Monthly Archives: April 2009

11 Tips for Candid Street Photography

Candid street photography, or candid portraits, can be some of the most interesting photos captured in everyday places. Heading out into the crowd with a camera is exhilarating and intimidating at the same time. Great photographic scenes play out on the streets right before your very eyes, but people are quick to recognize the camera and ruin the opportunity. Being covert without being creepy — it’s all part of the game we call street photography (and quite different from traditional portrait photography).

DISCLAIMER: I’m not suggesting that anything and everything is either legal or moral in street photography situations. Know the laws and use your best judgment. For further reading on the subject, see this Wikipedia article on Street Photography.

I know this is a debated topic among photographers, but the point of this article isn’t to start an argument about the rights and wrongs of candid portraits. The point of this article is to introduce some tips and techniques with example photos for those interested in this style of photography — this is by no means a complete guide to street photography. So here we go…

1. USE A LONG LENS

If you want a good candid, keep a bit of distance from the subject. Once people are aware of your camera, they’re likely to pay more attention and your chances of getting a true candid go down. I’m not saying you should roll around with a 400mm lens, but anything under 85mm or 100mm is going to be fairly close-range. This one was taken with a 105mm on a 1.5x crop sensor — so about 160mm equiv.

Black and White

2. SNEAK UP FROM BEHIND

Obviously it’s harder to get a candid shot from the front than from behind, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. If you like the scene and your subject is staring off into the distance, take a shot. Sometimes getting a shot without the face can add a bit of mystery to the photo too.

Surfer and Board

3. WATCH THE BENCHES

The hard part of catching a candid portrait is that people are moving, things are passing in front of your view, and your window of opportunity passes quickly. People generally sit on benches, which means they’re not moving around too much and they might be there for more than 5 seconds. Look for the subjects that are focused on some task, such as feeding birds or reading a paper.

Mexican Bus Stop

4. KEEP YOUR EARS OPEN

Your eyes are your primary sensor for photography, but keep your ears open too — especially when your face is pressed up against the back of the camera. You can often hear opportunities coming your way, sometimes before you can even see them.

Battling Fuel Prices

5. SHOOT THE PERFORMERS

Street performers are great fun to photograph. They expect that people will take their photo during the performance, so you need not worry about ticking them off. Plus, they’re usually good characters and make for great portraits. Just don’t forget to throw a few bucks their way — they aren’t usually out there for the pure fun of it.

Cigar Humor

6. FIND GROUP GATHERINGS

If you see a group of people congregating for whatever reason, this is a good chance to mix with the crowd and get up close for some candids. Gatherings can take many forms: drum circles (shown below), protests, rallies, parades, etc.

Moving with the Music

7. DON’T FORGET THE BACKGROUND

A lot of times it’s hard enough to get a good candid shot of the subject, so worrying about the background seems secondary. But if you find a good strong background, get the composition all set up and wait for the subjects to enter the scene.

These Walls Are Busy

8. GET OFF THE STREETS

Street photography doesn’t necessarily have to be done on the streets. Any place where there are people, there will be an opportunity for some candid portraits. So things like public buildings, beaches, parks, etc.

Another Day At The Beach

9. FIND A SPOT AND WAIT

I’ve used this technique from time to time with good results. Find a spot that you like — something with an interesting composition, pattern, or background. Now envision somebody in that scene as you’d like to take the photo. Get all set up… and wait for it. Somebody will eventually walk into the scene and you’ll get your shot.

Big White Boxes

10. USE A WIDE LENS

Not all portraits need to be up-close and personal. Use a wide lens from time to time and capture more of the surroundings than the person — but use the person as an anchor for the composition.

The Watchman

11. SOMETIMES YOU JUST GET CAUGHT…

If you’re going to take candid photos of people on the streets, be prepared to get caught. Also be prepared for anything from a friendly conversation to unfriendly confrontation to physical assault. All I’m saying is be mindful.

Daniel Devenport

I’m interested to hear from all of you on this topic. Leave a comment and/or tip in the comments below… maybe we can pull together another follow-up article full of tips and photos from the readers.

Busy is Good, Right?

