Today I’m going to take you through some of the advice given to me by UK wedding photographer Kevin Mullins. Kevin’s approach to candid wedding photography translates precisely into his street photography style.
What makes a good “street” shot?
The three key factors that make a good street image are;
Get all three and you have a great shot. Two of them can result in a good shot. If you can only have one, make sure it’s the interesting subject
Assignment 1 – Shoot with a theme
Start by simply shooting how you want, but with a theme. Try the theme “angles”. When I took this shot below, it was a nice sunny-but-cool day in Cambridge so there were plenty of things to choose from. Look for good light, some sort of interesting subject, and carefully consider the complete composition.
Assignment 2 – Frame your subject
Try to use people to frame shots of other people. Pair up with another photographer and go hunting interesting shots together. Use your partner to help provide a frame for the shot. The theme of “angles” was dropped but otherwise everything applied; light, composition, something of interest that tells a story.
Assignment 3 – Spot Metering
The next thing to try is pre-focusing and spot metering. Put your cameras into spot metering and manual focus mode and stand facing a place where people would “break the light”. In other words, pedestrians and cyclists would travel from the bright sunshine, into the shade, or vice-versa. Use the “AF-L” button to pre-focus on the ground where we wanted them to be when we shot and then simply time them right to shoot them just as they cross from the light into the shadow. The camera will adjust for the exposure according to light on the subject, rather than the total light in the scene.
On the X100T, X-T1, X-T10 and X-Pro2 there is a setting that allows you to link the spot metering with the AF box. Activating this allows you to choose the point in your composition to expose for. On cameras without this function the spot metering will only occur in the middle of the frame so you may be slightly limited in your composition.
Assignment 4 – Zone focusing
Get close to your ‘subjects’. Getting close obviously means more chance of affecting the resulting image so it’s key to try to appear like you are not taking photographs. The main reason people need to really see what they are shooting is to make sure you are focusing on the right thing.
Keep your camera in Manual Focus mode, select a nice small (big number) aperture value and then used the focus distance indicator on the screen of the camera to understand where the range of acceptable focus would be.
Focus on the ground a few metres in front of you. Your next challenge is to get in close to people and inconspicuously shoot them getting on with their life. Continuous shooting is also very handy here as it allows you to shoot a few frames, especially good if your subject is moving through your zone focus area.
Assignment 5 – Turn invisible
There is now no need to hold the camera up to your eye so all of your shooting can be at waist level, looking down onto the tilting LCD screen (if your camera has one) to check the overall composition. After a while you will be able to simply look around and be confident that you’re going to capture the interesting subject without them knowing, therefore not influencing or changing the subject, but merely documenting what is going on around you.
The three keys to a good street image are; good light, good composition, interesting subject. All three of these results in a great shot. Two of them can result in a good shot. If you can only have one, it has to be the interesting subject
Shoot with a theme. This will make you consider your shot more carefully and not just fill your card.
Try to frame your subjects with parts of the background, or even make your own frame by using other photographers
Setting your camera on full auto with Spot metering allows you to ignore the exposure settings and let you worry about looking for a good shot
Zone focusing allows you to not worry about accurate focus, but rather understand that if a subject is within a certain “zone” in front of your lens, it’ll be sharp and in focus
Tiltable LCD screens allow you to shoot at waist level and still see the frame. The camera remote app takes this one step further and you look like you are just using your phone while actually shooting people with the camera hanging around your neck.
Keep practicing, hope for something interesting to unfold in front of your eyes and be ready with your camera when it does. Hopefully these techniques will help you get a great shot without anyone even knowing you were there!
In this tutorial I wanted to give you some of my favourite tips to get you started with landscape photography from the more obvious tips to some of the lesser known ones. I have not listed them in order of importance as I believe this is subjective, more so the order in which they came to mind.
Remember, you don’t have to apply any or all of these ideas to take a great landscape picture, but it may just help you on your way.
