Saturday, August 27, 2011

Street Photography for Beginners - Compose Like a Master

We are all now masters of our cameras, and it has truly now become a tool that enhances our ability to make art.  It is time to begin working on our second required skill for improving our street photography.  Remember while doing this to continue following the golden rule, Don't Shoot Street Photography.

If you spend some time looking at the masters of street photography images, like Henri Cartier Bresson's, they all have one thing in common; their photographs are compositional masterpieces.

Composition is often the most overlooked skill in street photography, where photographers focus more on capturing the "decisive moment", but without strong composition a photograph will an excellent captured moment will still not pop out of the page. 

Street photography requires the photographer to have the ability to make a strong composition in a fraction of a second; it almost must be second nature to the street photographer.

In order to gain this "sixth sense" of photography and have composition become second nature you must study composition and practice.  This will be a life long task that will always require you to be learning, practicing, and refining your compositional skills. 

This is a very big task to take on, so in order to not become overwhelmed break the elements of composition down into single elements.  This way you can focus on each one individually. Go out each time and only focus on one element of composition.  For example, spend an entire day working on lines.  Focus on looking for lines everywhere, you will be surprised how abundant they are.

As you practice each element of composition more and more they will begin to come a lot more naturally as you look at a potential photograph, slowly becoming second nature.

In our next post we will continue moving along our journey towards becoming better at street photography by looking at our next skill.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Street Photography for Beginners - Become a Master

In my last post I shared my golden rule on becoming a better street photographer; Don't Shoot Street Photography.  I know this seems a little backwards but trust me on this, ignore your urges to attempt to capture street photographs and focus on the required skills.  You will have plenty of time in the future to do as much street photography as you like but for now lets focus on the basics.

The first skill required for becoming a better street photographer is a simple one:  LEARN AND MASTER YOUR CAMERA

Now although this seems like a very simple task, most photographers don't spend nearly enough time on this skill, if any time at all.

Your first task in mastering this skill is simple; read your camera's manual.  I am not talking about skimming through it, but seriously sitting down and learning you camera. 

This is important because you need to know you camera's capabilities.  Also, by doing this you will be able to set you camera up in a manner that works best with how you work.

Set your camera up in with a certain configuration and then go test it out.  Change any specific that don't make sense with how you work until you can function and make changes on the fly with no problems.

Once your camera is all set-up, it is time to master your camera.  To do this you want to learn exactly how your camera functions at its different settings.

Go out and pick a stationary target to take pictures of and perform 3 tasks.

1. Alter your ISO settings - by shooting the same subject at all the different ISO settings on your camera you will be able to see what your camera's low light capabilities are.  It will allow you to see what level of grain and noise comes with each setting, and what your maximum threshold is.

2. Alter your Aperture settings - open your aperture as wide as it goes and then proceed to shoot a picture at increasing full exposure stops.  This will well you learn the depth of field capabilities of your lens and sharpness. 

Once you have done this exercise once, do it again but this time shoot your camera into frontlit sunlight.  This will allow you to see how your lens performs in direct sun and what type of flares you will get

3. Alter you shutter speed - set your camera to shutter priority and begin at 1/125s and decrease your shutter speeds by full stops of exposure.  By doing this task you will learn your hand holding capabilities.

These tasks might seem trivial and meaningless but they are such an important foundation to build.  When you are out shooting street photography you need to be able to seamlessly transition between ISO, aperture, and shutter speeds to get the look you like.  If you haven't spent the time learning what all these settings look like, you won't know what changes to make when you are moving on the fly

In the next post we will continue examining the skills required for improving your street photography.

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