I’ve been avoiding the Internet lately, but only because I’m fairly busy with a few other things. Mainly, I’m trying to get a few prints together for the upcoming San Diego Fair (you know, prints — those jpegs on that paper stuff). There’s a photo competition and all entries have to be submitted IN PRINT — no online submissions. So I entered 4 photos and they have to be dropped off on May 13th. This is turning out to be an expensive (and time consuming) little adventure. 4 photo entries are going to cost me just over $400 — and I’m not even sure if they’ll be “good enough” to show at the fair (I know, this is crazy).

Regardless of the outcome, I’ll have four very nice images mounted for exhibition and ready to sell. I spent my Saturday printing 3 digital photos with Oscar, pricing out mounts and mats with a local San Diego framer, buying more materials for the darkroom, and printing my 4th photo in the darkroom.

All in all, everything is coming together nicely and I’m excited to see the four prints in their final state. I’ll post more about the process and the outcome when it all comes together. And here are the photos I’m entering:

Wide Open (digital, 16″ x 10.5″)
Wide Open

The Watchman (digital, 16″ x 10.5″)
The Watchman

Black and White (digital, 16″ x 10.5″)
Black and White

A Dreary World (analog, fiber base, selenium toned, 11″ x 11″)
A Dreary World

Results of the Special Print Offer :(

At the beginning of April, I announced a special offer to the readers of Epic Edits — A selection of silver-gelatin prints from my darkroom for $25 each. The results of this offer? I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I had a grand total of 4 takers.

Don’t get me wrong — I completely appreciate the 4 sales I did receive! Definitely better than none! But I can’t help but be disappointed with the relatively low number of sales compared to the amount of work I put into the offer.

THE WORK I PUT IN

Even before announcing the print offer, I had to pick out 10 of my b/w film photos based on what I thought other people might want to buy. Choosing a small selection of photos for anything is tough, especially if they’re your own photos. After a day or two of contemplating, I finally settled on a selection of images from my personal favorites and the favorites of others based on Flickr stats (comments, views, favorites, etc).

Also before offering the prints for sale, I wanted to make sure I could actually print them. I’ve encountered a small number of photos that I couldn’t print in the darkroom with my current level of experience, so I was going to be sure that I could produce a quality print for each of my selected photos. Each of the 10 photos took about 1 to 2 hours of work in the darkroom, so probably 15 hours of my time.

Then, I wanted to show the actual prints to prospective buyers, so I scanned them in and posted them on Flickr. This way, people could see the crop and tonal range on the print rather than the film scan. Between scanning, processing (to match the look of the real print), and posting, this ate up probably another 3 to 5 hours of my time.

And finally we have the blog post with all the individual PayPal purchase buttons — tack on another 2 or 3 hours.

So in total, I spent about 20 to 25 hours of prep-time just to offer the prints for sale. Add on an additional 3 hours for the 8 prints I made for the 4 buyers (they all bought in the first 3 days and got a 2nd print for free). In the end, I probably put in 25 hours of work. Fair enough? Just follow me, I’m going somewhere with all of this.

So 4 buyers paid $25 for prints. That’s $100 in my pocket. Now (for each purchase) subtract $1 for the PayPal transaction, $1 for packaging, $2 for materials (paper and chemicals), and an average of $5 for shipping. That leaves me with $16 per purchase, or $64 total.

OUTCOME ==> $64 / 25 hours = $2.50/hr

Not exactly my idea of “raking it in”. So needless to say, I probably won’t be offering up darkroom prints at this price again — it’s just not worth my time to spend so much energy for so little return. Again, let me repeat that I’m totally grateful for the 4 people who did purchase prints — it’s a great feeling to have somebody actually pay you for your efforts.

The moral of the story: Selling prints is hard work. Expect anything between disappointment and excitement. But whatever your experience, enjoy it. I’m pretty happy I did all this work, because now I’ve got 10 good-looking prints to hang on my walls.

PhotoDump 03-15-2008

More great stuff from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! This selection of photos is from those entered in the pool between 3/8 and 3/15.

