Cameras for the street
Shooting the street - a photographic genre. A little about the whys and wherefores of street work and how these became my favourites for the job.
This is always candid photography in a public place – photography of everyday life by chance, not arranged in advance and not featuring a single subject unless by express permission. People simply walking on a public street generally have no expectation of privacy but, they may not expect to be photographed either. Therefore the street photographer may encounter a negative reaction which even though the photographer is acting legally it is best to apologise and move on. When you have become a seasoned street photographer you will immediately feel, in your heart, whether your actions are right and appropriate. Remember, as a general rule, people are usually suspicious of cameras. But, be bold in a mindful way and you will end up with some fantastic frames which you will review time and again thinking – wow did I shoot that?
The purpose of the photography is important too. If it is simply a street scene with random people and the image is used editorially to say, describe daily life in a particular place/town/city then no permission or ‘model’ release is required. But, if the same image were to be used in subsequent commercial advertising then a model release would be required from all identifiable people depicted in the image. A model release is an agreement between the photographer and the image subjects as to what the image can be used for. If a formal model release cannot be obtained the photographer is strongly advised not to use the image in a commercial way. If he/she does, then the door is open for legal redress. It will be obvious that seeking ‘model releases’ everywhere from everyone, just isn’t going to work, so take care with your choice of subject and be prepared to walk away. Having said that, there are times when you can snap the perfect human interest shot by simply asking permission. Be careful how you use shots obtained in this way as the human subject can change their mind at any time later if they come across the shot used in a way they are not so happy with.
Some countries/jursidictions have quite complex laws relating to the photographic genre of street photography. France is one such and the serious as compared to tourist photographer is well advised to acquaint himself/herself with the law, so hopefully avoiding any uninvited expensive attention from authorities. In New Zealand, careful and mindful street photography is OK and fun.
Property is another grey area. A building on a public street is not an issue but maybe some street art, which could carry copyright is. Once again it depends how the image is to be used. Uninvited photography of a private residence is off limits if the property photographed can be easily identified. A property feature, such as a window, verandah or door, which cannot easily lead to property recognition, is usually OK. You may be walking about in suburbia and come across a striking sea view which you want to shoot but there is a house that will be fully captured in the frame off to one side. No problem here as the sea view is the image purpose.
Having digested all the foregoing ‘rules’ you’ll be thinking – yes I want to start street photography but what about the camera and lens. These days nearly everyone has a pretty good cell phone with a high resolution camera built in. It will do a good job and is unobtrusive too but, it won’t ever get those shots which have the ‘je ne sais quoi’ about them – the ‘wow’ shots. For these you need some carefully thought out analogue (film) gear. We can help with advice and choices. These are our favourites for general purpose street photography – why, and in order of preference.
Nikon F75 SLR with Nikkor AF 50mm F1.4. We like this combo especially due to the small form of the 75 and its comprehensive settings – from full auto to do it yourself manual. With the F1.4 50mm deployed we are ready for any light conditions. The AF system is fast and quiet. It is mainly plastic which makes it very light weight. I have shot one for years and can attest to their durability. The 50mm lens is an excellent choice for general street work. Being an slr other lens choices can be made as required.
Minolta 7SII is a fixed lens rangefinder. The superior Minolta lens is the gold standard 40mmF1.7.Shooting on F8 or smaller, focus can be pre-set to suit your location making the 7SII quick off the mark. Its small size adds to desirable discretion whilst street shooting. Shooting at larger apertures requires some extra attention to accurate focusing.The 7SII is durable and light, needing it’s 675 battery for the meter only.
Olympus RC, also a fixed lens rangefinder is a pleasure to use and of the fixed lenses, probably my preference. I like the Olympus build quality and the 42mm F2.8 Zuiko lens renders nicely. The shutter speed dial, placed on the top plate just to the right of the hot shoe and above the film winder can be changed easily with the selected speed displayed on the upper edge of the viewfinder – nice.
Olympus XA. The only rangefinder in the XA series. Very small so easily goes in a pocket and with its clamshell cover, which turns the camera on and off, closed there are no annoying protrusions for it to hang up on. Very quick to shutter ready. The F Zuiko 35mm F2.8 lens is slightly wider angle than is usual for this style of camera making it very useful for street shots of architecture and landscape features.The shutter is electronic needing 2 LR44 button batteries which are readily available.
None of these cameras will break the bank, they are all durable, well proven and above all fun to use. Browse our current stock here and if you have any questions at all, about these cameras or any other photographic query please get in touch here.