Although Fujifilm JPEGs are renowned for their quality, when shooting landscapes I strongly recommend that you shoot RAW. This is because more image ‘information’ is retained in the image than from a JPEG and this will allow more flexibility when correcting exposure, enhancing colours and boosting tones. RAW files can be processed & converted with the camera specific bundled software or you can use popular programs like Adobe Lightroom, Capture One etc.
Essential accessories you may have overlooked
When you’re going to be standing in the dark on a misty morning up to your kneecaps in mud there is nothing worse than not having the right gear to keep you warm and comfortable; after all, you may be out for a few hours in these conditions. Here are some accessories that you might have overlooked taking with you:
Wellies – May be obvious for wearing in marshland environments but also extremely helpful on the beach (where you might normally associate wearing sandals)
Headtorch – When going out to shoot a sunrise, finding the perfect location can be really hard if you cannot see where you are going. Make sure that it is a headtorch rather than standard torch to keep your hands free for more important things.
Strong windproof umbrella – When shooting long exposures it is vital to keep the camera as still as possible. A tripod is a must-have accessory but I’d also recommend using an umbrella to keep strong winds from hitting the tripod & camera during these long exposures. As an obvious bonus it will also keep you dry, which is particularly important if you need to switch lens.
Waterproof jacket with zip-lock pockets – Not just to keep you dry, but more importantly to keep useful camera accessories close to hand. Things like spare batteries, remote release cable, cleaning cloth etc. Whether dawn or dusk, when the sun rises or sets it happens very quickly and this is exactly when you want all accessories within easy reach.
A further tip is to keep as much gear in your car boot at all times. That way in your daily travels if you see a beautiful landscape, you can just jump out whatever the weather, walk cross-country across muddy terrain and have a much more enjoyable experience.
Think about composition even when you don’t have a camera with you!
Training your eye to ‘see‘ the best possible shot is probably the most important skill you could hone. The key point here is to imagine the frame of your camera whenever you see something beautiful. Think about all aspects of the shot; where would you stand to take the picture? Where would you position the tree/boat/sun in the frame? What lens would you choose and why? What aperture might you select to impact on the depth of field?
The more you ask yourself these questions, the quicker you answer them too. This means when you actually go to take a picture, you might just get it perfect first time round.
When you find a nice landscape location, try every conceivable angle you can think of until you get ‘that shot’ that brings a huge smile to your face. If that means getting down on your hands and knees, let it happen. After all, the picture you take could end up being your favourite of the day, month or even the year. And don’t be afraid to try an angle, look back at the image and think ‘That was no good’ because it is all about learning what works and what doesn’t.
Remember, the more you experiment, the more ‘mistakes‘ you make, the quicker you will find your own style and know what works for you. Here’s a shot I took that ruined my jeans and shoes, but to me, it was worth it!
Use ND grad filters
You may have heard the term ‘ND grad filter’ or ‘Graduated neutral density filter’ but not necessarily known what it means. Think of an ND grad filter as a pair of gradient sunglasses (the ones that go from dark to transparent) for your camera lens. Its job is to stop a specific amount of light from reaching the sensor of your camera – but why would you want to do this?
Well, when you look at a sunset with the human eye, you can see all the detail in the lights of the sky and shadows of land without any problem. Unfortunately, even the best cameras cannot do this as well as the human eye can. Therefore to try and get the best reproduction of what the eye can see the camera is going to need a little help.
This is where the ND grad filter comes in. By choosing the right strength ND grad filter and positioning it correctly in the frame, you can perfectly balance the exposure above and below the horizon to give a stunning image that is colourful, full of tonal detail and a much truer representation as to how you saw it with your own eyes.
Your next question may be which ones should I buy? Or how exactly do I use them? My recommendation is to read forums, ask other photographers and watch videos on YouTube to get a good understanding of the best practices to ensure great results.
Check the weather
Even within small regions the weather can vary quite a bit. You may find that location A is raining in the morning but location B is not. Use this information to your advantage, amend your itinerary to get the very best out of your day. There are lots of free weather apps for smartphones out there so have a look around to find one that suits you best.