But you are the never ending sleep by Zac WongTwo Rings by BelpoGeek. by the_wolf_brigade© Rex Lisman_2806 by Rex Lisman Photographyold Savage Mill by vandyll.netGarphytte-Ån by Mattias (Retrocamera.net)California trip 1 by Lux et UmbraWeaver HDR by jpcloverThe Scarlet Paradigm by Brian AuerRothko Bands by Sublime LightModel Shoot: Samantha by Blessed Road PhotographyThey follow you by henrikjSaltaire by Cliff Johnsonsmile by (taylor)Un petit détail by pawoliOpposites Attract by Brian AuerTrading Places by reggiemateoPeoplemover Psychedelia by Beau HauseJoAnna by TTLStuicideExpression 1 by erbephotoButch Walker @ The House of Blues by Tasha {Redwall Photo}Academic.  by the_wolf_brigadechair by xgrayDavid by mark.mortensenLighthouse Staircase by richardkingphotoToo public for a drop spot by bryanvillarinClimbing the walls by hughlookbass hands by jrodgersartDetermination! by AIA GUY..Rwood by ★ Mathias Pastwa ★Angel's Gate Lighthouse by bryanvillarinOnce upon a time . . . by RussHeathooOOoO0ooOOOo000o by lifeography®Ghost of the bridge. by essjaytWalking Door-to-Door by robinn.speed sledge by javiyWood by Belpoland's end by wasabifishLong Shadows by Rory.WPort-57 by Victor BezrukovLily by mistymemoriesphotographySpring Song by rh89

What’s On Your Photography Wish-List?

013/2009 Year 2 Want! Seven Deadly Sins: Greed
Creative Commons License photo credit: Tyla’75

Most of us probably have at least a short wish-list of photography-related items. My list usually fills up with things that I don’t have the money for, and over time I stop caring about those particular items. But there are a few things that I’ve been wanting for a while — and I don’t see myself losing interest in them.

  • MINOLTA HI-MATIC 7SII
    I’ve been wanting this camera for quite a while — this thing is freakin’ awesome for an old rangefinder. Some would even argue that this is the best rangefinder ever produced by Minolta. Why do I want it? Street photography. Why am I holding back? Price: they usually go for over $150 (2-3x that for the black version).
  • CANOSCAN 8800F
    This wish-list item is more of a necessity than a craving. I’ve got the Canoscan 8400F (which is more than a few years old), and I’m getting very finicky about my film scans. I’d like to have a bit of extra resolution and possibly better color control during the scan process. Besides… my current scanner could commit suicide any day now.
  • DSLR SPLIT IMAGE FOCUSING SCREEN
    This is an item that’s been in the back of my mind ever since I started shooting film. I like the split image focusing screen with the microprism ring that my film SLR has, and I often find myself wanting the same feature on my dSLR. Why? Low light situations, macro, street, etc. Sometimes autofocus just doesn’t cut it, and manually focusing without a good screen is useless.
  • BESELER DICHRO 67S HEAD
    This one is on my backburner for now, but I’d like to get into color developing and printing by the end of the year. I’ve had a good experience with the b/w printing, but I also have a growing collection of color negs that I’d love to print in full analog glory. Scanning is okay, but nothing beats a true print. This head I have my eye on will bolt right up to my existing enlarger stand, so it’s really just a component swap-out rather than a whole new setup.
  • SONY 35MM F/1.4 LENS
    Yeah… this lens is way out there for me right now, but I certainly wouldn’t mind having it. I often find that my 50mm lens on the dSLR is too tight for many street photography situations. I like the field of view I get with the 50mm lens on a full-frame film camera (I even prefer my slightly wider 38mm sometimes), and the 35mm on a crop sensor would basically be equivalent to the 50mm full-frame. This thing is spendy though!

Those are probably my top 5 items outside of the low-budget realm. I’ll probably be lucky to pick up one or two of these within the next year, but it’s fun to dream!

WHAT’S ON YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY WISH-LIST?

Leave a comment and let us know what you crave. I’m always curious about the things that other photographers want when it comes to equipment. And be sure to check out the results of the last poll: What’s Your Experience With Film Photography? Believe it or not, there are actually a good chunk of photographers shooting film today (around 40%). But another 40% gave it up and never looked back.

