If you are new to the genre of street photography or want to give it a try, then below I will give you tips on choice of equipment and technique that you may find useful.
Lets start with your choice of camera: the good news is that any one of the Fujifilm range will make an excellent street camera. They are all comparatively small and light so ideal for lugging around for long periods at a time. Of course some have features that will help novice street photographers more than others. By this I mean those fitted with articulated LCD screens such as the X-T series or the X70. Why is this important? Well if the main fear you have that stops you doing or enjoying street photography, is that of being spotted by your subject when you raise your camera to your eye, then a tilting LCD is your answer. It enables you to shoot with the camera at waist level, so appearing that you are merely adjusting the camera and not actually taking a picture. Personally I still think it’s a shame that Fujifilm doesn’t fit the X-Pro’s and the X100’s with tilting LCD screens.
Lens choice: If you are using the X100 or X70 then of course you can skip this section as you are mostly stuck with the lens welded onto your camera. Although both models have the ability to fit lens convertors which change the focal length, they do however do this at the expense of more weight and cost. If you have a body that does allow you to change lenses, then you are now spoilt for choice thanks to the excellent Fujinon line-up. See my article on lenses for street photography for advice on which to choose. However if you can’t be bothered to read it then I suggest you start with either the 23mm f2 or the 35mm f2 lenses which both offer superb sharpness, small form factor and light-weight at very reasonable prices.
Wear comfortable shoes! Street photography often entails a lot of walking, so anything that could spoil your enjoyment of the day should be avoided. Similarly make sure your clothing is warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer. Don’t forget a bottle of water and sun cream in the heat of the summer!
Make sure you have at least one spare fully charged battery with you, as mirrorless cameras notoriously drain their batteries fast.
Have a large empty memory card, or even carry a spare or two. Perhaps obvious but easily overlooked. Nothing worse than running out of memory space when you are enjoying your day on the streets.
So where to start for your first day out? Well I recommend somewhere busy, full of people. So if you live in a city or live near one as I do, as in my case that being London, then perfect. Particularly if you go to the tourist areas, as tourists will generally be wandering around snapping on their cameras, so you won’t stand out from the crowd wielding yours. People will just assume you’re another tourist. Failing that, then street markets are also a good place to practice, as they are generally busy with the stallholders being busy serving customers and the customers busy browsing and buying. They may not make the most exciting photographs but it will help you overcome any fear you may have of photographing people unawares.
If you have a fear that bringing the camera to your eye will mean that you get spotted, then try shooting from the hip. This takes practice to avoid “cutting peoples heads off” as obviously you cannot see through the viewfinder. But if you stick to a fixed prime lens and preferably 18 or 23mm lenses, you will soon learn to judge more accurately what the camera is seeing. Of course if you own one of the Fujis with a tilting LCD then the job becomes a hundred times easier as you can look down and see exactly what is being recorded. Your subject when using this method will just assume that you are adjusting the camera and not actually taking a picture. This technique works even better if you own the X70 or X-T20 with their touch screen LCD’s as you don’t even have to press the shutter to take a picture, just touch the screen!
If like me you prefer to compose through the viewfinder, then a couple of methods to be more inconspicuous are:
a) pretend to photograph something above them and then as you bring the camera down fire off the shutter
b) if you see someone walking along that looks interesting, point your camera ahead of them and wait until they walk into frame. Sometimes this doesn’t work because people stop to allow you to take a picture before they arrive at your point, not realising of course that they were going to be the subject!
One other question that I get asked a lot is about is that is it even legal to take candid photographs of people. Well the answer is that in most countries yes and definitely so in the UK. If you are an iPhone user then you can take advantage of a free app called ‘PhotoRights’ that lists in depth the law in around 10 countries. So it’s definitely worth downloading. Sadly as far as I know it is not available for Android users. Failing that then simply ask at a local police station where hopefully they will be able to answer you.
Do bear in mind that some public places are actually privately owned e.g train stations. However as a street photographer we have the advantage that we never use tripods, so lessening the chance of being spotted or stopped by an official.
One other tip is to get some business cards made that identify you as a street photographer. Use these if you get spotted taking the photo by handing one to the subject and saying that if they email you, you will happily send them a copy of their photo. It will mean that you look like a professional rather than just a random snapper.
Finally the other question I get asked is that, is it ok to publish street photography without the person in the pictures permission? The answer is yes if it’s what’s called for ‘editorial use’ only. In other words it can be used to accompany an article or printed in a book or displayed at an exhibition, but not in an advertisement that promotes a service or product. In this case you would need to have a signed model release form from the subject.
So I hope the above will help you along your way into enjoying the art of street photography and if you are ever in the UK then why not book me for a street photography 1-2-1. (Shameless plug!) In a future article I will give tips on what to photograph.