Question #44: 3 questions in 13 minutes and 13 seconds

Let's try something different this week! I did a live Q&A on my FB Page today and put the video on YouTube. I'll be doing more of them so please join me on FB if you can!

Elizabeth Gray: "Hi Valerie, I meant to ask you this in Vancouver but forgot. How often do you use the wide angle and tele converter for you X100T? Are they easy to swap in and out on the fly? Would you recommend them as an alternative to one of the interchangeable lens Fujis?"

Susan Goudge: "Hi Valerie! I want to work on getting some shots with motion blur with people on the street--can you advise what settings to use to get this effect? Thank you!"

Monty Montgomery: "I believe you have said you use single point focus mode. If the subject is off-center you will focus and recompose and take the shot. How does that work for you when you are shooting from the waist level? Do you change the focus mode to zone or are you skilled enough that you are able to focus and recompose using single point? Thanks."

Question #43: About Sunbursts

Bonjour! I decided to restart the Q&A blog posts. I put them on hold for a long time because of my Street Focus podcast. I answer listener questions in a monthly Q&A segment and thought that redundancy would not make much sense. I'll try to answer different questions here, but they may cross over on occasion as well. I was also busy writing my first street photography ebook :)

So this week, I want to talk about sunbursts!

Recently someone commented on one of my silhouette pics by asking if I used a sunburst filter. I must admit that, being somewhat of a gear minimalist, I had never even heard of a sunburst filter and wondered why anyone would use one when you can achieve sunbursts without a filter. So I investigated further... There are indeed such things are Star Effect Filters that you can put in front of your lens. They even come in 4 point or 6 point options.

But why? First, a sunburst is quite easy to achieve without the added expense of a filter by simply setting your camera to a small aperture (big number ;) ideally start at f/16). And, wouldn't the use of a filter reduce the quality of the lens? 

Does a star effect filter make the sunburst more 'perfect'? Again... Why? Is perfection so important that we need to alter everything to try to achieve it? Are we even wired to respond to perfection? Or rather, aren't we more likely to respond emotionally to imperfections. As a street photographer, I certainly don't look for perfection. I photograph everyday life, it's raw, it's not perfect and it's often those imperfections that make the photograph special.

Okay, but people buy those filters so they must be really awesome. I looked further and saw one great example where such a filter would be very useful: Night street photography. I can definitely see its use to create a star effect on street lights. 

I usually try to capture a sunburst when I shoot a silhouette. It's an added challenge and it looks cool. I really never even paid attention whether it has 4, 6 or more points... For one thing, the sunburst is never the subject of my photograph. I look at it as an added bonus that makes a good shot a little bit more interesting. 

As I was doing a Google search on the filters, I stumbled upon many tutorials on how to add a sunburst to an image that doesn't have one in the first place... Yikes! Don't even get me started... Call me a purist if you wish. I find it much more fun and challenging (and so much faster) to capture it in camera than spend my precious time making one up in PS. But hey, post processing is an art and I know many amazing photographers who enjoy that part of the craft and do it very well. I admire their PS skills, I'm in awe with what they can do with the tools. But it's just not for me, and that's probably one of the reasons why street photography and I are such good friends.

Conclusion: Maybe my first reaction towards using such filters was a bit strong, they are just another way to create 'in camera', no different than using a creative focus lens or even a toy camera. It's all good, especially if it makes the photographer go out with his/her camera more and make pictures! I may just have to try a star effect filter some day :)

Here are a few of my sunburst pics, they are 'au naturel', no filter or PS magic applied.

  A Roman evening f/16  ©Valerie Jardin

A Roman evening f/16  ©Valerie Jardin

 A New York morning f/16  ©Valerie Jardin  

A New York morning f/16 ©Valerie Jardin 

 Yes, once in a while I also photograph the natural world in my own backyard :) f/18 ©Valerie Jardin 

Yes, once in a while I also photograph the natural world in my own backyard :) f/18 ©Valerie Jardin 

Question #39: About Going Through A Creative Rut

Q: "I'm attending evening classes in a photography school - we basically have weekly workshops where we're given assignments on imposed subjects on a regular basis. So far I've been quite inspired by those and enjoying it a lot. The "end of year" assignment that's coming next, in contrast, is a freely chosen topic and our photos will be exhibited in a prestigious place and potentially exposed to lots of people.