Pace Yourself

Sully stands tall
Creative Commons License photo credit: tedreese

Here’s a quick piece of advice taken from an old fable: “Slow and steady wins the race

This moral, or saying, can be applied to many facets of photography (and everyday life). With advances in technology, things can get moving pretty quickly. New cameras and gear, faster rapid-fire, streamlined software, extended networks via the web, etc. It’s great to be able to get so much done in such a short amount of time, but this quickened pace can lead to burn-out with your photography.

Take some time to evaluate your photographic pace and identify any areas that need to be trimmed back a bit. Also look at the activities that you don’t seem to have time for, and figure out a way to adjust your schedule to make time.

  • PHOTO SHOOTS
    Whether it’s for business or pleasure, keep a mindful eye on your schedule and don’t bury yourself with shooting while leaving no time for post processing and photo sharing. Of if you’re not so busy, don’t let your outings be few and far between — get out and shoot, even if you’re all alone.
  • OUT SHOOTING
    When you’re out with your camera, don’t take so many photos that 95% of them are trash or repeats (and be mindful of your memory card or film limitations). On the flip side, don’t be so conservative that you miss a great shot.
  • BUYING NEW GEAR
    Once you start buying new toys it’s hard to stop. Just be aware of your own budget and needs, and don’t go overboard. Likewise, get yourself something every once in a while so you don’t fall into a huge rut.
  • POST PROCESSING
    Post production can be tedious or fun — just depends on how you look at it. Try to spread out your post processing so you don’t burn out. Once it becomes a chore, you’ll start taking shortcuts, putting in minimal effort, and forgetting things.
  • POSTING ONLINE
    If you post photos to photo-sharing sites or a personal blog, find a good pace for posting. If you put up an entire shoot all at once, you’ll overload your onlookers and leave them hanging for the next few weeks. Try to post photos at a rate that matches your rate of shooting and post processing.
  • LEARNING
    There are so many great resources out there for learning photography, especially the web. But don’t overload your brain with so much new information that none of it sticks. Take your time and soak it up, most of the stuff out there will be around for a while… make use of bookmarking.

How else can this advice be applied to photography?

PhotoDump 03-08-2009

More great stuff from the Epic Edits Flickr Pool! This selection of photos is from those entered in the pool between 3/1 and 3/8.

From Yapi Point by richardkingphotoCloudscape by Rory.WNet-Ready by robinn.linn by bildterapiCity Of London At Sunset by richardkingphotoblessed by max.milionModel Shoot: David & Gina by Blessed Road PhotographyBroken Phone by Brian Auer365-62 by Rob IrwinWalt by Jonathan Enns by So gesehen.Temple Mount And Moon At Dawn by richardkingphotoChico and the Sapphires by Brian AuerB is for Brains by Cliff JohnsonHBW! Spring Color by AIA GUY..RwoodÖsterreich by javiy by the_wolf_brigadeduet. by lifeography®Sunset on the Highway by aychseaTo The Top! by RussHeathlinn by bildterapistand by Ryan Holloway PhotographyWe're too busy driving by bryanvillarinCasting Shadows by Brian AuerLookup up at the Falls by Gary SimmonsFirst portrait with strobes by vandyll.netBel Air Motel by cindy cranejumping with the sotts by poopoorama by Salvatore FalconeSundown Over Snowbasin by Rory.W

Link Roundup 04-11-2009

Wow… it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted a link roundup. Not sure if I’m just getting tired of the content out there, or if things have actually been slow on the web due to the changing seasons. In any case, here are a few articles to chew on this weekend.

And if you’re a Delicious user, you can tag any interesting photography articles you encounter with “for:auer1816″ and I’ll be sure to check them out each week as I search for new content.

My Favorite Film After a Year of Shooting

I started shooting film right around April of 2008, and here we are a year later! At first, I basically bought one of everything and just tried all the different films available to me. Over time, I started leaning toward certain brands and even specific films. Now, I’m fairly picky about what I shoot — though I’m always open to trying out new films (or at least new to me).

Also in the last year, more and more people are getting into film and asking me which film to use. Of course, that kind of thing is dependent on what you’re shooting, which camera you’re using, what the light is like, what kind of mood you’re going for, and personal preference. But if you’re completely new to film photography, it’s nice to have some advice to start with. So here are 11 of my favorite films after a year of shooting.

