Reader, I did it.
After an absolutely absurd amount of consideration, I said sayonara to Nikon and konnichiwa to Fujifilm. When I chose to use Nikon cameras years ago, it was essentially a random flip-of-a-coin decision, and I suspect plenty of photographers feel that they did the same. It's very easy to find yourself intimately connected to a brand and unable to even countenance swapping to another one. We set so much store by what equipment we use, it's almost an extension of the self.
I'm so late to the party that people are clearing away the balloons and hoovering up crumbs, but Fuji is doing some genuinely amazing stuff. While Canon and Nikon try and find ways to squeeze even more megapixels on a chip, Fuji is pursuing actual innovation for the benefit of artists.
My first actual camera was a Fuji, back in the days before they made a serious play for professional gear and it was terrible. A bridge camera with a usable ISO range of about 100-200, an aperture the size of a small needle and a screen/EVF that makes a 1950s CRT TV look hi-res, but still, for the time I used it, I loved it. Still, bridge cameras are true to their name and not long after I was a fully paid-up member of Team Yellow-and-Black. From a knackered old loaner D50 to a D5100, a D7000 and finally a D600, I spent years and years behind the mast on the good ship Nikon. It was fine. I took plenty of photos, hundreds of thousands of them, some I really like, some ok, some not, many terrible. I would take my camera with me everywhere I went, with a full compliment of heavy lenses, I'd have that D600 or D7000 in my hand and ready to pop 'just in case', but as time wore on I found myself taking the camera out less and less. Too heavy, too bulky, too much of a burden to carry and too conspicuous. More and more my camera was simply getting left at home in the bag, doing nothing.
A few years ago I used to obsessively watch a channel on YouTube called DigitalRev TV, they posted well-made and generally hilarious camera review videos, and every time one popped up, I'd gobble it down like a starving animal. It was their videos that got me interested in street photography, and their videos that introduced me to the X100. Back when their X100 review came out, it was as distant to me as watching Top Gear review a Ferrari, and just as out of reach. It looked as though it would be the perfect camera for street photography wanderings, something that I longed to do, despite my bulky DSLRs making me feel very visible to everyone. That interest slipped beneath the surface and lay dormant for awhile, even as the X100S came out, with the new shiny bells and whistles.
After a few years had sailed by, an X100S found its way into my Christmas stocking as a result of trading, saving, and my very generous family. It was as though I had been set free. The chain and fetters on the giant rock I had been dragging around vanished. Rather than sluggishly walking around, weighing up whether it was worth the effort to raise my camera, I found myself running around taking photos of everything. Just as I had done when I got my first bridge camera those years ago. I don't consider myself to be a weakling in particular, but the huge difference in weight between the X100S and my D600 made a big impact on my drive to shoot again. After one particularly gruelling 8 hour wedding, the thought crossed from idle musing to a decision. Enough was enough.
I've had an X100S for awhile and I love it despite its quirks, it's a great camera to wander around with, but for things like weddings I found it far too limited. After a great deal of consideration and planning, I traded my relatively old and knackered D600 and monstrous 24-70 for a brand new XT1, 56mm 1.2(!) and 35mm f2 WR. Returning to prime lenses felt like going back to my roots, one of my favourite lenses ever had been the Nikon 35mm 1.8 DX, when the time finally came to upgrade to the D600 for that full-frame sensor, losing the (crop-sensor only) 35mm 1.8 had been one of the biggest ticks in my internal 'cons' column.
Even so, right up until I got an XT1 in my hands, I was sceptical. Could an EVF really and truly replace the optical finder of the Nikon? My doubts were incredibly misdirected, holy cow! If the old Fuji bridge camera I had started out with was a CRT TV, this was like taking a step into IMAX. The resolution is so clean and the latency is so minimal that I could have been looking through an optical finder, better yet, a finder with a what-you-see-is-what-you-get real time application of white balance, exposure, and film simulation.
Speaking of film simulation, Fuji uses these in place of the Nikon's "picture control", but rather than being standard descriptors like "Portrait/Landscape/Normal" Fuji attempts to imbue these settings with the look and feel of some of their classic film stocks. They're named accordingly, and they're astonishingly powerful in what they can do to change the image. If I didn't enjoy editing so much, the direct-from-camera JPEGs would probably be perfect for using online and printing.
All in all, switching has been a very positive experience for me. It can often be very rewarding to switch things up and make changes. I feel as though I've turned a corner in my photography and my best work is yet to come! It was quite a decision to make, and not one that I took lightly. I'm very glad that I did.
