Street Photography Tips from David Solomons
David Solomons loves London for its never-ending supply of colourful characters and its changeable cityscape – and has lived there most of his life. He completed a BA in Documentary Photography at Newport, South Wales in 1996, and has been working freelance since then. He’s been shooting street photography more than 17 years. See more of his work at David Solomon’s website.
16. Always have plenty of memory available
I’ve mostly missed shots where I didn’t have my camera with me or it was lying in my bag. In the film days, most pros – especially press and sports photographers – would burn off the last few frames of a roll and reload in case they missed out on an important moment. Much of street work involves taking a single frame of a specific subject matter but it’s important to try to work at any particular scene as most of the time you’re unlikely to get the best shot first time.
17. Pick the best focal length for street photography
Any small portable camera is suitable for street photography and the camera of choice has historically been a Leica, though I’ve never used that system. I’ve mostly used SLRs and other rangefi nders like the Contax G2 and a Ricoh GR1. I think using a fixed focal length of between 28mm and 50mm encourages more discipline as it forces you to be more active and thoughtful in your composition.
18. How to avoid confrontation when shooting street photography
I think trying to remain unobtrusive as opposed to unseen is important. People become more suspicious if you try to take pictures sneakily or if you look nervous, whereas if you act as though you’re doing your job and you project a more positive body language, then you’re less likely to encounter problems.
19. Which camera mode to use for street photography
In most situations, I find using the camera’s Program mode to be very reliable and it certainly gives you one less thing to worry about in terms of reacting quickly to subjects. Because I’ve shot a lot of transparency film in the past, however, I’ve learnt where certain tricky lighting situations can fool the camera’s metering, so when I encounter that I switch to Manual. The great thing about using digital is that you can review exposures immediately and adjust accordingly. A quicker method is to use the exposure compensation setting if I feel I need a quick adjustment in P mode but, of course, you need to remember to zero it again when you’ve finished.
20. What type of lens to use for street photography
Using a long lens isn’t a good option as it isolates a subject from its environment and produces a very different type of shot to traditional street photography. Many interesting situations in the street involve more than one or two subjects, so that should be a major consideration when deciding how much of a scene you include in your pictures. Long-lens shots don’t allow for a wider, more intimate viewpoint, and the vast majority of memorable street work has been shot with lenses between 28mm and 50mm.
21. Quick reaction times
I think you have to take into consideration where you’re taking pictures. For example, when I’m in London I’ll always have my camera in my hand as opposed to hanging on my shoulder as I know that events can unfold very quickly so it’s important to be able to react fast to things. In really busy areas such as Oxford Circus or Piccadilly Circus, I’ll sometimes just put the camera to my eye for 10-15 seconds at a time and if I see anything interesting come into frame – I know I can react to it within half a second. I think in a less congested area it’s not as important to go to those levels but I’d say it’s always good to have a small point-and-shoot compact to hand wherever you go.