Prepare an itinerary
When you go away on a specific landscape photography trip, take the time to plot out the locations you want to visit, what times you want to visit them and how long you will spend at each location. Although this sounds very regimented it will help to keep your trip on track. Of course, if you find one of the locations particularly beautiful stay there longer, enjoy the experience. Simply think of the itinerary as a check list or a guide to get the most out of your trip as possible.
Find the sweet spot for your lens
Getting the best out of your lens is important, especially in landscape images. Now if you are looking to get as much in focus as possible in your photo, simply set your lens to the smallest aperture available (which is the largest number) for example: f/16 or f/22. But if you are looking for the sweet spot of your lens (where it performs best in terms of clarity and sharpness), this is usually around 2-3 stops from the maximum aperture of the lens (which is the smallest number) for example: if you are using the XF14mmF2.8 lens then you expect to see the sweet spot at around f/8 as this is 3 stops from f/2.8.
Here are some other examples:
* at 18mm
It doesn’t mean that you have to abide by this rule of thumb but it can help you find the best quality from your lens quickly. If you find some spare time, I would recommend setting the camera on a tripod, take the same picture on a few different apertures with the same lens and then look back at the results – find an aperture that gives you the perfect balance between depth of field, sharpness and image quality. Once you know what it is, use it as a starting point when out and about taking shots.
Is there a ‘right’ hour to shoot landscapes?
One of the first tips to help capture better landscape images is to shoot at the ‘right‘ time of day. The golden hour is widely considered as the ‘best‘ time of day to take a landscape image. It is the hour in which the sun is rising or setting. This is due to a number of reasons but the main ones being the rich warm colours in the sky and the long trailing shadows that are created.
Don’t think that the only time you can take great pictures is at golden hour however, so many stunning images have been created at all times of day. Just think of it as a good starting point.
Extra tip: The time just before a sunrise or after a sunset is a great opportunity to take pictures too. This is known as the Blue Hour, it is called this because the indirect sunlight creates a blue hue in the sky and can help produce some of the most beautifully natural subdued tones.
The Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)
This is one of the most useful tools in a landscape photographer’s bag of tricks. It is a third party application map-centric sun/moon calculator that shows how the light falls on the land. This allows you to know precisely where the sun is going to rise/set in a specific location way ahead of actually being there. It can come in handy when creating your itinerary as you can plot out the suns movements across a virtual map. The application is available on desktop, iOS and Android devices so it can be taken on-the-go as well.
When shooting any image it is very important to maximise the amount of detail captured from the lowlights to the highlights. This is especially the case with landscapes due to the difference in the exposure between the land and sky. You can use your eye to judge whether an image is overexposed or not when it is very obvious, but I strongly recommend you use the camera’s histogram to tell the full story. It will allow you to make much smarter decisions when deciding the best exposure for the shot.
You may or may not know that when the highlight details in a scene are overexposed and burned out they are impossible to recover and get back regardless of how good you might be in post-editing. This could mean white blobs in the sky instead of detailed clouds or white mass areas in the sea instead of crashing waves etc.
So how do you avoid it? Well, shoot RAW (to maximise post production flexibility) and then look at your histogram. You want to aim to get the bulk of the histogram information to sit on the right hand side of the scale – this is known as exposing to the right. The most important part of this technique to ensure that the trace of the histogram does not peak right at the end of the right hand side as this would mean the highlights have been lost / burned out. An easy way to adjust this can be to use the Exposure Compensation dial / button found on the camera and decrease the exposure in 1/3EV at a time and then recheck the histogram until it looks perfect.
Making mistakes is a natural part of learning any skilled craft. Accept that you are going to make mistakes along the way. You may take blurred shots, blow the highlights to kingdom come and delete your favourite image from the memory card by accident, but in the end, with practice, you will be a creative machine that can make beautiful images wherever you are, whatever time of day and with any camera & lens combination. Enjoy the journey and don’t panic, it will happen.
