Street Lessons

As someone who’s most comfortable photographing on the street, I find it interesting to see what happens when I work in a more traditional, assignment-based environment. Meaning, how are the skills I’ve developed on the street transferable to a place like a stadium? Or how might my street skills lead me astray?

At the risk of being ____ or sounding ____, I made a list of a few things to note for next time. I thought I’d share them with you, in case you’re making a similar leap, from the street to more traditional photographic arenas, pun intended.

1. When you’re kneeling on the sidelines beside a guy in a National Geographic shirt, don’t automatically think he’s a photographer for National Geographic just because he has a huge camera and appears to know what he’s doing. He wears that shirt and walks around looking angry so people will get out of his way.

2. Just because all the other photographers are sequestering themselves in a small space (on the field or in the press box) doesn’t mean you have to stand with them. Wander. Have a good look around. If someone tells you you can’t be there, apologize and move on. Poke your head inside open doors – see what’s going on. Inquire about everything. Be friendly.

3. If you don’t have the gear or the interest in taking telephoto action shots, don’t even try. Trying will frustrate you and will be a waste of time. Those big grey lenses that require their own monopod are worth more than your ___. Go back to wandering around. Talk to people. Find a story. What happens behind the scenes when no one’s looking?

4. Make sure you know what you’re doing with your gear. Pre-program manual settings into your brain (or write them down on a cheat sheet). (When are digital camera manufacturers going to allow custom programming – and easy toggling – of manual settings?) This’ll help when you’re moving between the field, the stands, hallways and lockerrooms.

5. Canon TTL flash metering is frustratingly useless around highly reflective surfaces. Remember this and do everything manually, like the old days. Then put the digital camera away and shoot film, it’s better.

6. Hustle. Work up a sweat. When you pack-up your gear, you’ll probably miss the best thing ever, so pack your gear and leave quickly, without looking back. Leave no unphotographables.

7. Keep in mind that if you’re setting-up more formal shots with your subjects, there may well be a row of photographers with telephotos standing behind you, waiting for you to clear out of the way with your little wide lens. Be quick and cordial, but get your shot.

8. Your mom would want you to do a good job and not to forget to eat, so bring some water and an energy bar or something, K?

9. When you get your film back and compare it to the digital shots you took, and you wind-up to throw your digital camera across the room, aim for the couch.

10. Take notes!

3 thoughts on “Street Lessons”

  1. This is a very good list, It seems like it is being professional and aware. I think it may be the journalist part of photojournalist. Another thing I like to do in my PJ work is go early and stay late. I have gotten some good pictures by hanging around abit after an event or game. I enjoy your blog, and take a look at mine. Thanks, Jim.

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