street photography

How to be brave and photograph people

How to be brave and photograph people

We're taught how to make our portrait subjects relax and act naturally in front of the camera, but how can photographers feel more confident when they're photographing people?

Capture Tower Hamlets

Frame 6 - waiting

Tower Hamlets. London Borough. Home to the Tower of London, Canary Wharf, and what is traditionally regarded as the East End. Did you know that it took its name from being the shambling conglomeration of hamlets that surrounded and serviced William the Bastard’s imposing castle to the north of the Thames? (Now can’t you just tell I’m a historian by training? Don’t worry, lesson’s over.) It’s also a gem for street photography. And the council is somehow managing to encourage people to get out there and have a go at it.

Tower Hamlets council is looking for photographs that summarise the borough in a snapshot. They want people, places, life; everyday and extraordinary. It’s all part of the the Mapping the Change project that aims to document change across three London boroughs.

Anyone over the age of 18 can submit up to five images that they believe capture the essence of Tower Hamlets. The photos must’ve been taken in the borough within the past five years and you need to state exactly where they were taken. (Handy-dandy map here.) So if you happen to be in Outer Mongolia but have photo of Brick Lane that you think deserves a look, why not submit it?

Finalists’ images will be displayed at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archive in November and December. There are prizes on offer for the winners, including a camera, a portfolio review, and shopping vouchers. The terms are straightforward, too, which makes a change.

The deadline’s 17 October, so you probably ought to get cracking. All the details are on the project website.

(Picture’s mine, taken on the corner of Brick Lane and Hanbury Street.)

Today, I'm only shooting feet

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We love a bit of street photography here at Small Aperture, and we’re always looking for new ways to tempt newbies to have a go at it or give old hands some ideas for their next outing pounding the streets. When Thomas Leuthard, a photographer based in Switzerland, dropped a couple of suggestions in my inbox, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind expanding on them a bit. So, here’s one of his suggestions, and I have to say, I love it. Thomas, over to you…

Today, I’m only going to shoot feet…

When you’re shooting on the street, it’s far too easy for your eye to get distracted. Therefore, it’s a good idea to have a small concept to concentrate on whilst out with your camera. Beginner or not, it helps to have a plan; something to hold on and to follow to. I like the concept of just shooting feet. The reason for that is very simple: feet are always out there and people wear different shoes.

In addition to saying that you’ll shoot only feet, it can help to set yourself some more boundaries. Try picking a few (or even all) from this list:

  • Detail only
  • Camera on the floor
  • From the back while standing
  • Same focal length
  • Same aperture (a small one)
  • Landscape format
  • In colour
  • A series of 10 photos
  • All in 60 minutes

I like time limitations as I find that I normally work better under pressure. It means that I know that I have to hurry up and can’t just hang around with my camera looking down at ladies’ legs. I have a mission and have to fulfil it in the time provided. (How very James Bond!)

If you target your focus, you’ll be astonished by how much you can accomplish. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner or an old hand, try to focus on one thing. It can be a colour, body part, accessories, or whatever you fancy, really. It is all about focussing on the essential and not getting overwhelmed by the rest of the street.

Anyway: back to our feet that we’re shooting. If you want to get a good and easy shot on a pair of shoes, try a bus stop, a pedestrian crossing, or anywhere else where people have to stand still for a moment. This is your moment and you have to be quick. Set your camera to aperture priority and try f/4. If you’re shooting with your camera on the floor, flick on autofocus. You’ll look like an idiot with your head down there, peering through the viewfinder. You might need to practise, but that’s half the fun, no?

Sure, you’re going to have to be brave, but if anyone asks, tell her or him that you study photography and that today’s topic is feet. They will think you are crazy and walk away. It’s true, people often don’t understand what I do and why I do it, but I often find that showing them some photos helps to explain it. They soon realise how beautiful street photography can be.

It’s all a question of good ideas, interesting angles, and composition. A good street photo doesn’t need to show faces. Feet are perfect, and the chances are you won’t have any legal issues, publishing someone’s feet.

Now, go forth and have fun, and try not to walk into lamp posts or anything whilst you’re looking down!

This article was guest written by Thomas Leuthard, and all of the images are his. You can see more of his street photography on his website: 85mm.

Gearing up for the Format Festival

streetlife derby kolkatta_0

The superb Format Festival opens in Derby on Friday. The organisers have taken their lead from the whole ’2011 is the year of street photography’ thing and the show this year has been called Right Here, Right Now: Exposures from the public realm. Yep, it’s all about pictures taken in public places. From 4 March to 3 April, there’s a shed load of interesting photographic stuff going on in Derby and close by. Here are some of the highlights.

The In Public exhibition features the work of 20 photographers who have the ability to notice the unusual nestling amongst the everyday. It’s held at Derby Museum and Art Gallery and runs from 4 March to 17 April.