BLACK AND WHITE FILM

A Dreary WorldIt's Lonely Out HereSpin Me!CruisersMetal and GlassTicket Booth

Black and white is definitely my favorite when it comes to film. Each film captures the scene a bit differently at varying levels of contrast, dynamic range, and tone representation. Here are five of my favorites.

  1. ILFORD PANF PLUS
    This one is my favorite film of all. It’s a medium contrast low speed (ASA 50) film that goes nicely with old cameras. I love using this film in my TLR on a sunny day because it allows me to open up the lens for a shallow DOF.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  2. ILFORD HP5 PLUS
    This is my go-to film for any time the sun isn’t shining. Also a fairly medium contrast film, but with a faster speed (ASA 400). Awesome dynamic range with great looking grain. A very versatile film, capable of being pushed to ASA 3200 and pulled to ASA 100 with decent results.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  3. ILFORD DELTA 3200
    I like this one for indoor shooting because of its fast speed (ASA 3200), though it does have some very pronounced grain. The contrast on this film tends to be higher than the PanF or HP5.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  4. FUJIFILM NEOPAN 400
    I’m not a huge fan on non-Ilford films (in case you haven’t noticed), but nothing beats the serious high contrast on the Neopan (ASA 400).
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  5. ILFORD XP2 SUPER
    This film is a bit different than the others since its not really a black and white film. The XP2 (ASA 400) is actually a C-41 film, so it needs to be processed as if it were color film. This is handy for folks who want to shoot black and white but don’t have access to anything but standard color developing.
    See my sample photos on Flickr

COLOR FILM

Over the CanLow Tide SunsetWinter DocksTake a KneeSan Clemente PierLa Jolla Pier

Though black and white is my favorite, color is quickly growing on me. Color film usually renders a scene in a very different fashion than a typical digital image. Like black and white films, the various color films have differing levels of saturation, contrast, and grain. Here are 3 of my favorites.

  1. KODAK PORTRA 400VC
    The Portra VC (Vivid Color) films are very strong in color saturation and well suited for toy cameras and such — though I assume they’ll work just as well in a “real” camera. I have yet to try the Portra 160VC, but I’ve got some waiting to be loaded up in my TLR.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  2. FUJIFILM REALA 100
    This one is fairly slow (ASA 100) as far as color negative films go, and the results are nice and sharp with little sign of grain. Color accuracy seems to be very good, and the saturation and contrast look great without being overdone.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  3. KODAK EKTAR 100
    This may become my favorite color film due to the extremely fine grain and color accuracy. Also a low-speed color film (ASA 100), this stuff loves the sunshine. You can also read my informal review of the 120-Format Ektar 100.
    See my sample photos on Flickr

SLIDE FILM (XPRO’D)

Flying and FloatingJessWarp SpeedI'm So Hot I'm RedDarkness Creeps InI'm a Survivor

I don’t usually shoot slide film because it’s expensive to buy and develop, and it tends to be very finicky about exposure. But the stuff is great for cross processing! Here are 3 of my favorites.

  1. KODAK EKTACHROME OR ELITECHROME
    This film gives that classic green-shift when cross processed, but a lot of it can be white-balanced out to give the photos a more neutral tone.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  2. FUJIFILM VELVIA 100
    The Velvia 100 gives very different results from most other xpro’d slide film. It has a very strong red-cast with hints of purple or yellow depending on the lighting.
    See my sample photos on Flickr
  3. FUJIFILM VELVIA 50
    The Velvia 50 is quite similar to the Ektachrome, but with a more subtle green and more prominent blue-cast. I haven’t shot too much of this, but I really should do more.
    See my sample photos on Flickr

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE?

Drop us a comment and tell us what your favorite films are, and let us know why! Feel free to leave photos in the comments to back up your comments.

Film Review: 120-Format Kodak Ektar 100

Kodak Professional Ektar 100

I managed to get my hands on some 120-format Kodak Ektar 100 before it was available to the general public, and I was given the opportunity to conduct an informal review of the film. Based on the hype surrounding this film, I was quite happy to test it out. After shooting 5 rolls through a few different cameras, I was not at all disappointed with the results as I scanned them in.

