Keep the lens cap off and keep walking. You might want to have some tunes on your headphones. I’m on Leon Bridges on repeat at the moment. But keep walking and looking. Remember the world is full of photographs you just need to keep moving, be ready and keep looking about you. Then drop the headphones off down your neck when you see something. And investigate. Look for reflections, what the light is doing, feel the moment. It has to feel right. You have to keep looking. It’s addictive. Enjoy.
The woman on the left was busy texting but if I was not ready I would not have been able to get the shot with the reacting woman coming in behind down the line of people.
Step in. See something interesting. Don’t stay on the other side of the road and zoom in. The tech is getting so good you don’t have to engage with your subject right? No. Wrong. Get in there. If possible. Enjoy the moment. Talk to people. People are more in to being photographed if you have a genuine interest in them and what they are about. But don’t fake it. People can smell if you are just in to snapping and not their world.
The woman at the centre of this image was able to own the space so completely she made herself the centre of everything and then all the other details around her fill in the story.
Notice what the light is doing. A wet street after the rain when the sun comes back out will just ache to be shot. Then look at the people and the action passing through. Hard light or soft light. Reflections shadows and more. They form shapes, textures and can guide the eye to what the story you want to tell is. Where do you put the camera to play with light. All these elements are for you to play with.
Get a compelling close up. They add to the story and may not be what you are looking for. You want a killer shot of a group of people expressing life and love out in the open. But there are things around this that need shooting. You shoot a c lose up of a piece of trash on the floor its not going to win any awards but it will guide you in to the story. The event. And if you look back at the roll of shots you will notice a story is there. It also shows who you are photographing that you are really in to this.
This close up was used to introduce a group of graffiti artists in my new book Stokes Croft and Montpelier. The cans are all jumbled together and it sort of represents how they moved around each other as they painted in the following shots.
Don’t be afraid of blur. How many achingly beautiful shots have been deleted because they were ‘moving’. Well they can be moving in every sense of the word. Look at people passing by at night by a bus stop and turn them in to ghosts around a figure that is not moving. Blur can bring beauty in or let the beautiful break apart and show you what’s going on inside the person. Play with this.
Here the crowd as the Downs festival went wild for the bands but one shot wasn't really capturing their energy so a double exposure allowing for a bit of blurring was what I thought was needed.
There are three stages to meeting and photographing people and I recommend all three. Part 1: shoot candid. They don’t know. But this can be limited. And it’s been done for a century now (god knows how they did it with those massive cameras). There are only so many shots of people walking past graffiti that can be stored on your iCloud right? Part 2 is to talk to people, just long enough to set up a shot. Be quick. They will pose too much and it looks staged. Unless that’s what you want. That’s good too. But you see a story, a moment, you ask when they are near something that add to the composition and you shoot it. Stage 3 takes just 10 minutes and its about engaging. You find out what the ‘scene’ is. What they are about. And you hang with them. This could lead to a story following their journey, their life. Look for these threads and enjoy the journey. Get it right and they will forget the camera and enjoy time with you. Dog shows, protests, political rallies… just get in there. Now mix it up and try what works for you.
Look for symmetry. Maybe a staircase rolls down in a spiral guiding your eye perfectly to the action. Then break the symmetry. Look for things butting into it. Flow one way? Look for something rudely cutting in. Catch your eye? It will do the same for the person seeing it on the gallery wall. If you just make everything symmetrical it will only be a card in an envelope. Nothing wrong with that, just doesn’t challenge you to look more into what composition can be. Be challenging.
Layers. Foreground and background. What’s going on there. See something cool in one of these then wait. Before you shoot look at the other. Maybe there is a way to have something passing through there that adds depth, or contrast, another world. Maybe people in one space of a shot are unaware of people in another and you can shoot that. Show how connected or disconnected we are. See? It’s fun. Muddy the foreground with things in the way. Let the fairy lights become suns right by the lens. Play.
Colour and black and white. Some will just use one or the other. Don’t lock it down too soon. Martin Parr was shooting killer black and white before he became a Jedi with the colour. Try both but know when colour pulls you in and when black and white makes the everyday look epic.
Here is Martin Parr with his favourite book by Daido Moriyama (check both these great photographers to see such a huge scope in what is possible between colour and b/w).
Break all the rules. But is your lens cap off? It better be because that amazing shot might just walk past you right now. And you better be ready. One person with that look on their face might be everything.
The recent Bristol Pride so many people together some coming out for the first time, I wanted to experiment with the idea of out of shadow comes light. And you only need a little bit of light to let a whole world in.