Your thoughts on VIEWING street shots: from the hip or eye level?

Discussion in 'Fuji X100 Forum' started by rpavich, Aug 26, 2013.

  1. rpavich

    rpavich SC Veteran

    Jul 17, 2013
    As I look through lots of street images I realized that many many of them are shot "from the hip" with that particular vantage point...generally "looking up".

    I realized that people do this so others won't realize that they are taking images of them.

    I'd like to ask; what is your preference to VIEW....from the hip shots or eye level (or much lower) shots?

    Not what you like to TAKE or why you take shots a certain way...but aesthetically; do you like belly button-looking up shots or more eye level shots?
  2. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    Real Name:
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Depends on the shot and how obvious the vantage point is. If its very OBVIOUSLY shot from the hip, the vantage point just has to WORK with the photo. If it doesn't, I find it distracting. If it does, it can make it better. But if its not obvious where it was shot from, it doesn't matter one way or the other.

    Just to illustrate, here's an old one of mine (when I was first experimenting with the technique) that's obviously from the hip, but the shot wouldn't work otherwise:

    <a href="" title="Reprocessed by ramboorider1, on Flickr">[​IMG]"1024" height="576" alt="Reprocessed"></a>

    Here's one I might have preferred if I'd taken it from closer to eye level (or maybe not - wouldn't have had the sign in there the same way), but I'd have never gotten the shot and I like it enough as is.

    <a href="" title="Philly 2-1-12 50 by ramboorider1, on Flickr">[​IMG]"1024" height="1024" alt="Philly 2-1-12 50"></a>

    And here are a couple you'd probably never think about where they were taken from, but both were from the hip:

    <a href="" title="DSCF0313 by ramboorider1, on Flickr">[​IMG]"1024" height="690" alt="DSCF0313"></a>

    <a href="" title="DSCF2966 by ramboorider1, on Flickr">[​IMG]"1024" height="768" alt="DSCF2966"></a>

    I don't think I've ever tried to answer a question around here where my reply didn't begin with "it depends", because it almost always does...

  3. coreyzev

    coreyzev SC Rookie

    Aug 25, 2013
    Boston, MA, USA
    All following comments are simply imho, in my humble opinion.

    Personally, I don't think I've ever noticed my self preferring one or the other. I did a quick search to see if I had any kind of preference after all, and I really think it's going to consistently be about the composition of the shot. If your subjects are human, hip-shots tend to give you a more even look at the whole body, as opposed to meeting them at the eye first. At eye level it feels much more like I'm interacting with a person foremost in the image, at hip level or from below, I feel like I'm observing a scene.

    in hind-sight, I think I prefer hip shots, but for the effect they give. Find me similar composition from any angle, and I'm sure I'll be impressed.

    after another quick (and literal) search, I think I underestimated how low the hip can actually be. I think I'm more of a chest man, apparently.
  4. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Real Name:
    Ray....that #1 and #4 are two of my all-time faves of yours. Also, I agree that camera height is determined subject and framing requirements in many shots. If the shot doesn't call for a specific height, I'd tend towards from the chest or from the hip. Often, from the hip can be too low if the subject is close.
  5. snkenai

    snkenai SC All-Pro

    Oct 5, 2010
    kenai, AK
    Real Name:
    Stephen Noel
    One thought: Wide angle, low shots tend to not be very complimentary, to the person being shot, especially "up close". I demonstrated this to my sister, who always tilts her head up for photos, trying to stretch the neck and "hide", the tendency to developing double chin. I shot her from high angle with head at neutral angle, and she exclaimed, "you've taken ten years off"! But on the street, I tend to like the lower angle shots, if not too exaggerated.
  6. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Real Name:
    I'm with your sister with the neck stretch!!! :)
  7. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Real Name:
    In my opinion, since I know how the 'hip level' shots were taken, I feel it's a bit of a cop out. But then again, I'd rather see an image than not, and if that's the only way to get them, so be it.

    But the kind of street photography that draws me in, are usually instances where the photographer is more involved with the subjects, and it's not just a 'grab and run' kind of deal. I understand that in some parts of the world people would rather not be photographed at all, which makes things pretty tough for an artist to create art. I certainly don't subscribe to the Bruce Gilden style of aggressive interaction though.
  8. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    Real Name:
    I think I generally prefer shots from about shoulder height - gives you a feeling of being in the thick of things, without feeling claustrophobic.
    An alternative explanation may be that I'm relatively short (at least in the Netherlands 1.77m / 5'10" is short-ish for a guy in his 20s, but then we do have the tallest people in the world I believe), so one could argue it feels natural for me to be slightly below eye level!
  9. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    As long as it is an interesting picture it really does not matter.
  10. Richard

    Richard SC Top Veteran

    Feb 1, 2013
    Marlow, UK
    I've seen a lot of "street" photographs where you get the distinct impression that someone has just walked through a crowd taking multiple pictures from the hip, with no real thought to the choice of subjects or to composition. Then they've kept and presented those images where an interesting face is visible and in focus. This type of hip-level photograph is often taken upwards on the slant, with far too much sky and the subject chopped off awkwardly at the waist and wearing either a slightly startled expression if they've seen the camera, or staring purposefully out of shot if they haven't. I did a bit of that stuff myself when I was a teenager, so I know the routine and I'm afraid I don't much like the results.

