As a final step, I apply a subtle black vignette in Exposure 7 to darken the corners and bring attention to the subject. For those images where a heavier vignette is desired, I prefer the “distortion large lumps” option. I appreciate how easy it is to move, shape and place the effect in a precise location.
3) Since you’ll be using a small aperture and fast shutter speed, a high ISO will likely be required. Just how high should it be? Try 800 first and go to 1600 if the photo is still too dark. The ISO will make your camera more sensitive to the existing light, absorbing it faster and brightening up the scene.
The instant you bring the camera up to your eye, everyone becomes self-aware and changes their behavior. To counter this, you can shoot from the hip, also known as the “spray and pray” technique. If you’ve never heard of it, let me explain how it works. I start by setting the camera to the high speed burst mode and choosing the single center autofocus point. I then set my exposure manually and use the lens at its widest focal length. A wide angle lens is an important consideration here, as it sees more, offering a better chance of capturing the subject.
Walking past my subject briskly, I hold the shutter button down to start the capture process. Technically I’m shooting blind as the camera is by my hip and I don’t know what it’s seeing. Since the center AF point is active, I try to aim the center of the camera towards the subject. During this high speed burst, I’ll capture anywhere from three to six photos. If aimed correctly, the autofocus will lock onto the subject in the center of the frame and achieve sharp focus. You may have captured something great, or an out of focus series of your feet. I’m aware this isn’t the most precise technique as the percentage for missed shots is high. However, it’s better than leaving the camera in your bag because you were afraid of the consequences.
It was Zack Arias who said “If you aren’t close to getting clobbered for a photograph then you aren’t trying hard enough.” At times like this it feels like I’m on the right track.
Is it Legal?
I’ll cut through all the misinformation and get right to the bottom line. In America, it is absolutely legal to photograph people in public spaces without their consent. This includes streets, public parks, and sidewalks. Model releases only become necessary for commercial use and instances where the image implies that the subject endorses a certain product or statement. For editorial and artistic use, releases are not required. Now that you know your rights, consider downloading a copy should someone approach and ask what you are doing. In countries across Europe, there can be variations to these laws, so it’s advisable to familiarize yourself with their specific customs.
As is always the case in all good art, rules are meant to be broken. The same is true with black and white street photography. You have even more flexibility as shadows can be inky black, and highlights can clip the histogram while retaining their visual appeal. A subject with dark shadows and bright highlights would not be ideal for a color photograph. In fact, it’s one of the reasons techniques like HDR have become so popular. Yet, for black and white street photography, this type of high-contrast light can be extremely effective. The harsh mid-afternoon sun is no longer a detriment, but an enhancement.