As with any tutorial there is always more that could be said, more tips that could be shared but the idea here is to give you a good starting point which you can grow from. Ask questions with other photographers, search tutorials online, share your images and ask for constructive criticism, look at work from inspirational landscape photographers and most importantly, enjoy photography.
Simply put, Depth of Field refers to the area in front of your camera that is in focus.
If your camera is set to focus one metre from the lens, Depth of Field refers to the area in front of, and behind one metre from the camera where subjects are still sharp enough to be considered in focus.
Along with Exposure and Composition, Depth of Field is one of the most important aspects of photography.
How do you control it?
Less is more
The main way to affect the Depth of Field is by adjusting the value of the Aperture
The bigger you set the aperture size (smaller number), the smaller your depth of field will be. The smaller you set the aperture size (bigger number), the bigger the depth of field will be. I know that sounds confusing but hopefully this diagram will help to explain it.
The yellow area shows the area in front of and behind the focal plane (the point when the camera is focused) that is in focus. It’s just a guide with no actual scale.
The Depth of Field is actually also affected by the focal length of the lens, and also the distance of the subject from the camera (which is why there is more in-focus area behind the subject than in front of it), however for the benefit of just getting you started, in this post I’ll only talk about the aperture value.
Aperture Priority mode
The best way to get started with adjusting the Aperture value is to set your camera to Aperture Priority mode. In this mode, you can control the Aperture value and the camera will still adjust the shutter speed and ISO value in order to correctly expose the image.
If you have a camera with a “M / A / S / P” dial on the top, switch it to “A” (for Aperture). If your camera doesn’t have this dial, just change the value on the Aperture ring to anything other than “A” (which in this case stands for Automatic) and set your shutter dial to “A” (Automatic). Your camera is now in Aperture Priority.
How does it affect my images?
Less is more
Using the largest aperture possible (smallest number) allows you to isolate your subject within a shallow depth of field and effectively make the foreground and background far less prominent. These example pictures were shot at f/1.4 using an X-T1 with XF35mm lens. They show foreground and background areas out of focus, allowing you, the viewer, to focus on the subjects.
Shallow Depth of Field Example 1
Shallow Depth of Field Example 2
Shallow Depth of Field 3
More is more
Using a smaller aperture (larger number) increases the depth of field and allows you to include more, or all of your image, clear and in focus.
In this image, I wanted to get the tree in the foreground in focus, but still include the background as a prominent part of my image. Using a very wide lens with the Aperture set to f/8.0 allowed me to take this.
Taken on X-Pro1 with XF10-24mm lens. f/8.0 aperture
Aperture Priority at a glance
1. Activate Aperture-Priority
2. Generally shoot “wide open” – the lowest value Aperture your lens can shoot at. This means that your images will all draw the viewer into the part that you want them to look at – the part in focus.
3. “Stop down” your aperture (increase the value number) to get more of the shot in focus – great for group shots or landscapes / cityscapes
The amount of light captured in a shot is governed by three aspects – Shutter Speed, ISO value and Aperture value. You generally want as fast a shutter speed as possible (unless you are trying to capture motion within your image). You always want the ISO to be as low as possible to maximise the image quality and reduce noise.
However, there is no “you always” rule for Aperture as it is the one thing that affects your final image more than the others. Your decision to include all, or just a certain part of the image within the in-focus area is where you add your own creative touch to your image and direct the viewer’s eyes to the part of the image you want them to look at.
Beautiful locations? Not essential. Golden hour? any time is good. prime lenses? zooms are fine.
Meet X-Photographer, Pete Bridgwood who will make you think again about how you take landscape photographs
For decades, the debate has raged as to whether photography is art. For most, the crux of the argument revolves around the camera itself, some considering that using a machine to capture images is ‘cheating’, while others argue the camera doesn’t create images on its own. Fine art landscape photographer Pete Bridgwood cuts through these years of discussion with incisive clarity: “I think the term ‘art’ is as relevant if a four-year old child produces a piece with crayons as any photograph or grand master painting – it’s still art,” he tells X Magazine. “Some people think it’s stuffy to define your work as art, that you put yourself on a pedestal if you define yourself as an artist, but I define it simply as ‘photographs that I take for me, not for anyone else’. I don’t shoot commercial images, I shoot to make prints that hopefully will sell if people like them.”