I'm excited about this great opportunity to have my work shown but still can't possibly figure out which direction to head towards - a kind of "photographer's block" I guess. I'm most passionate about street photography, however I fear that my usual kind of street images is too mundane and not catchy enough to be exhibited. I believe in the power of simplicity and I'm aiming at producing striking, graphical pictures but I just don't know where to start. Every street around where I live I feel like I have roamed a hundred times for assignments or personal work, and there's not much new to get my inner photography flame kindled again. The deadline for giving out the photos for printing is June.

Do you have any advice on how to overcome that block ? Any artist you'd recommend as an inspiration, be it photographer, painter, filmmaker ?

Thanks and keep up the good work ! It's always a pleasure reading your blog and hearing you on TWiP." Guillaume

~

A: "Hi Guillaume, thank you for your kind words and for submitting a question to the blog. Tough question as I'm not sure if you are planning to pursue photography as a hobby or a career.

Street photography is really something you do for you and you alone. I wrote an article about that recently, which you might want to read: To Be Or Not To Be A Street Photographer. Street photography is not something that will get praises like landscape or nature images will. I don't think that's a bad thing. Not everyone understands the beauty of street photography and the audience is more limited. When you are out shooting, you should aim at pleasing yourself, not others. If they like your work and buy it, that's the bonus! 

You don't have to travel to exotic locations to capture beautiful street photographs. If you feel like you are in a rut, give yourself assignments. But not the same assignments that are required for your classes.  Some days you may just want to shoot some street portraits, other days focus your attention on silhouettes or motion. Find a stage and wait for the right subject to walk through. Maybe you need to do something completely different for a change. Pick up a macro lens and try your eye at macro photography for a while. Give yourself limitations, pretend you are shooting film for a day and shoot 36 frames only. That will make you slow down and think.  Get in your car and get lost on purpose, take a path you've never taken before and explore it with your camera.  You never know what is going to move the artist in you. Follow your heart!

I get inspired by art in general. Go look at paintings at your local museum, immerse yourself in a photography book, not only images that are available online. Watch inspirational videos on Lynda.com (Richard Koci Hernandez comes to mind) or Kelbyone.com: (Wonderful videos featuring Jay Maisel). 

We all go through creative blocks. Don't look at it as a bad thing. On the contrary, it may just be a sign that you need to push yourself, to grow in the process. I think that a loss of passion may be an opportunity to renew and refresh your vision and turn it in a positive experience. 

I wish you the best of luck in all your creative pursuits. Keep in touch!" Valerie

  Give yourself your own assignments. Work on silhouettes for a day for example. Find the right stage, wait for the right subject to walk through and capture the shot you envisioned. That is a sure way to boost your energy and passion! 

Give yourself your own assignments. Work on silhouettes for a day for example. Find the right stage, wait for the right subject to walk through and capture the shot you envisioned. That is a sure way to boost your energy and passion! 

If you received this blog post via email, click on the title to view the actual published post. If you found it useful, please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

Question #38: Inside My Camera Bag

Q: "Curious about the camera and your shooting style. Is the camera a fixed 22mm lens or does it have ability to changes lenses and the other question is when you do street photography is it just you and the camera or do you carry a few other items, i.e. a flash, etc." Jim

A: "Very good question Jim! A small rectification regarding my camera. The Fuji x100s actually has a fixed 23mm lens, which is the equivalent to a 35mm. It's not only a fixed focal length, but also a non-detachable lens. And that is the reason why I bought it and claim that it is the best camera I've ever owned. The focal length is ideal for street photography. Why would I need to change it? Also, I can shoot anything else with that camera (I took it to Iceland even!) I embrace the limitations, they make me a better photographer.

What else is in my camera bag? Batteries! The one small problem with the x100s is its really short battery life. I carry two extras with me at all times.

I never use a flash, for anything.

When I carry my ThinkTank Retrospective 5, my camera is never in it. It's in my hand, finger on the trigger. I still often bring the bag for a full day photo walk and I use it to carry personal items such as a water bottle, a snack and the tiniest travel umbrella.

I'm definitely a gear minimalist and I strongly believe in the power of limitations. Although when you're lucky enough to shoot with a fine piece of gear like the Fuji x100s, I would hardly qualify it as limiting...  It is, after all, the best camera I've ever owned. Not because it is technologically better, but because it has become an extension of me and my vision and it doesn't get in the way.

