Books on street photography

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Vadim, Jun 3, 2004.

  1. Vadim

    Vadim Guest

    Does anybody know of any good books on street photography? I'm not
    looking for a collection of photographs, but rather for a book that
    explains the "rules" of it and how to get better at street

    And another question. Is there some sort of Photographer's Guide to
    Nyew York City? I'm organizing a one day trip for a group of 10-15
    people. We have a limited time and different interests (from
    street/candid to architecture and nature photography). Obviously, we
    would have to concentrate on 2-3 places because of the lack of time. I
    would appreciate any suggestions.

    Thank you.
    Vadim, Jun 3, 2004
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  2. Vadim

    Chris Guest

    I've never heard of any such guide. Do you mean taking photos of things in
    and around a street, or following the streets, hoping to be led to a good
    spot for shooting?
    I'm sure there's a board of tourism for NYC, or atleast the state. Pick
    yourself up a copy of their handy guidebook. It should be chock full of
    photo opportunities, although it might not specifically say so.

    Do some research.
    Chris, Jun 3, 2004
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  3. Vadim

    traveler Guest

    Forget the books. Get out there with your camera and shoot. There is
    only one way to gain facility at candid photography (if that is
    primarily what you are asking about) and that is to do it. You will
    find out soon enough what works and what doesn't. The primary trick
    is in your demeanor, which should be as if you are up to nothing in
    particular. You don't want to alarm, put off, or piss off a subject
    with awkward or inappropriate behavior, so make sure you are handy
    with your equipment, that it is not cumbersome, and easily accessed
    with an absolute minimum of futzing around. Relax, blend in with the
    surroundings, and shots will appear. You should have your exposure
    and shutter speed already chosen before you point, focus, compose, and
    press the shutter, that is except for last second minor adustments. A
    good way to do this is to point to an area of similar lighting and
    choose your aperture from that, so that when you are ready to shoot
    the actual subject, you don't have to stand there like an asshole for
    thirty seconds. Of course, the demands of any particular shooting
    situation will become readily apparent and dictate your choices. At
    times (in more closed in areas) a moderate wide angle to moderate
    telephoto zoom is ideal, while at others (in more open areas), a
    moderate telephoto to long telephoto zoom, even with the 2x, may give
    better results.
    In my day, manual control was heavily encouraged as "the only
    way" for a serious photographer to approach the craft and I still
    stick with it for EVERYTHING. It's a personal decision, of course,
    and I don't believe in the idea that there really IS only one way to
    do anything. I was at my absolute best as a photographer when I
    dropped my old OM-1 on its ear and broke the lightmeter. In addition
    to manual control, I had to learn to use my own eyes as a light meter
    and that is what I recommend, because internal light meters give
    inaccurate readings in bright light or low light and handheld meters
    tend to take too much time and attention away from your shooting.
    Once, I heard some camera store salesman pushing a fully automatic
    Canon on a potential customer and he was trying to tell him that full
    auto and auto focus were "the only way" to shoot wildlife. Yeah, I
    guess so, if you don't want to learn the first thing about animal
    behavior or wildlife photograpy. I just about snorted out loud. But
    everyone has their own way to go about getting a shot. It's what works
    for you that counts, not what works for me or anyone else. If you are
    going about it right, your subject won't even know what you've been up
    to. It's not so much a matter of being a sneak as just being relaxed
    and discrete. I recommend using a zoom lens with an outside limit of
    from anywhere between 160mm and 300mm, and you ought to have a 2x
    magnifier handy (don't forget, with it you lose two stops of light).
    You will want to be shooting with at least 200 speed film so that you
    can keep your shutter speed at a 250th of a second so as to minimize
    the negative effects of handheld camera shake due to the big heavy
    zoom. As for a tripod, forget it!!! Ansel Adams shot landscapes with
    a 4 x5, not street scenes. If you want to get a number of successful
    candid shots, you have to be quick and mobile, sharp-eyed, and steady
    as a surgeon for a brief moment, so make sure you brace yourself well.
    Some times it pays to set up in one place where you can use your car
    (or camper) for a blind. Another good idea is a seat (like a park
    bench) where you can brace yourself well and wait for shots to come to
    you. The long zoom is especially handy here because you can shoot a
    picture of someone before they are close enough to see what you're up
    to. Don't forget the video camera in this regard. They can be very
    useful for candid shooting, and with them you can zoom right in on
    someone's face (or whatever else about her you are interested in
    filling up your frame with). Of course, you can't do quite as much
    with the finished product as you can with a good still photo.

