
    A good reason to buy some books of the old masters!
    Thanks for your advice.
  15. TheRubySusan

    TheRubySusan SC Top Veteran

    Sep 2, 2013
    Henry, IL
    Real Name:
    I'm just coming to appreciate (or to want to appreciate!) street photography too so I read this thread with great interest. I've just floundered to the idea of street photography as informal documentation, so I was happy to see you bring that out in your reply. These are my faves: I like #1 best, both because you caught a not only a moment of happiness, but one I can relate to as a sometime tourist! I like #9 because when I'm fortunate enough to travel in England, I usually end up in spots like that, so it brings me a sense of place. And I like all the bicycles from the documentary angle.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Real Name:
    I came across some interesting advice on shooting street - "Don't make the shot unless/until there are three things of interest in the frame". Sometimes its just the matter of waiting.
    • Like Like x 2
  17. colonel

    colonel SC Regular

    Apr 25, 2013
    Street is a funny thing. Everyone has different definitions. I like to have pictures of people doing their regular things but in a place context. e.g. an interesting landmark, or a flower seller in his stall, e.g.:




    Some people call really gritty portraits street, I don't, but each to his own ....

    Its all good stuff

    BTW I like your #1 the best and agree the comments here
    There needs to be something interesting/focal about the shot
    • Like Like x 3