Below are a selection of street photos I've taken with the XT1 so far, from both Cambridge and Vienna, you can click on any of the photos in this article to enlarge them.
A few weeks ago I got to shoot a wedding for an out-of-this-world couple, literally! The groom is a psychologist and the bride is an actual, honest-to-goodness astronaut! It's really going to take a lot to top that in terms of "coolest occupation of someone I've photographed".
Here are a few of my favourites from the ceremony:
I was recently asked by Saal Digital if I would be willing to review another product for them, of course I jumped at the chance. This time the product came from the wall decor range, which is quite expansive, as can be seen below.
After a great deal of deliberation I went with the "artist canvas" option, uploading one of my recent engagement pictures as the tester. Saal are no slouches, shortly (2 days or so) after ordering the canvas I got a notification that it was already on its way, wow!
The canvas arrived quickly, nicely packaged in a sturdy box. Everything about this canvas screams 'quality'. The frame is constructed in a light but very sturdy feeling wood, flimsy it ain't.
The canvas itself has a wrap-around, so the edges of the photo go around the frame. It's not ultra-deep, but it will crop your image slightly, there are some very useful guides on the software to make sure you bear this in mind when you order. Also included in the ordering software is a very useful set of ICC profiles for professional colour management, allowing a great deal of precision when it comes to colour balancing.
Image quality is excellent even on such a large canvas, details are well preserved and look fantastic even on close inspection. I'm very pleased with the whole package, this is an excellent quality, durable canvas for wall-display. These canvases will make a great addition to the range of print products I offer my clients and will look stunning for wedding memories.
Kudos to Saal for knocking it out of the park once again, I'm glad that they asked me to review this beautiful canvas, if you're a photographer looking for quality printed art-pieces, look no further!
A few weeks ago I had a great time shooting with Twinelle and Jamie in the very picturesque Crown Lakes country park. I'm very pleased with how these photos came out! Engagement sessions are a lot of fun, it's really rewarding to capture those pre-wedding feelings for posterity.
I love making beautiful family photography for my amazing clients, it's a real pleasure and privilege to immortalise such fantastic moments in artworks for them to enjoy & cherish. I recently had a great time shooting in the beautiful Milton Country Park, scoping out locations for my new Mini-Sessions. Here are a few of my favourites from the session:
Posing is difficult. There's really no way around that, it is what it is. Models earn their fortunes not simply through being good looking people, but with a well-practised and hard earned ability to hit visually interesting & dynamic poses on demand.
Now, I don't want you to go read this thinking that you'll go away and, through the power of this blogpost alone, become Cara Delevingne or Naomi Campbell. That lofty goal may be a little out of reach. Hopefully though I'll be able to share with you some useful tips to help you get the most out of being in front of the camera - and feel confident doing it.
Posing is a physical activity and you'll find it easier if you're nice and warmed up. This obviously depends quite a lot on where the photos are being taken and to what purpose. It'll look a bit strange if you're doing stretches in your wedding dress. Avoiding stiffness is all we're after here, you don't need to do the splits.
Keep Your Limbs Separate From Your Body
It's a weird-sounding heading, but it'll make sense in a moment. I'm not talking about dismemberment, but rather keeping your arms and legs from butting up against each other (or your body in general). An example: Bring your arm in tight against your torso and watch what that does to the flesh of your arm. It flattens and spreads around, making your arm look chunkier than it actually is. By making sure that you keep even a small level of separation between limb and body, they'll look more natural and true-to-life.
Likewise, keeping a space between your elbows and your waist will accentuate the general natural curve of your waist, rather than rendering your body a flat rectangle.
Forehead Tricks For Your Neck
Look at yourself in a mirror, straight on, head level. Take a look at your neck and jawline in particular. When people stand straight on in a neutral position the front of their neck can become compressed, resulting in double chins/sagginess or other general looseness. Unless you have a lush beard to hide your chin behind, one way to combat this is by pushing your forehead towards the camera ever so slightly, this stretches the skin across your jawline and makes it very clean and good-looking. Don't overdo this one though, or you'll end up looking a bit like Quasimodo.
You don't want your hands to look like a seal's flippers, do you? Avoid having them splayed flat against your body. If possible, have the sides of your hands facing the camera to dial-down the seal effect. Among models, one of the most popular ways of achieving this is through 'ballet hands', i.e, emulating the hand position of a ballerina. Adjust your hand position so that your middle finger is on a lower position than your index finger, stay loose and flowing and voila! There are your ballerina hands!
