Street Shooting hints

I’ve written before about my love of street photography, and thought I’d just share some hints with you. There are many thoughts and schools on Street, from the incredibly intrusive and obnoxious Bruce Gilden, Right to the more social documentary type of John Free. But every one has their own style, that they feel comfortable with.

So here are my top hints.

  1. Travel light. You don’t need to take all your lenses and equipment. Carry a small choice of primes, or a single medium zoom lens. I prefer primes for street work as I find the zooming in and out with a zoom takes time. With experience, you will be able to “See” your frame without the camera, and have it framed in your mind before the camera is at your eye.
  2. Shoot in Aperture priority. Set a high aperture, so focus is less important. You might need to boost your ISO. That in it self is not a bad thing as the gritty look from ISO noise can help the image with the grain.
  3. Try to use shorter focal lengths. I rarely if ever go over 85mm. Long focal lengths have an effect on an image that just doesn’t work for street. It tends to distort the back ground. However, if you feel comfortable with longer lenses, by all means use them, remember, there are no hard and fast rules in photography. A contact of mine on ipernity, JayKay72 has outstanding shots with longer focal lengths.
  4. Dont worry about people. People, especially in city’s have one thing on their minds, and they will single mindedly go about it. They probably wont even notice you with you camera. They exist in their bubble, with as little interaction as possible. It can be hard to get over that fear of photographing people. Find a street performer, or someone who expects to be shot. Photograph members of the crowd. It will come with time.
  5. If someone starts asking what your doing, its normally out of curiosity. Be friendly, and honest. Dont aggravate a situation if one does develop. I’ve seen people steadfastly state it is their right, public street to take images, tough luck mate. I’d recommend if someone is grieving you, just delete the image if they want, and move on. There will be many more images and it just isn’t worth the grief. In all the time I have been shooting, I have however never had a problem. I’ve had some strange looks, but never a problem with anyone.
  6. Most street shots are Black and White. And there is a reason for this, colour can be distracting. However, experiment with your images, maybe it just works better in colour.
  7. Always look out for the “Decisive moment”
  8. Try shooting from the hip. This takes some serious practice. You have to know the framing of your camera, but it can and does give several unique angles and views. It’s a angle people are not used to seeing, and makes for unique shots.
  9. Dont be afraid to photograph the back of people’s heads.
  10. Get Out there and Enjoy it.

Hope this helps someone. 🙂




1160 • f8.0 • 85.0 mm • ISO 100

Chimping. This is the habit of looking at your LCD every time you take an image. Its a bad habit.

It distracts you from your surroundings, you may be missing that shot, what ever you just took a shot of, may be doing something your missing.

Have you ever had an engaging conversation with a friend and then suddenly your friend gets a text message? What happens? Your friend says “sorry one second” and checks their phone, sends back a text, and slowly adjusts their focus back to you and says “Oh sorry–what were we talking about again?”

When taking photos, enjoy the act. Don’t put pressure on your self by inspecting each image.

LCD’s are not the best viewing platform either for looking at the image. What your seeing, is the JPEG, which has been rendered by your camera software, and passed through its various filters. What you see when you get home, may not be as exposed, vibrant as you see. And depending on the reflection your seeing on the LCD from ambient light, will fool you.

If you do look at the LCD, look at the histogram. This will always show you more than viewing the actual image.

And please don’t delete images from camera. It may look blurry, out of focus. But when you view it at home, there may be something about it, something you love. There are photographers who make their name with photos like that.

Just wait til you get home to inspect your photos, or wait until your in a coffee shop sipping on a mocha.

This is of course coming from the point of view of someone that primarily shoots street. And of course, macro, landscape and model photographers have an excuse. But not street. Enjoy being out, keep your eyes open and never miss a shot.


150 • f7.1 • 50.0 mm • ISO 125

Here is an image I took sometime ago in York. He looked so lonely, so out-of-place, it was a photo I could not walk past. I looked at the image in Lightroom as I was going through, and this one really suited a treatment to be slightly darker, a little less colour to emphasise the subject and add to the idea of lonely.

York is a great city to do street work in. Being a high tourist area, people are used to seeing cameras around, along with the architecture in the city makes for some wonderful images. With the high number of tourists, you can always find people to photograph, either in the Market, in the street or around the Minster. Unlike many bigger cosmopolitan city’s, people are not running around, from A to B to do what they need to do and run away, they are there for the day, to really take in the City. That makes them easier to photograph than the runners and bubble livers in Leeds. The traffic is almost non existent in the city centre. It is just a nicer city to photograph in than Leeds.

York Minster façade
York Minster façade (Photo credit: mortimer?)

Take a walk down the Ouse, watch the Riverboats scuttling over the river, and the local Rowing club practising on the water. Wander round Museum gardens and see the remains of past in the castle grounds.

