Street Photography Essentials
by Dave Mobbs – January 10th, 2017
Street Photography Essentials by X-Rite Coloratti Kevin Mullins.
By trade, I’m a professional documentary and wedding photographer. I shoot a lot of my wedding work in monochrome, perhaps because I’m drawn to the more emotive moments at weddings. I love what I do, but sometimes shooting special moments so often makes me want to take a break from the extravagance of weddings and take a closer look at the more commonplace, everyday moments that we often miss. That’s why in my spare time, I like to shoot Street Photography. It’s a way of exercising my mind, as well as a very enjoyable past time. While I use black and white in my wedding photography to let people’s faces and expressions tell the story, most of my street photography is shot in color to highlight the unique parts of our everyday interactions.
Here are some insights into my street photography essentials, from equipment to ideas.
Street Photography Essentials #1 – it’s what’s inside that counts.
I spend a lot of time out and about in various cities. I mostly spend time in London, but more recently I’ve been spending lots of time in New York and Barcelona too. As you’ll most likely know, a good image is constructed from:
- Use of good light
- Use of good composition
- And a good moment
And you’ll find plenty of these things in the above cities.
However, I think it’s what’s inside that really counts and can really make or break your street photography – I’m talking about the equipment you have at home. Equally as important as a good moment and good lighting, is a good color management solution (even for monochrome images) and a good monitor. I recommend the X-Rite i1Display Pro along with a BenQ PV3200PT 32” Ultra HD IPS monitor – both of which I’m currently using in my work.
Whenever I’m about to edit a complete body of work, I’ll recalibrate my monitor using the i1 Display Pro. Almost every time I do this, and compare the before and after, I’m reminded how critical this step is as the differences are often easy to recognise.
I moved from a 27” Dell monitor to the 32” IPS BenQ monitor last Autumn. The primary reason behind that change was an increase in my video editing workload. The monitor was a great compromise for video editing and using a larger screen like this, again, drives home how critical color management is for me.
My work will be sent to multiple media places, including web, print albums and magazines and I always want to be in control of the color management my end.
Street Photography Essentials #2 – Themes
When I’m going out to shoot on the streets, I rarely go without some kind of objective or theme in mind.
I always have several long-term themes going on, but if I decide to go out on a specific day, I’ll use a theme to help me shoot more consciously. I’ll end up shooting fewer images, but hopefully I’ll get home with a higher return rate.
I have this belief, and I mention this to my clients also, that anybody can be a “photographer” – the person who presses the exposure release button on the camera. But individually, we are simply observers and being a photographer is ultimately more about the timing of pressing the button than the physical act of doing it.
Using themes helps me to become a better observer and ultimately, a better overall photographer. For me, shooting with a theme in mind enhances the experience and I feel more rewarded by the results because when I look at my images, I can see the results of an objective that I set myself, rather than a string of images shot aimlessly.
So, if you’re planning on shooting street photography, I highly recommend gearing your shots towards a theme. Some of simple themes that I use regularly when shooting on the streets are:
- The color red
- The essence of the city
- Human Interaction
In my own work, I’m particularly interested in the way we, as humans, interact and behave together. I’m a great “people watcher” and having a camera with me at all times allows me to capture images that aren’t necessarily going to win awards, but interest me and allow me, in my own small way, to document …well, people being people.
This past summer, I visited our nearest seaside resort on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Us Brits have a bizarre relationship with these resorts and I went out with a “theme”, or purpose, to document this.
I went out with the purpose of exploring the way people interacted with each other, how they dressed, how they walked, etc. I found it interesting that, even on this hot day, there were people in full clothing sitting on the beach – bare skin was kept for the promenade. Our love of ice-cream became a sub-theme within this short documentary, which was to be expected, given the weather. However, if you look carefully, you’ll see one thing I didn’t expect to find – there isn’t one person smiling!
Street Photography Essentials #3 – The ‘right’ camera
Which is the best camera or lens for shooting street photography? Surprisingly, this is still a question I get asked a lot.
The answer, though it is cliché, is the camera you have with you.
I personally use cameras such as the Fuji X100T or the X70, but many great street photographers use DLSRs, other mirrorless cameras, point and shoots, and even their mobile phones. My personal preference is to use shorter focal lengths, the “typical” range being 35mm and on my APS-C cameras that equates to a 23mm lens for me. Occasionally, I’ll use ultra-wide lenses such as my Samyang 12mm to give a different perspective.
But what camera you use is down to personal choice, what theme you’re working to, and what you’re trying to achieve. In a genre where you’re working with the unexpected and the spontaneous, the best camera in your street photography essentials kit is whatever you’re happy working with.
Kevin Mullins is a Wedding and Social Documentary photographer, as well as a member of the X-Rite Coloratti, with a passion for people watching. In 2009, he was working full time in London until a chance article on wedding photography inspired him buy a camera and embark on a career in photography. Now, he has shot over 400 weddings and other social documentaries. Kevin says that running his own business taught him the importance of proper color management, including in his black and white images, in ensuring the highest quality photographs for his clients.
For more information and to view some of Kevin’s work, visit – http://www.kevinmullinsphotography.co.uk