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Seeing and Street Photography

The Pose of a Generation.

The Pose of a Generation.

The next time you are out shooting street photography, try this.  Put your camera down at your side and just look around for awhile.  Watch things happen and let moments develop in front of your eyes.

It sounds simple but it goes against our natural instincts to throw the camera in front of our face every time we see something remotely interesting.  That is especially true with digital.

The camera is the tool, but it can get in the way sometimes.

The camera can be easy to hide behind and it can become a crutch.  It’s so easy to rev the engine and just start clicking away, trying to capture everything.  Meanwhile, in the haste the most important moments go unnoticed.

Most of the work that goes into capturing a good photo is done before you put the camera to your eye and after you take it away, in editing.  You need to see the photograph or the potential for a photograph with your eyes before you can get to the point of trying to capture it.

The key is to hold back, slow yourself down and scan the area until you finally see something,  Then you can pounce.  Often, just seeing something isn’t enough and you’ll have to wait for the situation to develop further.

Always think, can this be better?

Gust, SoHo.

Gust, SoHo.

It’s better to be proactive instead of reactive.  You need to see the potential for a moment before it occurs.  Of course there will be great images that will suddenly spring out at you and you will have to photograph them as fast as you can, but that’s only a fraction of the time.

An important tip is to try to notice people from further away, especially in a crowd.  Scan the area and go from person to person.  If you’re only first noticing people as they are 8 or 10 feet away from you, then there’s nothing you can do but react.  Yes, some brilliant photos are created this way, of course, but if you instead focus on the people coming towards you from say 25 feet away, then you’ll have much more of a chance to get in position and capture the moment if it occurs.

The camera is just a tool to capture what your eye sees.  And the more your eye is able to see without the camera, the better your photographs will be.

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James Maher
James Maher

is a professional photographer based in New York, whose primary passion is documenting the personalities and stories of the city. If you are planning a trip to NYC, he is offering his new guide free to DPS readers, titled The New York Photographer’s Travel Guide.
James also runs New York Photography Tours and Street Photography Workshops and is the author of the e-book, The Essentials of Street Photography.

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