I will talk to you in this Blog about what I consider one of the most important things in Street Photography from my point of view. I do not expect you to agree with me on this. I had already mentioned in many posts the importance of the content in a photo. Nothing to change about that. I always give much more importance to the content over the form, but the form is also important. It’s a fair balance to achieve. I’m going to talk here about separation. What is it about ? Simply the space you put between the elements of your composition so that your photo is readable. In this case here Street Photography, attention will be paid not to have overlapping characters.
In the street, there are many parameters to take into account. The street is constantly moving. Even if you can anticipate some things, you are going to say that there is too much room left to chance and in the end it’s a bit of a lottery to capture something interesting. I’ll be honest with you : yes luck plays a role. But to reduce the practice to chance does not make sense. There are parameters you control in the streets. Your position to the photographed subjects and of course the moment you press the trigger. For several months, I have given much importance to this simple rule of being careful not to have overlapping characters in my composition. I photograph everything and anything trying to have a clean composition. You can see it in these few examples below, what I want to talk about. These photos are insignificant. The one and only interest is to work on this separation to have characters that do not overlap.
As you can see, it’s immediately more complicated when there are a lot of people in the frame. But with training we get there. Not every time, but you will be surprised to know that the eye force to work this kind of composition is very responsive and will know when to press the trigger. But there are also techniques that allow you to capture this kind of compositions even if the street is messy. I will detail some pictures that I made these last days in Toulouse where I’m spending a few weeks as part of my training before leaving for Reunion Island.
- Exemple 1
One of the easiest ways to get a good separation with all your characters in a composition is to use the diagonal avoiding to photograph them from the front, but on the side. Just wait until they come off one another to press the shutter button. For those who follow a little my work, I abuse this technique that is not only effective but also very dynamic because it offers perspective to the photo. In the photo above, there is not much going on, but the content was not what made me click here, but it was that morning light that caught my eye.
- Exemple 2
Here too it is the diagonal that has been used as a technique, but differently. You also need to use static elements in your composition. Here I had 3 static elements : the guy with his smartphone, the other guy in the van and the group of people on the right. Obviously this composition was way too simple. I left enough room left to integrate the guy with the headphones that went to my left. This scene is composed of static elements and yet there is life in the final composition. The diagonal offers a dynamic perspective that takes us directly to the gesture of the guy in the van. Here again, special attention has been paid to the fact that no character is overlapped to have a good reading of the photo.
- Exemple 3
Another photo that was composed in the same way as the previous except that there I had only my two bikes that were static. The guy in blue and the lady I integrated left to close the frame, were moving. Here the timing was important to have a good separation between the characters.
- Exemple 4
I spotted this girl with the painting in her bagpack. I quickly crossed the street to take the picture. I analyzed the scene to find out what I was going to integrate into the composition. There was of course the girl on her bike, the people under the bus shelter and of course the girl with the yellow pants. Once all these elements in memory, I focused on only one thing. I was in motion and waited for all the elements to be separated to press the trigger. Did I see the look that the little boy was giving to his mother or sister ? No. My attention was elsewhere. One thing only mattered to me : separation.
- Exemple 5
Oh yes on this last example, you need a bit of luck to get something clean with so many people in the frame. But you know what ? I am surprised to succeed more and more this kind of photos. My eyes scan all the elements and I know when to press the trigger to have the best chance to succeed such photos. I think the important thing is to put foregrounds that occupy a good part of the frame and then focus on them. The rest comes almost naturally. I hardly exaggerate when I tell you that I concentrate almost exclusively on this famous separation between my characters in the street. I find this very important because after all, when you look at the photos of the Masters, this is obvious. These clean compositions that make these pictures incredible. Of course it is not enough to make good pictures, but how many potential beautiful pictures ruined because you have not paid attention to a good separation between your characters ? The idea is to train your eyes until it becomes natural. A subconscious thing. What I can say is that it takes times to master that.
All the photographs were made with the ricoh GR in Toulouse.