This could reasonably look a bit weird and unnatural as well though, so don't overdo it if you're just doing simple posing.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Simply, don't stand face-on to the camera like a soldier standing to attention. By standing 45 degrees to the camera your waist will look much more streamlined. If you research pictures of celebrities on the red carpet you'll notice one thing most of them have in common: none of them face their bodies directly into the camera. They put one foot in front of the other, body forty-five degrees into the camera, hand on the hip to pop the waist. They know what works.
Try out some of these tips next time you're in front of the camera and hopefully you'll look better and feel more confident!
Even though the weather wasn't the best, I had a lovely shoot with Nikita and Andrew this week at Grafham Water. I love doing engagement shoots like these, you can really see the strength of the connection that the couple shares. I'm very fortunate that I get to work in such a great field with such great people, it really is my dream.
Here are some tips for getting the most out of your engagement shoot:
1.) Be yourselves
If you're typically quite awkward in front of the camera, that's ok, your photographer knows how to bring out your best side, so don't fret. It usually takes awhile to get warmed up and in the swing of things, so give yourself time to get used to being photographed and loosen up! Most importantly, don't stress!
2.) Be prepared
Photos take planning, so make sure you know what sort of thing you want and communicate that clearly to your photographer. We're all an experienced bunch, so don't worry if you're not sure - your photographer can always come up with suggestions if you don't know what to do next.
The best locations are rarely right next to a car park, so be ready to do a bit of walking to get to the right spot. Bring a bag with some water and some snacks (you can leave this out of shot when it's picture time, don't worry) to keep you going if it's hot or you get hungry.
Picking a good location can be difficult. If you have a favourite place that means something to you as a couple, that's always a good place to start. Otherwise, country parks, reservoirs, beaches, even fields all work very well.
There's no need to be super-formal for an engagement session (it's not your wedding, no need for a wedding dress and tuxedo!). Stay comfortable and dress appropriately for the weather. If you make sure to dress with complimentary colours, the photos will definitely look cohesive and form a pleasing whole..
The most important thing is that you feel comfortable in your outfits, this shows up in the photos and can accentuate your style and personality. It also helps to not carry anything around that might distract you, so leaving bags and other things you don't need in the car is a good idea.
I don't recommend wearing black for photos, colours that complement each other and clothes in common shades look best for couples, while loud print patterns or big logos can be distracting.
Headshots for the Cambridge University Dance SocietyRead More
I was recently asked to product test the new photobooks from the great people over at Saal Digital in Germany. They really are top-notch! I've seen and bought photobooks from all over the place and these are by far the best-looking. The extra-thick pages are very sturdy and feel wonderfully weighty, combined with the lay-flat gutter which means that nothing's lost in the fold. The all-important colour rendition is incredibly refined and elegant, which is something that many printers fall down on, kudos to you Saal!
I love this photobook and can't wait to incorporate it into my wedding package!
Photobook courtesy of www.saal-digital.co.uk
I know people often wonder how Wedding Photographers work, what goes into creating the perfect wedding coverage, and what goes on behind-the-scenes.
I found this interesting infographic while trawling the web the other day, that might be interesting to anyone with an interest in wedding photography.
One of the most important settings on your camera is one you may not even know you had. Unless you're shooting in full manual all the time (check you out Mr Fancy-Pants!) you have probably had shots ruined that would have been great, if only you had known about Exposure Compensation.
Let's start with your camera, It's your loyal servant, your faithful friend. Unfortunately in spite of all the electronics inside, your beloved camera is very stupid. It's not really your poor camera's fault though, it's just doing what it was designed to do by the smart men in white coats over at Nikon/Canon/Fuji etc HQ.
You see, if you strip away all the bells and whistles, your camera is basically just a light meter in a sealed box. Light meters are great, photography wouldn't be anywhere without them, the problem is that (without wanting to anthropomorphise them too much) they get confused and panic very easily.
Let's say for example that you're playing in the snow with your dog, who is a dark-ish brown colour. To your eye the scene looks great so you pull out your camera and take a photo to show your parents on Facebook later, you get home and, damnit! The snow is an awful grey colour and the dog might as well be a black blob in the middle, you can't even tell what colour he is, it's just awful.
Here's what happened in that split second: Your camera's light meter analysed the scene and noticed that the snow was very bright and tried to compensate by lowering the exposure in response, rendering the snow as an average value instead of a bright one. This bumping of the overall exposure meant that everything else in frame gots darker too, so not only is the snow that horrible grey, your dog is practically in silhouette.