Mob FORMAT is an online gallery of images that have been submitted by the public. And they’re being exhibited very publicly, too: on the BBC Big Screen in Derby marketplace, no less! The images need to fall into one of six categories: Street noir; In the crowd; The decisive moment; When worlds collide; Street surreal; and Shoot from the hip. You can get more information on how to participate in it here.

The Lonely Ones by Gus Powell, from the 'In Public' exhibition

Two groups of teenagers, one from Derby and another from Kolkata got to experience life in each other’s cities. They took photos along the way. To have a look at life in a foreign city through the eyes of a young person, head to Derby Museum and Art Gallery from 4 March to 17 April for the Street Life exhibition.

Of all the learning activities that are taking place, the two that most caught my eye were the photo storytelling workshop on 5 March and Crazy Lenses on 19 March. (You can make a kaleidescope. Who wouldn’t want to have a go at that?) If neither of those appeal, though, take a look here. I’m sure you’ll find something to take your fancy.

And not forgetting the host of other exhibitions and events, such as seminars on the relationship between photography and these here intergoogles, and a session run by the picture people from the Guardian, which sounds very cool.

All the groovy details are on the Format website.

(Featured image from the Street Life exhibition.)

15 fabulous photobooks

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Whilst I was researching small gifts suitable for photographers, I ran into so many books that would make fabulous presents I decided that they deserved a post of their own. Oh yeah, this is it.

I’ve tried to include books that cut across different styles of photography, as well as suggest technical and coffee table books. Hopefully, there is something here to appeal to everyone, and if you’ve any burning suggestions, then please let us know!

The Art of Black and White Photography, by Torsten Andreas Hoffman

This book begins at the beginning, looking at cameras and equipment, and works right the way through different genres and styles of photography – including portraits, abstracts, and street photography – the technical elements of how to compose a picture, and ends with post-processing. It feels comprehensive but isn’t overwhelming; if you want to refer to one specific section, it’s easy enough to do that. And it is full of lots of lovely pictures.

Currently £22.43 on Amazon UK and $29.67 on Amazon US.

Auto Focus, by Susan Bright

How many different forms can self-portraiture take? Susan Bright looks at series of self-portraits shot by seventy-five photographers from across the world. They cover autobiography, they explore the human body, they consider portraiture as a performance, and they use masks and masquerade. It’s a fascinating exploration of identity and self-expression.

At present £23.80 from Amazon UK and $37.80 from Amazon US.

Decade, by Eamonn McCabe and Terence McNamee

This book charts the first decade of the 21st century in pictures, illustrating everything from pop sensations bouncing on stage to disembodied heads being toted as war trophies in some of the world’s most troubled countries. Sometimes it’s amusing, sometimes it’s shocking, but is a gorgeous retrospective of ten years of world events.

Currently £16.22 on Amazon UK and $26.37 on Amazon US.

The Hotshoe Diaries, by Joe McNally

If photography is all about painting with light, then we need at least one book that looks at lighting. And seeing as we can’t all afford big lighting rigs, this will take you through using SpeedLites to get the most out of your pictures. Maybe with the odd bedsheet or reflector thrown in for good measure. Not only do you get great pictures in this book, you also get diagrams, some of them drawn on napkins!

At the moment: £13 from Amazon UK and $26.39 from Amazon US.

In My Mind’s Eye, by Charlie Waite

This is a gorgeous collection of black and white photographs. Mostly they are landscapes and still lifes, but there are some portraits, too. Definitely something to flick through if you want to escape for a moment or ten.

£12.99 from Amazon UK or £17.96 from Amazon US.

Langford’s Basic Photography, by Michael Langford, Anna Fox, and Richard Sawdon Smith

There are so many ‘complete guides’ or ‘introductions’ to digital photography out there that it is quite overwhelming. If your camera isn’t already confusing you, the number of books telling you what you should be doing will. This book is now on its ninth edition, having first been released in 1965, and has shepherded many budding photographers through their early days. It must be doing something right.

£17.59 from Amazon UK or $28.76 from Amazon US.

Macro Photography Photo Workshop, by Haje Jan Kamps

You might call me biased, but this is the best introduction to macro photography out there. Whatever teeny-tiny things you want to photograph, from droplets to spiders to eyes, this book will take you through the process, giving you examples and exercises along the way.

Currently £10 from Amazon UK or $21.89 from Amazon US.

The New Antiquity, by Tim Davis

I’m a great believer in the value of seemingly mundane photographs: shards or fragments of the prosaic preserved for future generations to use as insights into our lives. This book examines just that: the slivers of our world that will one day form the record of what will then be our ancient existence.

£29.71 from Amazon UK or $30.40 from Amazon US at present.