    Nature scenes in New York City? Central Park, I guess. As for
    architecture, its all over the place, just like people. Better worry
    about where to park more than anything and how to keep some of your
    party from getting mugged. Have a nice trip.
    traveler, Jun 5, 2004
  4. Forgive me for not snipping the above, but it is probably one of the best
    responses I have seen on any of the photo groups for a long time.
    All very good advice, but more importantly put forward in a way that
    acknowledged it was a personal opinion but not thrust down the throat of the
    original poster.

    Thanks "Traveler", you have shown that it is still worth sifting through all
    the aggressive posts just to find the odd jewel.

    Dennis Bradley, Jun 5, 2004
  5. Vadim

    Edw. Peach Guest

    Just to add a note to that excellent response about street shooting, I
    am not able to shoot with a film camera (expense) and find it very
    challenging to use my digital, particularly the focus aspect. It's
    automatic and sends out a beam of light to the subject, warning
    him/her that something is about to happen. restraints make it absolutely IMPOSSIBLE for me to
    shoot film, so I just have to make do with what I have. I love street
    Edw. Peach, Jun 5, 2004
  6. Vadim

    Mike Kohary Guest

    Yeah! :)
    Agreed, and this is definitely the most important thing. Always act like
    you're doing exactly what you should be doing, even if you feel a little
    self-concious at first. Don't hide and sneak around - that looks
    suspicious. Don't try to peel off surreptitious shots by mostly holding
    your camera in your lap and then raising it for a quick shot - that also
    looks suspicious. And don't get so close to people that they know for a
    fact you're there and shooting them. What I do is pick a spot to stand or
    sit, and then raise my camera and scan around looking for shots. When I
    find one, I take it - simple as that. When I feel like moving to another
    location, I do so. This makes me look like exactly what I am - a
    photographer taking pictures. Nobody thinks that's strange at all if that's
    what you look like you're doing. What looks strange is if you look nervous
    and secretive while holding a camera. ;)

    It helps big-time to use a telephoto lens. I use a 70-200mm lens, and I
    find that's great for candid street photography. It's big and noticeable,
    but again, as long as you behave appropriately, no one cares or notices.
    Besides, the people I'm shooting are far enough away they're not apt to
    notice me no matter what kind of lens I have. Because I'm constantly
    scanning the grounds with the camera to my eye, it would be hard to tell
    when I stop to take a shot anyway.

    To some extent, the more people in the place you're shooting, the better.
    You'll stand out less. Of course you don't want huge crowds or anything,
    but if you're in a secluded spot with only a few people, they'll certainly
    notice you. A city park on a sunny day is ideal - the crowd is sparse
    enough to grab individual shots, but heavy enough that you aren't apt to be
    noticed among the 50 other people you're sharing the space with.
    I tend to put my camera on auto (well, "P" mode anyway), just for
    convenience's sake. That way I can let the camera make the decisions and
    not look conspicuous spending too long pointing in one direction. All of
    your information and anecdote on manual shooting sounds fascinating, though,
    so I may have to force myself to abandon my safety net and try it sometime.
    Absolutely, gotta go hand-held all the way for candid street photography.

    I think the biggest trick to doing this is simply getting over yourself.
    You are the one feeling the most uncomfortable; it's a lot like being too
    self-critical. Just relax and have fun with your camera. If someone does
    approach you, remember your rights in a public place, but also remember your
    goal is to get good shots and have fun, so don't be confrontational (even if
    they're confrontational first). For what it's worth, I've only ever had
    exactly one person get offended that I took their picture. Most people are
    flattered or interested, or simply don't care. And for that matter, MOST
    people don't even know you did it in the first place, so it's never an issue
    at all.

    Cool thread. :)

    Mike Kohary, Jun 5, 2004
  7. Vadim

    Mike Kohary Guest

    Heh, definitely a bad combination. ;) The equipment definitely matters.
    Being inconspicuous and unintrusive is key to this kind of photography.
    What kind of camera is it?

    Mike Kohary, Jun 5, 2004
  8. Vadim

    Adrian Guest

    I don't know how valuable a "how to" book on street photography will
    be because the best street photographers were/are too busy shooting to
    take the time to piece together a systematic guide. In Robert Franks'
    classic - and MUST have - book, "The Americans," there is literally no
    text or even titles of photos. But from what has been written about
    him is that his approach is one of exploration, an almost innocent
    vision of what he saw on the streets of America. One of the best known
    of the genre, although not one of my favorites, is Garry Winogrand.