I feel safer walking round York with a SLR than I do in most other city’s.

Have a Day out in York, its well worth the time.

Please feel free to take a look round my York Albums over on ipernity.

Street Shooting

So I restarted this blog, as the last one I did got all screwy with the Flickr changes. So let me re-introduce myself.

My name is Michael, and for the past few years I have been an avid amateur photographer.  I found myself falling into street photography, I tried other forms of photography but while I love all photography I have a softspot for street work.

07072012-DSC_7614It took me a long time to get the courage to photograph people in the street, but I realised, that most people, especially in city’s, seal themselves in a bubble and don’t care what goes on round them. They just have one thing todo, and that is get where they are going with minimal contact.

So to sum up, this blog will be about my photographic journey, and a “report” or such of my photowalks.

Let me know your photographic story’s in the comments, or just comment here, good or bad, it does not matter. Feel free to comment.


Of camera bags

Camera bags are as unique as the person carrying them. Everyone has their idea of the perfect bag.

For me, being primarily a street shooter and heading toward photojournalism, my needs are simple. The bag needs to be comfortable, easy and quick to access.
This pretty much rules out anything except shoulder bags. Of all my bag s, the two that I use most are Domke F2 and the Think Tank Retrospective 10. Each has strengths and weaknesses. But they both serve their purpose brilliantly.
I started with lowepro bags. I fell into the trap of more padding to protect my SLR. Over the time I have been photographing, I realised the massive amount of padding is in needed, and just wasted space. I’ve never damaged a camera in a bag, but I don’t throw my bags about. And when you think about the camera, they are built to last, and can take some punishment. Just ask any pro 🙂

The Domke is a monument to simplicity and intelligent design the F2 is the ideal bag for on the go photography. It’s light, comfortable, extremely well made, The F2 is nothing more than a heavy duty canvas shell. It has none of the thick padding that makes most shoulder bags stiff, bulky, and heavy, but just enough to keep your equipment from beating itself up. It uses an interchangeable insert system that allows you to custom fit the internal chambers, I have seen no need to alter the default 4 chamber insert that comes with the bag.

I keep the insert shifted to the back of the bag, which gives me enough room at the other end to house my DSLR with short to medium length prime attached.

The top cover is very flexible and can easy roll out of the way so there is no need to set the bag down to remove or insert the camera or change lenses. Once open, you have a work area to change lenses, or other tasks. I find that I treat the bag like a holster. I can pull the camera out, shoot a few photos, and slip it back into the bag without a thought. Another feature I fell in love with immediately is the front pockets. Unlike most bags, the F2’s front pockets do not have separate zippered or velcro closures but are simply covered by the lid when the bag is closed. Although this may sound insignificant, it is an amazingly useful feature when you’re in a hurry. The F2 also has two large side pockets that hold tons of accessories and have large, easy to manipulate canvas flaps in keeping with the brilliantly simple design of the rest of the bag.

But it does have some negatives. One of those is that when I’m shooting I like to work light and carry just what I need. The F2 is a little to large. Not to large to be impossible, but just wasted space when out. The other one is water proofness. While the canvas is waterproof, and even more so when wet as the canvas expands, the large open pocket at the back of the bag just fills with water if your not wearing the bag.

The domke is used if I have more than my normal kit to carry about.

In normal everyday street shooting my bag of choice is the Retrospective 10. Its just the right size for my street kit.

The Retrospect 10 has a lot going for it.

I’m not really one for looks over function, but hell, the retro is a gorgeous bag. I have the pinestone and I love the look.
There are more than enough places for your gear to go. This can be a issue as well as a blessing, as it could mean hunting to find the item your looking for. As opposed to the F2 with its simple minimal design. I have the bag set up with two main dividers, essentially how it comes, and I store the lenses in the sides, with camera lens down in the center. The huge front pocket is perfect for shoving items in that you just want to dump. I regularly stuff a bottle of drink in there.

The Retro really shines with smaller amounts of gear.

The Retro is certainly a comfortable shoulder bag, It hugs the body very well, but this can overly deform the internal structure making it difficult to access. Also I find the shoulder strap slides off my shoulder to easy, and having to move it back up the shoulder really gets to be a pain. Wearing it across shoulders shorts this however. The shoulder strap however is very wide and the pad helps avoid fatigue. Just that slipping, despite the anti slip material.

When I head out, the Retro 10 Is the bag I reach for, very closely followed by the Domke.

Snapping the snapper

I enjoy, for some unknown reason, when I see people taking images on the street, I have a urge to photograph them.

Its turned into somewhat of a mini project. Its quite surprising to see the amount of Canon DSLR‘s as opposed to Nikon. It does seem that Canon is the more popular brand. Alot of people are also using camera phones. I’m seeing less and less compact cameras.

