Photographers looking to quicken their reflexes, become bolder photographing strangers without disturbing them, and to break away from the constraints of classical composition can learn all of this and more by mastering street photography. Arguably the most challenging area of photography, but practiced by such legendary photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Jeff Mermelstein, and Elliott Erwitt, street photography is a form of candid photography that often defies our preconceptions of what makes a photograph good.
While few photographers achieve financial success from street photography alone, many have been able to spice up other forms of photography–from wedding and event photography to fashion, sports to photojournalism–with the “street photography aesthetic”.
Street photography is all about finding order in a chaotic world. It doesn’t rely on pre-visulaization; quite the opposite: Street photography helps you anticipate action, interaction and humorous juxtapositions and capture those fleeting moments. By the end of this course, students will have a better understanding of what it takes to see and create successful street photos as people whirl around them in urban environments anywhere in the world.
Week 1: Theory of Street Photography
In this amply-illustrated first lesson, we will discuss the theory behind street photography, then put it into practice. We’ll talk about shopping for a digital camera for street photography, a shortcut manual focusing technique, exposure. More importantly, we’ll talk about techniques that will help you capture street photos without annoying people or disturbing the scene by watching videos of street shooters in action. Students will be assigned to go out and shoot using the focus and composition ideas discussed in class.
Week 2: In Your Face
In this lesson, we will discuss strategies for photographing strangers in public places without their permission. We will talk about the law regarding street photography, and what to do in the unlikely event that you’re confronted (first, don’t panic!) Students will be assigned to walk up to total strangers and take their pictures while looking through the viewfinder.
Week 3: Work a Corner
This week we’ll talk about staying in one place and letting the pictures come to you, versus walking and shooting—both valid approaches to street photography. Students will be assigned to choose a city intersection with lots of pedestrian traffic and spend an hour taking pictures. We will review/critique the previous week’s assignment.
Week 4: In The Zone
Street photographers often speak of getting in the Zone, a Zen-like state of hyper-awareness and unselfconsciousness that can lead to visual breakthroughs. We’ll talk about ways to achieve this state, and talk about parallel action and trying to capture more complex juxtapositions that can be entertaining and humorous, or describe the human condition. We will also talk about ways that your photos rise above the noise in an era when there are many ways to share street photos, and you can read the instructor’s interviews with four well-known contemporary street photographers.
While a Leica M-series digital or film camera and a wide angle lens is the optimal street camera, a new generation of mirrorless interchangeable-lens compact digital cameras offers less costly options. To learn more, read this buying guide: http://www.adorama.com/alc/0013731/article/Digital-Cameras-for-Street-Photography-An-Opinionated-Buying-Guide
Instructor: Mason Resnick
Mason Resnick has been writing about and practicing street photography since the mid-1970s, after studying with street photography legend Garry Winogrand, Resnick has worked as a writer and editor for Modern and Popular Photography magazines, and has had street photos published in Spiegel, American Photo, and Shutterbug magazines.
He has curated street photography exhibits and has taught street photography online. He is currently a freelance photographer and senior contributing writer for the Adorama Learning Center.