Normally we Street Photographers are known to be walking in the streets on our own. We need nothing more than the camera and a good eye, to get the shots, that we desire. This may sound easy, but it’s a lot harder than it seems. In the beginning, I had no idea how to approach Street Photography and what I could do differently, to get great pictures.
Looking at the portfolio of other photographers made me jealous and I desperately wanted to find out, how they are able to get those shots.
One thing that I appreciated where those videos, where the Street Photographers would mount a small action camera on top of their actual camera. I believe, this is a good technique to become a better photographer and if you have the option, you should try that out as well.
Gaining new insights
We all know the feeling, when we walk through the streets and there isn’t anything for us, that we can take a picture of. The sun is not present at all and the conditions just seem dull overall. People are rare on the streets and there is nothing for you to discover, that sparks your interest.
Lately, I had a lot of those days and winter time in one of the colder places in Europe is surely not a great way for me, to go on the street and try to hunt the next picture. On the flip side, just because I am not able to find any pictures, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any opportunities. Maybe I missed some great images and scenes, that I just ignored originally.
The difficulty arises, when you are not able to identify those mistakes yourself. You might think about the latest photo walk retrospectively, but that is a very subjective point of view. From that perspective, you might be not aware of any obvious mistakes that you did.
Using an action camera and filming the whole photo walk, gives you a completely new insight. You gain a neutral perspective, that you can use afterwards, to identify any errors on your side. Instead of having to think about the walk, you have film material, which you can review to think about your improvements.
When reviewing the footage of the action camera, you should have the same mindset, as if it would be your images. Letting the camera footage rest for a bit can be helpful, to gain some distance. That way you are able to gain an even more neutral perspective and it will be easier to identify the mistakes that you did.
Looking at the action camera footage later, you should point your focus on the surroundings and if there is anything, that might have been worth taking a picture of. Maybe you’ll discover something in the details now that you weren’t able to see earlier, that could result in a great picture.
Are your fears getting in the way? Did you see some interesting people, but didn’t have the guts to get close and take the picture? The camera footage doesn’t lie and it can be a revelation to see yourself on the street from a different perspective.
Teaching the Street
This footage is not only a learning material for yourself. As I already described, I had absolutely no idea, how Street Photography would work in practice. Is it just walking and taking pictures from a distance, or do you actually ask for permission every time? How would I really get candid pictures without getting into trouble?
Discovering some videos, that have been taken while being on the street was one of the most helpful things to get started in Street Photography.
Of course, controversial Street Photographer Eric Kim is one of the people, whose videos will show up very quickly, when you are searching for material like this.
This is one of the old “classic” videos that show how he is shooting on the street.
As a disclaimer, you do not have to follow this style, but I find the idea of following him so closely very interesting and it shows, how Street Photography can be done.
If you are more interested in practical tips and a general higher production quality. You should have a look at the “street hunt” series by Streethunters. It is a series that takes you through various cities in Europe and what is great about it is, that you not only see the visual footage, but also the commentary. You can hear what’s going on in the mind of a Street Photographer and what might actually make for a good photograph.
I strongly recommend you to watch the latest installment including my colleague Martin Waltz. Together they are taking a stroll through the streets of Berlin and even if you are not interested in photography, you can really get a good grip of the atmosphere, that surrounds a city.
The artistic approach
Photography can be underwhelming at times, because you are only able to express a scene in just a single frame. Maybe a scene would benefit from different angles or from movement, that you could express better in video form?
Your photo camera might be able to shoot video as well, but the quality is mostly lackluster and offers some problems. Especially when you are trying to do some slow-motion videos, that you can see from my good photography friend Damon Jah.
Such work is done best with a gimbal, which holds the camera very steady. You can have an overview about some of the best gimbals at: Topgimbals. They offer comprehensive reviews about gimbals for the GoPro, other action cameras or DSLRs.
With an action camera, you can try to replicate this effect and create short-movies about your surroundings and the streets that you are usually taking a stroll on.
This is a completely different approach, but maybe it is something, that you find joy, outside the usual single frames, that you are producing.
The GoPro 7 & Gimbals
The easiest way to create such short movies in Street Photography is with a GoPro. You can mount this action camera on top of your camera and record the street, while you are walking.
One problem though is the shake. Especially if you are looking to do some slow-motion videos and are walking very quickly, there will be a lot of shakiness. The shaking can be a huge distraction and devalue the quality of the moving picture.
The new GoPro 7 embodies a new technology, that allows for very steady shots. You can simply mount this camera and use it while you are walking. Later on, you can decide what you want to do with the footage. Maybe you want to use it privately for yourself, to learn what you could have better, or you want to follow the artistic approach.
Having a high-quality action camera definitely does improve the videos and is more fun to watch. The editing process is completely different from photography and you also have the opportunity, to use some music, just in case you don’t want to record the surrounding noise.
If you want to, you can also livestream your experience on Facebook, while you are on the street. This way, you can directly share what you are doing and fans all over the world are able to interact with you.
In addition to the top-mounted action camera, you can also ask a friend to follow you around and record some footage. The advantage lies in the usage of a gimbal. With a gimbal, you can even have a much more steady picture that comes very close to top-notch cinematography. The good thing is, that gimbals are available at a very reasonable price, but the difference is overwhelmingly.