I hope this answers your question. Thanks again for reading my blog!" Valerie

 ©Valerie Jardin - My Fuji and the ThinkTank Retrospective 5

©Valerie Jardin - My Fuji and the ThinkTank Retrospective 5

If you found this post useful, please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

Conversation #6 With Rinzi Ruiz About His 24 Hour Photo Project

Today I am excited to share with you my conversation with LA-based street photographer Rinzi Ruiz.

 LA-based street photographer Rinzi Roco Ruiz

LA-based street photographer Rinzi Roco Ruiz

A few days ago I followed with great interest Rinzi's 24 hour photo project. I contacted him right away to schedule this interview and discuss his experience of shooting and posting 1 picture every hour during a 24 hour period while walking the streets of LA with his camera. To find out more about the worldwide 24 hour street photography project, click here. To find out more about Rinzi Ruiz visit his blog, see his work on Flickr and follow him on Instagram: @rinzizen.

Please listen to the interview below and watch the slide show of the 24 images he shot and posted that day as part of the project.

Below: Slide show of Rinzi's 24 street photographs shot during the 2014 worldwide 24 hour street photography project.

Conversation #5 With Ugo Cei About Photographing A Stranger A Day

Hello!

It's been a while since I've had the pleasure to invite a guest to talk about photography. Today I enjoyed a conversation with Italian travel, landscape and fine art photographer Ugo Cei.

 Photographer Ugo Cei

Photographer Ugo Cei

Ugo claims to be a geek at heart, who loves the technical aspects of digital photography and understanding what goes inside the machine.

His clients include Architectural Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, and Alitalia.

Ugo and I have known each other for quite some time via social media. Recently, I've really enjoyed seeing the daily images of his new A Stranger A Day project. I invited him to share his experience with you through a G+ Hangout. I hope you enjoy my conversation with Ugo Cei.

Sorry for the technical difficulties at the beginning and the end of the recording... Ah, the Joy of modern technology!

You can find out more about Ugo through his website and blog and follow his project on Google+

Here are a few images from Ugo's A Stranger A Day project...

Question #28: About Feeling Uncomfortable To Shoot Street Photography

Q: "I recently discovered your work and what you capture is simply amazing. I have ventured the streets of Chicago a time or two with my D700 and find myself uncomfortable in a way. I feel like I am doing something wrong, is that a normal feeling? I usually do portraits and music photography but I see so much on the streets, I feel the moments need to be captured. What advice would you give to feel comfortable shooting on the streets? I often see moments when walking around but for somereason, I let them go by. Thank you for taking the time to answer." Jr Wyatt

A: " Thank you for your kind words Jr! This is a very normal feeling and most street photographers feel more or less uneasy at first. It's a matter of getting to the point when the desire to document life in the streets becomes stronger than the fear of doing it. 

There are several things you may want to consider:

  • First, as long as you are respectful of others and you are in a public place, you're not doing anything wrong! I make a point to never photograph people in an embarrassing or vulnerable situation or in a moment of crisis.
  • Hit the streets with a friend until you gain enough confidence to go out on your own. Even if your friend is not a photographer, having another person with you will embolden you. 
  • Practice in a busy place, a fair or a market. It's easier to blend in.
  • You may want to consider going out with a smaller camera or use your camera phone. You will attract less attention to yourself than shooting with a dslr.  
  • Join one of my street photography workshops, shameless plug :) I'll be in Chicago in May! Many workshop students shoot their first street photography during the workshop, it's amazing how much confidence they gain in just two days!
  • Here are some articles I recently wrote for dPS that may give you some useful tips on getting over the fear of photographing strangers.

How to Approach Street Photography in 12 easy steps

How to Make a Portrait of a Stranger in 8 Easy Steps

Get out there an have fun, don't hide behind a big lens, get close and enjoy the experience. Good luck!

 ©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

Please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

Conversation #1 With Street Photographer Fokko Muller

Bonjour!