Pete studied medicine at university and subsequently followed this career path, but photography has always been an important part of his life; and despite a passion for both disciplines, he defines himself as a photographer rather than a doctor. “I was into photography at school and we had this great art teacher who ran a course after school, so I signed up. We’d sit around in a big group and he’d talk about the compositional elements of famous photographs, so from a young age I was looking at photographs in a critical way. “We learned all the wet processes in a traditional darkroom, so I learned the hard way with film. I think that teaches you to be more careful with exposure because if you get it wrong there isn’t the latitude to get it back. I was very lucky to have that grounding.”
Like many photographers, as the interest grows, the choice of subjects to shoot becomes more refined and when it came to choosing a specialism, Pete’s choice was simple. “Landscape is more controlled, you can take your time. With people photography it’s more reactive and interactional and maybe I’m not that good at interacting,” he jokes. “I tend to exclude people from my landscapes, because I think it’s nice for the viewer to be invited into the image and if it has people in there, the viewer has to share it with someone. There is a counterargument, of course, because featuring people invites others into the image, but I do tend to Photoshop a lot of people out as they always seem to walk into frame wearing bright dayglo clothing!”
While some may question Pete’s use of software in the context of his fine art image making, he’s very clear that post-production work is a very important part of creating his images. “It’s changed from film, when all the effort was put in in-camera. Now, I think half the effort comes in the field and half in post-production. Documentary landscape photographers would disagree, but I think you can do a lot in post-processing to create a more emotive result. It depends on the scene,” he explains. “Every photograph is a combination of three things: the photographer, the scene and the viewer. The percentages of those three elements vary from scene to scene and I love to actively play with those ratios. You could completely remove yourself and just take a picture and it will look gorgeous, or you can get a scene that you apply a lot of changes to and alter the feel. The trick is to not make it look that apparent.”
Emotional connection is one element that Pete considers crucial in his images. He works hard to convey a sense of place and communicate the essence of the location. This can be done in a variety of ways, but Pete feels much of it is down to exposure choice. “Every image has its own shutter speed that will make the image look quite different. I think it’s important not to just think of that as a panacea,” he explains, “what I’m more about is finding the right exposure, an exposure that matches the emotion of the scene. How much do you want the grass to sway? How much do you want the sky or the water to move? It’s really about controlling the texture rather than simply taking a blasé attitude, which is what I like to get across.” Pete’s pursuit of this emotional connection doesn’t always necessitate him travelling from his home in Nottinghamshire to ‘honeypot’ locations in the UK and abroad, he feels that great landscape images can be captured virtually anywhere. “In some places it’s more difficult than others, but all you have to do is look around. The barn you don’t subconsciously see on the way into work, the single tree on the top of a hill, you should pencil those locations in for revisiting,” he advises.
“I feel the same way about light. I love the golden hour and there’s no doubt it’s quite magical, but there’s no reason why you can’t get evocative landscapes in the middle of the day. Or in the pouring rain.” Whatever time of day he’s out, Pete always carries his X-series cameras: “I used to use Canon DSLRs, but I haven’t touched them in months,” he says. “I started with the X100, but the X-Pro1 was a game changer for me and I use both primes and zooms on it. I’ve also recently got an X-T1, which is wonderful. I shoot the vast majority of my images on an XF18-55mm lens. The attraction is obvious: all my Fujifilm gear fits into a small waist pack – camera, lenses, full filter kit – and that’s very liberating.” This latter point is crucial to Pete, X-series cameras help him to communicate an essential part of his creative process.
“The whole essence of fine art photography is freedom,” he tells us. “Freedom to express. Freedom to interpret. Freedom, freedom, freedom.”