I chose Amsterdam Street Photography as my topic this week. I recently got back from a trip abroad where I spent a couple of days in Amsterdam and 3 1/2 weeks in Morocco 🙂 Now I have thousands and thousands of photos to go through lol! I decided to begin with my photos from Amsterdam. Below are some of my favourites:
I visited Amsterdam primarily to attend a street photography workshop with one of my favourite street photographers, Marius Vieth. I have been following Marius’ blog for a few years now and love his work! Luckily for me, his fall workshop dates fell right before my trip to Morocco. After a painful re-arranging of flights, I was able to schedule a brief stop in Amsterdam for his workshop. The photography club that was also supposed to also be attending his workshop cancelled at the last minute, so I had a fantastic one on one workshop session with Marius!
Here are a few tips that I picked up during Marius’s workshop:
Fine Art Street Photography
Fine art street photography is about capturing candid moments of people in an artistic, aesthetically pleasing way. While your main subject is important, there should also be a synergy between the subject and the background. Often photos are taken from a distance, with a simple background which enhances the story or mood. One of the keys to a good fine art street photo is reducing the background so that it is not distracting from the subject. Eliminate unnecessary people (which may require a lot of patience) and items which poke out of the frame (e.g. parts of trees, power lines, garbage cans, etc.). You can also use aesthetically pleasing leading lines, geometric shapes and other compositional elements to lead the viewer to your main subject, which is usually a person or a few people.
One other major element needed for a good fine art street photograph is your own heart and soul. They help give life to the photo and affect how you compose and edit the photograph. This is one of the main takeaways I received from Marius’s workshop 🙂
Eye, Heart & Soul
One of the most interesting things I learned at Marius’s workshop was how important the eye, heart and soul is in your photography.
Your “eye” or how you see the world often influences your photos. What are you attracted to? What sorts of things draw your eye? I am drawn to reflections in water and windows, colourful flowers, interesting textures and abstracts. One or more of these often end up in my street photographs. The “eye” also includes common compositional elements, some of which I have described below.
In street photography, often your photos are a reflection of your soul. You can be drawn to subjects that remind you of people you know, scenarios that remind you of your past, things you love, etc. For example, I often like taking pictures of romantic couples holding hands, since they remind me of my boyfriend and I. Or of my parents, whose tender romance is something I have always admired. I also seem drawn to photograph individuals reading books, since I love reading too and often enjoy reading a good book when I am alone. It’s an interesting exercise looking back at your street photographs to see how many of them appeal to your soul.
Your heart is also very important to your photography. Your current moods – peaceful, joyous, moody, melancholy, lonely, excited, etc. – while taking the photograph can really influence the mood of the photograph itself. If you’re melancholy and lonely, you might be drawn to moody, dark photos with solitary figures. If you’re really happy, you might be drawn to people experiencing happy emotions. Your mood can also influence your editing afterwards too.
Some general composition tips for street photography include:
- Use leading lines to draw the viewer into the photograph and towards your main subject (usually a person)
- Use geometric shapes to enhance the photograph. Once you start looking around your scene, you might be surprised by how many geometric shapes you can find in a location. Check out Marius’s post on Street Photography Tetris – a fun way to experiment with geometric shapes in your photos
- Use reflections in windows. This can make for an interesting composition, and often enables you to get pictures of people without their awareness of the photograph being taken
- Use contrast to make the subject jump out against the background
- Incorporate complimentary colours into the photograph (e.g. blue and orange)
- Pick one colour to focus on. For example, perhaps the person you choose going over the blue bridge will also be wearing blue clothing or blue accessories which will complement the blue of the bridge
- Use interesting shadows in a photograph
- Use a shallow depth of field to draw attention to your subject
Setting up the Shot
Often getting a good street photo requires patience and some research. It helps to scope out the site and understand the timing of your subject. Perhaps you need to go early in the morning or late at night to get a quiet scene with a solitary person in a city park, or perhaps you want the hustle & bustle of coloured umbrellas in the rain at rush hour in the urban centre.
You can even predict the patterns of certain subjects. After Marius brought this to my attention, I found I started noticing patterns and timing more during my photo shoots in Morocco. For example, if you knew what time prayer begins and ends in Morocco, and which days locals often wear a white jellaba (Fridays), you could set up your shot in an area close to a local mosque on a Friday right before or after prayer. Then you have a better chance of getting a photograph of a local wearing a white jellaba after prayer rather than waiting for random timing on a random day. Even knowing the direction people are typically walking, or which archway they commonly walk through, can help you with setting up your shot.
You can also wait for your subject to wander into your frame. For example, in the photo below, I thought it would be interesting to get a person beside one of the faces in the painting. A man wandered into the shot, and when he turned around he was in the perfect spot to the take the photo. The funny thing is, he apologized for getting in my shot! When in fact I was actually waiting for him to enter it…
More Info on Street Photography
If you would like to learn more about street photography, I highly recommend Marius’s fine art street photography workshops. He has expanded these workshops to Canada and the U.S. so you don’t even have to travel to Amsterdam to take one. Although I love Amsterdam and recommend going there – it’s a great place for street photography!
Marius also has many great blog posts and an online course on editing. It’s fascinating to see how he edits the photos in a way which makes them jump off the page. While you still need to start with a good photo, it’s amazing how you can improve it with some simple editing in Lightroom.
Have fun with your street photography!