This is the first of a new series of conversations with photographers from all over the world. I will continue to answer questions on this blog as well, so please keep those them coming!

profile photo fokko muller.jpg

Today I would like to introduce you to Dutch Street Photographer Fokko Muller. Fokko lives in Emmen in The Netherlands. He has been shooting street photography since 2010. He is the co-founder and member of The Street Collective . He also gives lectures about street photography and teaches workshops in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. His work has received awards and was exhibited at the State Center of Fine Arts in Novosibirsk. Fokko also writes for Fotoclub, a Dutch online publication.

You can find out more about Fokko Muller by visiting his website.

I invite you to view the conversation on the video below:

My Conversation With Street Photographer Fokko Muller

 ©Fokko Muller

©Fokko Muller

 ©Fokko Muller

©Fokko Muller

Question #15: About Model Releases

Q: "I'm guessing that when you do street photography you are not asking all these folks to sign model releases? Or in many cases even asking their permission to photograph them? When is verbal permission required or is it just a courtesy/ friendly thing? When are model releases required? I like to take photos in the local park -- I'm working on a gallery that will eventually be on my website where the photos are for sale as prints. Am I going to need model releases? Do I have to tell the people I verbally ask permission to photograph that they might show up on my website or that I might sell the image I am shooting? What about places where things are for sale? Stores, Farmer's markets, Garden Centers, etc.  Any guidance would be helpful. Thank you." Phyllis H

 

A: "Hi Phyllis. Thank you for submitting a question to the blog. Unless I am doing a street portrait, where the intent is to interact with the subject before pressing the shutter, then no one usually knows I took their picture. As a street photographer you need to work fast and know how to capture the right moment without attracting attention to yourself. Also, I make a point to never photograph people in vulnerable or embarrassing situations. Respect should always be the number one priority to any street photographer. If someone objects to havIng their picture taken, even if I am in my rights, I always respect their wish.

In many countries, it is perfectly legal to use pictures of people taken in public places for editorial and fine art purposes. Note that I am not an attorney and you should check with the local authorities to make sure that your state or country doesn't have laws against it. If you were to use the images commercially (in an ad to sell a product for example) then you would need a release signed by the subject and usually one witness.  Whenever possible it is a good idea to get permission but if it is pure street photography, we all know that it would not be feasible as it would kill the candid moment. Also, honestly, would you sign a release if a stranger on the street asked you? I recently answered a question about street photography and privacy laws which you might find interesting. I hope this helps, good luck with your exhibit! "

Valerie

 

Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you! If you receive this via email, click on the title to be redirected to the actual blog post and have access to the comment section.

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you! 

 

Question #12: About Focusing for Street Photography

Q: "Hi Valerie, Thanks so much for offering your help via this Q&A blog. My question is when you are out on a walk about for street photography, do you set the Fuji x100s to auto focus and rely on the camera or do you set the camera to manual focus and rely on zone focusing and shoot hyper focal (ie Aperture priority set to say f5.6 and allow for depth of field 1-5m)? I hope my question makes sense." Paul G.

A: "Hi Paul, this question actually just came up during my street photo workshop last weekend in Minneapolis. I tend to let the camera do the focusing for me in most cases. It's fast and accurate (and better than my eyes too!) I shoot street photography mostly in Aperture Priority. If there is one genre of photography where you need to let the camera do some of the work, it is definitely when you shoot street. It's all about being ready to capture a fraction of a second that will never happen again. In my opinion, street photography is more about your ability to anticipate and see the decisive moment than proving your skills in manual mode. That said, there are instances when manual focusing comes in handy and the use of zone focusing gives you a clear advantage to get the shot (and I need to use it more often!)

Zone focusing consists in manually pre-focusing your camera to a certain distance. This is particularly well suited when you shoot from the chest or hip without looking through your viewfinder. Another instance when zone focusing is recommended is when you find a stage (such as an interesting background) and wait for the right people to enter the frame. This is even faster than auto focus because there is absolutely no delay.

Street photographer and friend James Maher with whom I will be co-leading the New York City Photo Workshop in April 2014, recently wrote an article about zone focusing titled The Ultimate Guide To Zone Focusing For Candid Street Photography. I invite you to read it. I hope this helps! "

Valérie

 

Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear from you! If you receive this via email, click on the title to be redirected to the actual blog post and have access to the comment section.

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you! 