    Some of my favorites are Roy DeCarava, Ami Vitale and especially
    Elliott Erwitt. I love Erwitt's work especially for his ability to
    capture the humorous aspects of life. Although he's famous for his dog
    photos too, it's the human condition which I find most intriguing
    about his work. One of my favorite quotes of his is, "If you point
    your camera at someone long enough, they're going to do something

    A few pointers: Use at least 2 cameras if you can, one with a wide
    angle (or short zoom) and one with a telephoto (or moderate zoom). If
    this isn't possible, then you'll need to make a compromise, for
    example, on my last 2 trips to Mexico I took only a Canon EOS-3 with a
    28-135mm zoom and a 24mm lens for slightly wider shots. Of course, the
    zoom is slow, f.4.5-5.6, so that's a major compromise in lens speed,
    and thus - light level shooting capability. Make sure your camera has
    spot or semi-spot metering, exposure lock and a good lens hood for
    shooting against the light (recommended if possible).

    Respect your subjects, anticipate trajectories/juxtopositions and
    offer to email subjects pix in exchange for their willingness to allow
    you to photograph them. Obviously the absolutely candid photo is best,
    but if the photo involves children, I recommend that you get the
    parent's permission first (on the sly) and then try and get the photo
    if you can. It can be a very sensitive and even volatile act, so be
    prepared to have individuals be angry if they feel their space is

    Here's a sampling of some of my street photography:

    I hope you enjoy,

    Adrian, Jun 5, 2004
  9. Vadim

    D.R. Guest

    Many digitals and SLRs do this. My F80 does this to
    help autofocus in low light, to avoid red eye and
    when on timer mode. Digital cameras tend to do this
    when using the red eye reduction flash.
    D.R., Jun 8, 2004
  10. Vadim

    D.R. Guest

    D.R., Jun 8, 2004
  11. Vadim

    steve Guest

    I have searched and not found books on "how to" street photography.
    The advice already provided is very good.

    Check out these books:
    "Bystander: A History of Street Photography" excellent thick book.
    I bought mine used (a library copy)

    If you live in a busy town, books on Winnogrand would be nice.

    Go to and look for street photography. There
    are some nice groups there.
    steve, Jun 8, 2004
  12. Vadim

    steve Guest

    photography. The advice already provided is very good.
    book. I bought mine used (a library copy)
    The "Bystandar" book I mentioned would help you figure out different
    styles of S.P. and hopefully you can pick one that matches your taste,
    degree of aggressiveness (in approaching people), etc.
    steve, Jun 8, 2004
  13. Vadim

    Adrian Guest

    Thank you for your comments and I hope I can satisfactorily answer
    your questions. "Two Women Tepatitlan" was taken in 1980 on Kodak
    Plus-X film developed in Kodak D-76. The b&w negative was scanned,
    levels set manually in Photoshop, and a "perimeter burn" done on a
    lasso selection with a 150 pixel feather. 150 pixels is my usual
    STARTING point because I like the gentle gradations it gives on a
    burn. The burn is usual done in curves, then I invert the selection
    and use curves to bring up mid-tones and subdue highlights.

    "Man on 11th Street" was taken 2 years ago and was captured as a color
    digital file. The method for translating to bw was through Channel
    Mixer in the Image pull down menu in Photoshop. Toning was done as
    described above by feathered burn and inverted selection and using
    curves fine-tuning midtones and highlights.

    Hope this helps. Any further questions, feel free to follow-up.



    "A Picture's Worth a Thousand Nerds."
    Adrian, Jun 13, 2004
  14. Vadim

    ~Doc Guest


    I've been poking around your site and am impressed, but especially curious
    about #18 of 28 on the "tweaked_metalix" section. I have done this style of
    effect in many forms, including text which is interesting, but have never
    come across a result like yours. Care to share how you created such a

    ~Doc, Jun 14, 2004
  15. Vadim

    D.R. Guest

    For convenience of those reading this thread....

    A very clever artist and photographer IMHO.