I found the colors to be extremely natural and pleasing under daylight conditions. And the sharpness and grain are absolutely to die for. In general, the film has the best characteristics from both slide film and color negative film. Read on for my informal review.

ABOUT THE FILM

The Umbrella Perched on a Sink

Kodak Professional Ektar 100 is a color-negative film (using the C-41 process) available in 35mm and 120-formats. It is claimed to have extremely fine grain (the world’s finest for color-neg) and high color saturation, making it ideal for nature, landscape, and travel photographers.

In September, 2008 the Ektar 100 became available in 35mm format. Due to popular demand, Kodak has made the film available in 120-format in April, 2009 (I believe it’s available for purchase through a few vendors right now).

MY NON-TECHNICAL REVIEW

La Jolla Coastline San Clemente Pier

Equipped with a pro-pack of the Ektar 100, I loaded up my two medium format cameras and headed out on a few photowalks along the coast. One camera was my old 1956 Minolta Autocord MXS (twin lens reflex) and the other was my Diana+ (toy camera). I must admit, putting this film into a plastic toy camera felt a bit like ripping the engine from an F-1 car and strapping it to a tricycle.

The first day I shot this film, the weather turned heavy overcast quite rapidly, but I managed to finish off three rolls. I went out a few days later and shot the last two rolls in full sunshine. The film can certainly be used in either condition, but its white balance is intended for daylight use. The overcast photos just scanned in a bit cold — and I could have adjusted it, but it seemed fitting to leave them as is.

The Family in La Jolla Splish-Splash

Up to this point, I’ve been shooting mostly Kodak Portra VC color-neg films on medium format (and a little bit of Velvia slide). The Ektar 100 seems quite comparable to the color saturation of these films, but the colors on the Ektar 100 seem more “realistic” to me. The color saturation and contrast isn’t so overbearing that it looks unnatural, and the colors seems to closely represent the actual colors of the scene. One thing I did notice, though, is that the greens tend to be more saturated than the other colors — sometimes a bit too much.

The shots (especially those from the TLR) appear to be very sharp and free from grain. I might even go so far as to say that the Ektar 100 is comparable to Ilford’s PanF Plus black and white film (which is the primary film I use with my Autocord). Though I’ve only scanned the film (which tends to present softer grain versus an optical enlarger), I was hard-pressed to find any signs of grain even at 100% zoom on a 3200 ppi scan.

GRAIN? WHAT GRAIN?

If you don’t believe me, see for yourself. Here’s an image with a decent exposure — the little box is the spot I’ve taken the 100% crop for the image immediately below it. The full image is approximately 50MP, or 7000 x 7000 pixels.

Kayakers

Kayakers at 100% Crop

The softness of the 100% crop probably comes from scanning the film since I don’t use any sharpening while scanning. Even so, I can usually make out the grain easily on most films — it’s just not as sharp as with an optical enlargement. The Ektar 100 scans don’t show much sign of grain.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

I Stand Alone La Jolla Pier

I like it — a lot. When I decide to shoot color on my TLR, I’ll probably use the Ektar 100 exclusively. The colors look great and the shots appear to be very sharp and fine-grained. I’m still undecided with the Diana+… I might try a few more rolls and see how it goes, but I’m still leaning toward the Portra VC films just because I have a history of good results with it.

The Ektar 100 film seems to have similar features of slide film (high saturation and fine grain), but with a more forgiving dynamic range of a color negative.

But the thing that gets me most about this film is how natural the colors appear. Color film often has a “film-like” appearance to it because of shifted colors or grain. The Ektar 100 (to me) looks more like a well-processed digital than it does a typical film.

Would I recommend this film for color enthusiasts? Certainly! It seems well-suited for landscape and nature photography, but even skin tones in portraits aren’t completely unnatural.

SWEEPSTAKES OFFER

As a promo for the new Ektar 100 films, Kodak is running a bit of a sweepstakes giveaway along with a rebate offer on the film. You can get a $5 mail-in rebate for certain film purchases, and that rebate automatically enters you into a drawing for a prize package. The prize is a nature photography experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdon Park, including a 4-night stay and a full itinerary of activities. You can also enter the prize drawing without buying the film or mailing in the rebate. Visit the official sweepstakes web page for more information.