 

Question #8: About My Preferred Equipment For Street Photography

Q: "I'm a big admirer of your work. You are an inspiration especially to those of us who adore street photography. I'm giving a talk to my camera club soon on street photography and I'd love to know what is your preferred equipment/camera/lens for shooting on, say, the boulevards of Paris? From the pictures on your website, you don't necessarily appear to 'go compact' or 'rangefinder'?" Richard G from Perth, Western Australia

A:"Hi Richard! Thank you for your kind words and for submitting a question to the blog. I hope my answer comes before you give your presentation. If not, I apologize for the delay!  I used to shoot street photography with a DSLR camera, mostly with a 50mm lens, and more recently with the 40mm pancake lens. True, there are a few images on my website that were shot with my 24-70mm lens. That's one of my favorite 'all around' lenses. Now that I've experienced shooting with the Fuji x100s and its fixed 23mm (35mm equiv.) lens for a few months, I can't imagine taking anything else on the streets with me. It's the ideal tool for street photography. In my opinion, street photography needs to be experienced up close and one should not hide behind a long zoom lens. That is not always easy, especially when you start out, as it is often very intimidating to photograph a candid situation when your subject is within arm's reach. The look and feel of the images will be very different and being close is what makes street photography so special and unique. 

Why do I favor the Fuji x100s for street photography? It's small, inconspicuous and who can resist it's retro rangefinder look? I also love the fact that is has a fixed lens that is not interchangeable. It's simple without sacrificing on the incredible quality of the glass. It doesn't get in the way between me and my vision. It's more of an extension of me than a DSLR has ever been.

I hope this answers your question and I look forward to your feedback!"

Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear about your own experience shooting street photography. 

If you have a question about photography in general, about the business side of things or anything else that is photography related, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!  

 

Question #4: About Street Photography & Privacy Laws

Q: "I always love to hear/see you on TWIP as you're more about the art of photography and less into the gear. It makes for a lovely balanced show when you're on, so thank you for taking the time to be there. Today I would like to ask you a question:

Online I've read a lot about strict privacy laws regarding making photographs of strangers in public in France. Some of your photographs though suggest you're not always asking for permission. Would you please tell me what do you do when you have a great shot with strangers in front of you? Kindly, Michal"

A: "Hi Michal and thank you for listening to the TWIP podcast! I really enjoy guest-hosting and we have a great audience.

You're right, I don't ask permission to photograph people in candid situations in Paris or anywhere else in the world. Asking for permission would definitely ruin the moment... I do, however, interact with my subjects when I do street portraiture, which is also part of street photography. You must be referring to Article 9. The privacy laws in France are nothing new, they are non-punitive and they were mainly written to protect against paparazzi. It's fine to photograph people in the street as long as it doesn't harm them (as in ridiculing them, giving away trade secrets, etc.) Those laws are not what you would consider 'hard laws'. During my photo workshop in France or anywhere else in the world, I put a big emphasis on respect. I make a point to never photograph people in embarrassing or vulnerable situations and I only use my street images for fine art or editorial purposes. I do not sell image to stock agencies. They would not buy them without the proper model releases signed anyway, so people can be assured that they would not end up on a billboard for example. When photographing children I try to get permission from a parent by simply pointing to my camera. They usually answer with a nod. There is not doubt when a parents does not want their child to be photographed, it is clear in any language and everyone should respect their wish.

Fortunately, artistic freedom usually take precedence over the right of privacy and there is nothing to fear as long as the images are used properly and no obvious harm is done to the subject. Paris is actually one of the cities where I enjoy doing street photography the most. Whether it is candid or street portraits. When I interact with my subjects, before or after taking the picture, they are usually very friendly and flattered that I would find them interesting. It is common sense, however, to refrain from photographing the military and law enforcement in most countries. 

It is our duty as street photographers to be respectful at all times. Everyone has the right to object to having their picture taken. Even if you are in your rights and on public property, would you feel good about taking a picture if you knew the subject was uncomfortable with it? If someone strongly objects to being photographed, no matter where you are, move on and respect their wish. Getting the shot is not worth hurting someone's feelings.

Street photography is a treasure and, in my opinion, it would be a great loss for future generations if we stopped recording life as it unfolds daily in the streets. We would be left with pictures from security or surveillance cameras... I think that would be very sad.  

I hope this answers your question Michal. 

Please leave a comment below, I would love to hear about your experience. 

If you have a question that you would like to see answered on this blog, please use the contact form to send it.   Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you!

Valerie