Norman Parkinson: Portraits in Fashion, by Robin Muir

Ooh this book is full of deliciousness. It’s a retrospective of Parkinson’s work as a fashion photographer, from the 1940s to the 1980s. Every image is the perfect embodiment of its age, from 1960s pillbox hats and swing coats to 1980s loud eye makeup and shoulder pads. Mmm.

£9.74 from Amazon UK or $19.44 via Amazon US.

Photobox, by Roberto Koch

I suppose that the easiest way to describe this book is that it is an encyclopaedia of photographers. It’s divided into different genres, with photographers who practised that art form listed there with a short biography and an example of her or his work. It’s the sort of slightly geeky information-fest that appeals to me, I suppose.

Currently £12.97 from Amazon UK or $19.77 from Amazon US.

The Photographer’s Guide to Landscapes, by John Freeman

I looked at a lot of books that covered landscape photography, but this was the one that I would’ve taken home for myself. It’s divided into three sections. The first looks at the technical elements of landscape photography, from how to compose a picture, which lenses to use, and what sort of ISO and shutterspeed to worry about. Then it looks at actual landscapes, and how best to capture them, whether they feature water, sand, or sky, are urban or rural. Then it takes you through the post-processing malarky. Beginning to end landscapes.

£14.44 from Amazon UK or $19.95 from Amazon US.

Photographing People Like a Pro, by Rod Edwards

If I thought that there were a lot of landscape books out there, then I must’ve looked at them before I almost collapsed under the portraiture guides. Want to know why I rejected most of them? (If you don’t, I’m going to tell you anyway.) I didn’t like the pictures in them. Seriously, if I were to pay for a portrait session that came out like some of the pictures in those books, I’d be deeply unhappy. This book, though, I could get along with. I liked its simple format and its progressive nature. It started with equipment, it moved on to designing an image, then it examined light before looking at how to work with the people you’re photographing, and it finished with post-processing.

Roughly £34 from Amazon UK or $52 from Amazon US.

Simply Beautiful Photographs, by Annie Griffiths

The title says it all: this is 500 pages of beautiful photographs that have been compiled from the National Geographic archives by Annie Griffiths. I defy you not to find an image that will take away your breath.

£11.54 from Amazon UK or $23.10 from Amazon US.

The Visual Dictionary of Photography, by David Präkel

This book is a stroke of genius. Seeing as photography is a visual medium, it explains technical terms from ‘abstract’ to ‘zoom lens’ using pictures as well as words.

£9.72 from Amazon UK or $18.96 from Amazon US.

The Wild Side of Photography, by Cyrill Harnischmacher

Run out of inspiration? (Really?) Fancy trying underwater photography? How about aerial photography? Want to give a time-lapse a go? Ever felt the need to look for unusual print media for your images? This books has it all: written instructions, diagrams, and pictures. You won’t be uninspired for very much longer. Or perhaps you’re just a photographic dare-devil!

£16.09 from Amazon UK or $19.77 from Amazon US.

Now, all the prices were what Amazon was quoting when I wrote this. Of course, I can’t promise that they’ll stay that way.

Ten Scintillating Street Shots!


Well, they’re actually street and reportage, but then I wouldn’t be able to have my alliterative cake and eat it if I included that detail in the title. One of the most frequently explored areas of photography is what we might class as reportage, or street photography (if the photo has a street in it somewhere, obviously).

A street shot can be a historical document, a candid snap presenting us a slice of life, or a carefully thought out, tidily composed architectural piece.

Or, apparently, hundreds of HDR images of pigeons.

Now don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that good street photography is hard to do well – the best images have that little sprinkling of magic and catch your eye – so I thought it’d be nice to put together a small selection of street and reportage shots, old and new. Hopefully this mix of old historical images and more recent (as in “more recent than 1920″) street photography will inspire you to get out there and find that elusive killer image.

Remember, think laterally, not literally!

1 – One Simple Day in London

One Simple Day in London by Miodrag Bogdanovic mitja

2 – Untitled

Untitled, by Thomas.hwluxx

3 – Palmers Mysetery Hike

Palmers Mystery Hike

4 – Palmers Mystery Hike

Palmers Mystery Hike

5 – Untitled

Untitled, by Ocularis

6 – Ocean Wave Hotel

Ocean Wave Hotel

7 – London Bridge Tunnel

London Bridge Tunnel by Martino's Doodles

8 – The girl in the street

The girl in the street by **fly**

9 – Foggy Day on the Streets of Brussels

Foggy Day in the Streets of Brussels by Ben Heine

10 – This is London calling Bokehistan. Will you accept the charges?

"This is London calling Bokehistan. Will you accept the charges?" by Rogvon

All photos used in this article are used as ‘fair dealing‘. If you have strong reservations against your photos appearing on Small Aperture, please contact us, and we’ll get them taken down. Please support the artists creating these photos by clicking on the photos to take a closer look at their work!