Anyway, here is a selection of my favourite Photog on the street images. Maybe out there somewhere, is a image of me, taking a image 🙂

Untitled by Michael Thompson (mikethompson) on

shh, canon user by Michael Thompson (mikethompson) on
shh, canon user by Michael Thompson

Smile Please! by Michael Thompson (mikethompson) on
Smile Please! by Michael Thompson

Another Canon User by Michael Thompson (mikethompson) on
Another Canon User by Michael Thompson

Your In My Shot! by Michael Thompson (mikethompson) on
Your In My Shot! by Michael Thompson

Always one that always looks. by Michael Thompson (mikethompson) on
Always one that always looks. by Michael Thompson


I went to York for a wander, and met a few friends.

Strech! by Michael Thompson (mikethompson) on

As normal, York was filled with Tourists, and for some reason, loads of loud Spanish teenagers.
After the rather epic rainfall we have had over the past few days, I expected the River to be in flood. It did not disappoint. The water was lapping well up against the walls of the gardens.

Over the course of the morning, I wandered the streets, looking for something to happen. Nothing did, at all. York, while busy with people was boring, and I could not find the motivation to actively photograph. It was really hot as well, which did not help.

The river however was a sight to behold, it was wider than I have ever seen, and the rate it was flowing was intense. Even the Geese where on the bank and going nowhere near.


Its been awhile since I wrote about street shooting, but I was out with a friend over the weekend doing some street. She had a huge backpack with every lens she owned.

Generally, for street work I carry three lenses maximum. They are

Sigma 30mm 1.4
Nikon 50mm 1.8
Nikon 85mm 1.8

Those three lenses are all I need. The 85 is rarely on the camera unless I need that extra reach. I much prefer the 50 for street.  These are all kept in my Billingham Hadley, a bag I love for street work. I’d love to do this with a leica, but I don’t have one. 😦 so I use either a D90 or D7000. There is nothing wrong with a D90, and I love mine, and still use it despite having the D7000. My settings are normally

Aperture or P mode
Center focus point only (or others if more cross types)
Spot metering.
Auto focus single.

Don’t listen to those who sing that a DSLR should always be in manual mode, photographing on the street can be over in seconds, and you may not have the time to fart around. Better getting the shot than missing it. By all means, if your used to manual, and your quick, use it. Otherwise stick with aperture.

The other tip I give people is to learn the frame. See the frame before the camera is at your eye. Wait until your frame is there, camera up and expose, camera down. It takes some getting used to, but it is the best way.

We walked around the streets for a good few hours while she worked up the confidence. That’s something I struggled with, and still do in a way. But it comes with experience. When you realise everyone is wandering around in their own world paying no attention it gets easier.

One question that did come up, is what to photograph. That’s not a question anyone but the photographer can answer. I did however tell her next time to bring a smaller bag, and think what she really needs 🙂

Shooting Toddlers

I’ve had quite a few toddler sessions recently and have discovered a few things: They actually love being sent to the corner.

1. Put them in the corner. I’ve found that a great corner (I love bricks) can be very useful when photographing little ones on the run. They really have nowhere to go! Of course, that won’t stop them from running right between your legs, but it always buys me enough time for a few great shots and when they run away, we just go back to the corner again!

2. Ground them. Getting their little feet off the ground will give you time to get the shot. And by time, I mean 20 seconds tops. And that’s a lot of time for a toddler to not be moving so get ready before you set up the shot. For this shot, we sat him on an old tire which got his feet off the ground and satisfied the grubby boy in him for a moment. He didn’t sit still on the chair, but boy that tire was fun!

3. Bring a chaperone. They’ll hate you for it when they’re teenagers, but a partner in crime is much appreciated during a toddler photo session. They get sick of the whole idea pretty fast, but if you’ve got on-hand entertainment via a super bubbly (and kid friendly) ‘baby wrangler’, then you’re in business.

4. Include their parents without ruining their street cred. I rarely photograph families. My sessions are entirely focused on the little person. Have you ever noticed in cartoons like Muppet Babies (from the 80s) the parents were present, but never shown above the knee? The premise was to stay down low in baby world. I love bringing this idea into my sessions with something as simple as a mother’s guiding hand.

5. Shout at them. I love this spot on the farm where I shoot. The fence on the left, the trees on the right. Not much space to escape. So I have them run away but at the right time, I shout their name and wait for them to look back. Let them do what they want and when you feel the moment, shout their name. But don’t waste your shouts because if you just keep shouting, they’ll drown you out pretty fast. I find that I get one chance – two if I’m lucky – to get a true reflex-reaction out of shouting their name.

I love toddlers. They’re so honest. They don’t know how to fake it yet and I feel like when I get ‘the shot’, I’ve really earned it.