    D.R., Jun 14, 2004
  16. Vadim

    Adrian Guest

    Thank you both for your comments. I'd be happy to share the technique,
    which is really very simple, but I hope I can find the right words to
    explain clearly. The photograph is a portrait of me and was processed
    in the very well known KPT 5 Shapeshifter filter plug-in for Photoshop
    (You can get ALL the KPT filter suites from Corel for $99.00 or on
    ebay for $69.00+/-. Or you might be able to find KPT 5 on ebay for

    The first thing I did was create a high contrast black and white image
    by using the "Stamp" filter (a very useful tool for creating alpha
    channel masks. Make certain that black is the foreground color and
    white the background).

    You'll need to understand the concept of greyscale height maps. Once
    again, very simple. Just remember that pure white will create the
    highest elevation and black the lowest. Despite the fact you'll be
    working in the 2-D Photoshop program, Shapeshifter responds with 3-D
    properties of reflectance, refraction, additive and subtractive
    lighting, etc.

    This is sort of confusing, but hope you can follow along. The actual
    finished image has a white background and the elevation is a
    metallic-type ridged texture.

    I inverted the image so that the base was black and the designated
    elevation was white. Save. Then, invert BACK so white is the base
    again. Do NOT save. However, go to Image> Duplicate and make a copy of
    the image. Make sure, like the saved original, that the base is black
    and bevel white. Use magic wand to make selection in all white areas.
    Next, (assuming you have it) use KPT 3 Gradient Designer in shapeburst
    mode and non-color ridges to make a hard-edge "gradient" (just realize
    that "gradient" means the transition between tones: usually - as in
    conventional thinking - the transition is "GRADual," which is what
    most people think of in GRADient. But KPT 3 allows the transition to
    be hard edge black to white if that's what you choose - it's all
    editible). You will have ridges that follow the shape of the
    selection. Save it.

    Next, go back to original base image. You have a choice of making the
    bevels "selection-based," but even that's not necessary in
    Shapeshifter because the saved image (thus, the reason why it's
    inverted) creates the bevels based on the tones according to the
    concept of height maps. Open Shapeshifter filter and in main shape
    pallet, import the original shape that you saved. Adjust bevel width
    and height with slider controls. I know this may sound complicated,
    but it's really very simple.

    Next, click on the Alpha channel pallet, in which you will import the
    image with the KPT 3 Gradient Designer ridges on it. You can control
    height and intensity of the ridge overlay by slider controls. The
    texture within the ridges are applied in the "Noise" pallet, which in
    this example is nothing more than an imported custom tiled
    checkerboard pattern that serves as an alpha channel mask as well.
    It's just a different control, but you still can designate scale and

    The metallics come from the "environments" (sphere) control. In the
    software presets are a great number of metallic environments, but the
    one I use most is "Dull Chrome."

    Finally, use the 3-D lighting controls to model the image.

    Ok, so maybe it isn't as simple as I first mentioned. It's simple to
    me because I do it so often. Bottom line, alpha channel masks (or just
    plain masks) can be a very powerful tool in creating textures and
    patterns, particularly with KPT 5 Shapeshifter.

    At the very least, this (ahem) tutorial can help dispell the
    widespread myth that Photoshop plug-ins are not useful tools for
    creativity (ok, agreed, MOST aren't useful, but I don't use any others

    Give it a try and if any questions, feel free to ask.

    By-the-way, the following images were made in the same manner as
    described above:



    "A Picture's Worth a Thousand Nerds."
    Adrian, Jun 15, 2004
  17. Vadim

    Adrian Guest

    I said it was simple and I just complicated the heck out of it. Here's
    a much more graphic example.

    You're making cookies. The dough is rolled out. You have 3 cookie
    cutters, but they all have exactly the same primary shape.

    Cookie cutter one is ONLY the primary shape.

    Cookie cutter two has the exact same primary shape, but inside the
    shape are concentric patterns.

    Cookie cutter three has the exact same primary shape, but inside the
    shape are tiny squares that add texture to the concentric patterns.

    Your masks are your cookie cutters. It's that simple.

    Adrian, Jun 15, 2004
  18. Vadim

    ~Doc Guest


    Thanks for taking the time to explain it. I don't have the same plug-ins
    but am working around it, for example select / stroke / contract and repeat
    for cookie cutter two and blend modes for the checker pattern in cookie
    three. I'm getting close but after a few hours I ran out of time, will try
    more later. Oh, and thanks again for explaining again. =)

    ~Doc, Jun 15, 2004
  19. Vadim

    traveler Guest

    I don't often receive such nice compliments. You're very welcome, indeed.
    traveler, Jun 16, 2004
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