He’s not only a master of portrait photography, he also relishes doing street photography. Tonight, Photocraft member, Joe Franklin, shared what he looks for when he is out and about on the street with his camera. How does he engage with his subject? What catches his eye and how does he set himself up to get the shot? Copiously illustrated from his back catalogue, Joe gave us plenty of excellent tips to improve our street photography.
Last time, he had set up a portrait studio for us, to hone up our skills. Joe claimed that street photography and studio photography are not all that different. Both employ similar techniques and the street is really ‘just one big studio’. The key element in street photography is ‘observation of the people’.
Joe is a Nikon aficionado and principally shoots with either his D5 or D800. He normally uses either a 70-200mm lens, which compresses the perspective nicely, or his 50mm prime, allowing him a maximum aperture of f/1.4. He prefers his zoom lens, as it enables him to watch people at a distance. He doesn’t want to ‘get in the face of the subject’. Joe likes to be unobserved, so as to get a genuine, rather than a posed image.
Street photography calls for lots of patience. He usually starts by finding a good location, which will give him the best odds for good light and interesting subjects (or ‘actors’, as he likes to call them). He then, typically, arms himself with coffee and a bagel and sits on the little insulated mat that he’s brought along in his camera bag. Then it’s a matter of just waiting until his subjects take up interesting poses or do something unexpected or until the light is on them in his ‘outdoor studio’. Meantime, he’s constantly watching for nuances of movement and the way others are interacting with his subject.
Joe knows that sometimes he needs to be cheeky and proactive. He has a high visibility gilet that can get him mistaken as an official or even ‘press’, photographer. He may get a hesitant or aggressive subject’s cooperation by praising their looks or style: ‘I love what you’re wearing! Do you mind if I take your portrait?’. He has a disarming enthusiasm for interacting with people and ‘capturing the moment’. Though he is careful not to force the situation and tries to avoid offending people.
He has a well-cultivated eye for where light is falling in a shot and how it’s being reflected. He notices the effect of shapes and angles and takes account of how different colours draw the eye or complement each other. His street photography is not just a set of quick snap shots – each shot is well-considered, with room to spare, in case he needs to crop in post-production.
It’s easy for street photographers to simply behave as if they’re on safari, hunting out their prey, getting their shots and then cutting and running. But Joe is clearly not into taking advantage of his subjects. He’ll buy them coffee and he’ll spend time chatting with them. I was impressed by his pictures of the Gambia, where Joe and his wife are supporting a number of disadvantaged children. Invited out there, Joe found, to his surprise, that people in the poorest neighbourhoods had never had their photos taken. So, he had brought a 4X3 instant printer with him, so that he could share the images with his subjects.
Joe has kindly agreed to let us include the following 3 excerpts, so that you can get a real flavour of his excellent talk (click on the sound clips after the images):