    Not all street photography is like that, of course, and I agree that Ray's shots 1 and 4 above are great.

  11. coreyzev

    coreyzev SC Rookie

    Aug 25, 2013
    Boston, MA, USA
    And not all street photography done in that manner is so haphazard as you suggest. This was back in 2007, when I was a teenager in Photo 101, but I dont think I was clicking off at random. Pretty sure I only took home one or two dozen exposures.


    I wonder if I still have those RAWs somewhere.... I'd certainly edit them differently now.
    For that class, I also captured non-candid street shots. Asking people I didn't know to stand in front of a back drop. But I'm not sure that's relevant.
  12. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    I shoot mostly from about mid-torso level with a 50mm equivalent lens, compose and shoot with a fold-out touchscreen, and am about 6'4" tall so I think that I tend to avoid the "looking directly straight up people's noses" POV that shooting blind from the hip with a wide-angle lens tends to create.
  13. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    I find a kind of drama is introduced when you shoot from the hip as this photo demonstrates. This technique would not work in all settings but that is the fun of being the photographer, finding the right angle at which to take the shot. And sometimes.. just snagging it in the wild no matter how you get it.
  14. john m flores

    john m flores SC All-Pro

    Aug 13, 2012
    Exactly. I'm not a from-the-hip shooter myself, but sometimes I'll get down on one knee to compose a street shot. Whatever it takes to. It's the results that matter most.
  15. Briar

    Briar SC All-Pro

    Oct 27, 2010
    Real Name:
    I always shoot street scenes with my camera held in plain sight at shoulder level. Folk see the camera and tend to relax because I'm not looking through the viewfinder or screen to frame the shot. Sometimes they look away but most times they don't. I guess I have an innocent look, non threatening.

    At five foot one hip shots just don't work for me. I'd end up shooting bits of the human anatomy you just don't want to see!

    As to how I like them from other shooters. Well I'm all about content. If it works then I don't care how the photographer held the camera before he/she made the shot.
  16. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott SC All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY

    I really, REALLY like the bottom shot.

    I like the parallism between the couple on the storefront and the couple on the street, the composition is excellent IMHO (leading lines, rule of thirds), and the shot just makes me want to look at it several times and smile.

    I think it is easily the best street shot I have seen in quite a while.

    Let me get this straight: are you saying you shot this from the hip? How did you compose it and is it uncropped? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Cheers, Jock
  17. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    Real Name:
    you should be able to figure it out...
    Hi Jock,

    First, thank you. And yeah, I shot it from the hip. I've just practiced at this enough that I can generally know what's gonna be within my frame at around 28mm (which this was shot with), shooting from the hip. I actually do pretty well at anything from about 24-35mm, although I miss more at 35. And I've done a bit even wider than 24 but 24 is about as wide as I like to shoot with on the street. So I compose in my mind and shoot from the hip (or actually more like from the belly). I occasionally miss, but very rarely anymore, although I do end up with a lot of shots without feet, but the feet generally aren't the most interesting part of the people and a lot of the time I'm going for something closer and more intimate than this. But the larger scene IS the shot with this one so I kept my distance as I saw it develop. And I certainly crop when necessary, although usually just a bit, not radically. This shot is cropped, but just from 3:2 down to 4:3 to get rid of an extraneous guy walking behind the main couple. Here's the full shot, untouched, and then the processed version. This was a Fuji X10 jpeg and I quite obviously processed it pretty heavily. Some would find it cartoonish and overdone, but the processing fit the mood of the shot, as I saw it...

    <a href="" title="&lt;untitled&gt; by ramboorider1, on Flickr">[​IMG]"1024" height="683" alt="&lt;untitled&gt;"></a>

    <a href="" title="DSCF2966 by ramboorider1, on Flickr">[​IMG]"1024" height="768" alt="DSCF2966"></a>

    But please understand that, as much as I feel I have this technique pretty well down, street shooting is like baseball, mostly a game of failure. Even when I've shot with a viewfinder and knew EXACTLY what was in the frame, my rate of keepers is not high. I don't just use a shotgun approach and shoot everything I see - I try to watch for developing moments or juxtapositions like this one, or something actually happening or an obvious interaction between people. But even with that level of concentration and attention and anticipation, most shots don't come up on the screen looking like what I was seeing in my mind's eye when I took them. So they never see the light of day. But I keep doing it because I usually get just enough shots I like from a few hours walking the streets to make it feel worth it. And I enjoy the heck out of the process. But, as in baseball, a .300 hitter is doing VERY well. But unlike baseball, a .100 hitter is probably doing well enough! And every once in a while it all comes together and you really nail one. Luck plays a huge part in any really good street shot, but if you're not out there shooting a fair amount with whatever technique works for you, you're not gonna get lucky, so you sort of make your own luck in a sense.

  18. rpavich

    rpavich SC Veteran

    Jul 17, 2013
    Thanks for sharing your wisdom Ray....much appreciated.