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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On Midtown Crowds and Guerilla Photography

Candid, Midtown
Photo by myself around 34th Street and Sixth Avenue, in Midtown.

On one of the busiest street corners in New York, the setting sun cast a flattering glow on everyone in sight.

Just near Macy's are several entrances to the 34th Street subway. Bajillions of pedestrians cross the streets here every day.

That's just my estimate, not scientific fact. ;-)


While on the street Tuesday, I was thinking of some helpful hints about taking candids. I am not at all the expert about candid photography, and I encourage you to survey many street photography blogs for tips. But I did have a few words of advice.

1. Comfy shoes.
I know, I know, this tip falls under Practical Knowledge 101, but there is truth to it.

Don't try out your new platform sandals while attempting to take candids. Sidewalks are uneven and it's easy to get caught up fiddling around with your camera settings.

The last thing you need is to crash to the ground. Wear sensible shoes you're familiar with. If you feel confident on the street, it will show in your body language and in your photos.

2. Know your camera really well.

It just takes a little practice. Know how to adjust your aperture, shutter speed and ISO without needing the manual. Be able to manipulate one setting really quickly.

Candids aren't like landscapes or portraits. You're taking a photo on the fly of people who are moving. Best case scenario, you take multiple shots of any one scene so you can select the best image later.

If you plan on taking candids and you're shopping for a camera, test the cameras out first for ease in making adjustments.

3. Be subtle.

If you don't want to draw attention to yourself, try this trick: Focus your camera in a completely different direction from your subject. Then swing around and quickly take a shot of the scene you want.

Also, if your camera is black, it helps to wear a dark colored top.

4. Bring your camera everywhere you go.

Everywhere. Every day.

5. Don't be shy.

I think many photographers are more the retiring sort. We're watchful, we notice things. It might not be your nature to take candids, which might seem intrusive.

Take baby steps. Pretend you're taking photos of something going on behind the person you have in mind.

Remember that half of your face is hidden by the camera! And remember that the worst thing that could happen is someone asking you to delete a photo.

34th Street, Midtown

Related posts: On Street Photos in Midtown and Online, On the Times and the People and On Street Photography and Grand Central Station.


Olivier said...

ah ah c'est pas bien de faire des photos volées ;))) et en effet ne pas être timide, un grand photographe disait "si tu es capable de rentrer dans un wagon d'un train, t'assoir en face d'une personne , regarder droit dans les yeux cette personne (oui avec une personne qui dors cela ne compte pas) , sortir ton appareil photo, faire un gros plan de la personne et faire la photo, ranger ton appareil photo et partir tranquillement, si tu arrives a faire ça, c'est que tu es prêt a être photographe".

Sinon, souvent des personnes énervées me demande de formater ma carte devant eux, ceci n'est pas un problème, astuce : une fois la carte formater, la ranger dans son sac, changer de carte pour continuer sa promenade et en rentrant chez soit, avec des utilitaires (recurva and co) recréer la carte mémoire et récupérer les photos ;)

sewa mobil said...

Nice article, thanks for sharing.

Kitty said...

Hi Olivier!

This is what Google translate said for part of your comment:

'in fact do not be shy, a great photographer said "if you are able to fit in a wagon train, sit down in front of a person looking straight in the eye that person...out your camera, take a close up of the person and make the photo, store your camera and leave quietly, if you able to do that, then you are ready to be a photographer.'

ha, I'd like to know who the great photographer is that said that!

It does take a little courage to take candid photos. I think my first attempt was in a subway train. I was simply taking photos of people's shoes, and just that made me nervous.

But you try this, you try that. And after a while, it's not too bad.

Thanks Sewa!

Leif Hagen said...

Nice portrait of Sam Li! He seems like a hip New Yorker! Fun to see the sidewalk crowd at a busy spot near the subway!

Tim said...

HAHAHA thanks for the entertainment you are really funny!

Here's more advice you may want to put in future posts about taking candids:

6. disguise yourself as a tourist.
7. Wear crazy shoes to distract attention from your camera (but comfy or you will die in a sidewalk crash)
8. use a 800mm telephoto lens and
9. do it from a helicopter.
10. stretch your muscles before you take the picture: the last thing you need is to get cramps while taking a photo
11. Make sure you eat something before you go out to take candids - otherwise you will be eating a htdog and get ketchup on that nice D700.
12. If it's raining, take an umbrella.
13. Wear gloves if it's freezing
14. Don't wear shoes with laces: you will do them up while that perfect shot walks by.

Washington Cesar Takeuchi said...

Only once a person asked me to delete a picture: inside the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art. The guy was really rude!

Kitty said...

Ha, thanks Leif!

Thanks Tim.
I really love your tips, too.

I will have to buy me a helicopter :-)

Hi Washington
Sometimes I tell people that it's legal to photograph people in public places (because it is) but often I don't say anything and respect their wishes.

I'm sorry you had a bad experience. But if it's only been one photo out of the 100s you've taken, that's pretty good odds!

Ice Queen said...

Here's one of my favorite tips:

Look for the unexpected. The best pictures I've ever taken are those that come after the shot you want to take. I have one of a celebrity that was taken by pure chance and is still my all time favorite. A split second can make a difference.

Andrea said...

This is great, thanks for the tips Kitty!!

I am just getting into street photography, but I do find it hard - as you say I am too more the retiring sort and find it hard to be blatant about taking photos of people on the streets as they are going about their business.
I did have an occassion when I was a bit more daring, I was in a beautiful garden and children were playing and I took a photo of them, and one of the kids' mother saw me and told her kid to get out of the picture... I guess she subtly meant she doesn't want random people photographing her kid.

She didn't tell me to delete the photo, but I did anyway, out of guilt.... :-S

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