Don't blame the camera, in addition to being an inanimate object it is also not psychic, it didn't know what you intended and just went along with what it would normally do. You have a tool to directly tell the camera what you intend without having to go into full manual mode and get lost in twiddling dials.
As long as your camera is sufficiently advanced enough you should have either a button or dial with this symbol on it:
This is the Exposure Compensation symbol, a square divided in half diagonally, one half black with a white plus and the other black with a white plus. Press the button and turn the related control dial and you are able to communicate exactly what adjustments you want the camera to make when it does its calculations. As an aside, if you're shooting your camera's own RAW file you can easily tweak this later in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom (within reasonable limits, usually +/- 3eV at the cost of some increased noise in the shadows).
Rerun the snowy scenario with this in mind: You notice that the snow on the ground is reflecting a lot of light so you tweak your exposure compensation up by one whole stop (+1eV), communicating to the camera that yes; it's a bright scene, please don't panic; and yes you would like the photo to look bright too. You take the photo. Bingo! The white snow is a nice bright shade and Fido looks the same colour as when you see him, and his coat is full of detail. A photo worthy of gracing your Facebook!
This works the other way as well. If you're trying to take a photo of something dark, or at night, your camera will panic and try and brighten everything. Lights in the photo turn into glaring white blobs while everything else is usually noisy or blurred because your camera just can't shoot with a high enough shutter speed to beat the camera wobble in the dark. It's trying to exposure your night scene as though it were daytime, absent a tripod, it's not going to succeed.
Relax. Just adjust your exposure compensation downward. The photo will be darker as a result (it's night-time, it's dark, that's ok) but at least your camera isn't straining to do the impossible.
Of course, you could turn the flash on but that brings its own host of issues (more on that in another blog post).
This isn't just for the night-time though, anything dark will have the same effect on your camera. Try and take a photo of a black jumper or a PS4 and you'll run into the same problem, dial that compensation down.
Weddings are awesome, fun-filled events where you can proclaim your love to the whole world, surrounded by those you love the most. Wedding planning, however, is synonymous with stress. When you're planning one of the biggest days of your life it can be very easy to become overwhelmed by all the vendors competing for your time and custom.
There are many different types of wedding vendors but because I am a wedding photographer, I'm going to talk about photographers specifically. What should you look for when you want to hire a photographer? What are the pitfalls that await the unsuspecting bride and groom? Read on, and I'll go through five questions you should ask yourself, and of any potential photographer, before you put your money down.
Do I like their style?
If you don't like the style of photographs that a particular photographer produces, it's a bad idea to hire them. This is probably obvious, but it bears repeating. If you don't like their style, you won't be happy with hiring a particular photographer.
- How do they use colour, are the photos vibrant or more restrained?
- Are they very modern or does their style have more of a retro feel to it?
- Do they use a lot of shallow depth of field/blurry backgrounds, and do I like that?
What type of photographer are they?
There are plenty of different types of wedding photographer, but two broad methods among them. Pay close attention when you talk to a wedding photographer or visit their website to their use of terms. Reportage refers specifically to a more journalistic style (hence reportage - reporter) with a focus on candid photos of people enjoying themselves with the photographer generally trying to stay out of the way as much as possible. Traditional wedding photography is generally more nebulous, but generally has emphasis on posed portraiture.
Lots of photographers (myself included) do a mixture of these, but there are some photographers who will only really do one or the other, so be careful when you book. If you want fabulous bridal portraits you may be disappointed if you hired a reportage photographer. Likewise, if you want special candid moments you might not want to choose a more traditional photographer.
What type of person are they?
This is one you might miss, but it can have an impact. If you're a very energetic group then a photographer who is quite low-key and reserved might struggle to provide what you're looking for. On the other hand, if your group is quite restrained and conservative, a photographer who's the human equivalent of a bouncy ball might grate on you.
This one is only particularly useful if you met the photographer at a wedding fair; it's hard to tell someone's personality solely through text on a website, so bear that in mind.
Are they equipped for what I'm asking of them?
Wedding photography is a tough field to work in, and while I'm definitely not interested in being a gear prescriptivist, there are a few things you should look out for. Their main work camera ought to be a DSLR or a Mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses. There are of course other cameras that fall outside of this particular rule (Fuji X100's, for example).
They should realistically have two DSLRs, or a DSLR and a mirrorless/high end compact as a back-up. If their camera goes kaput during your wedding if they don't have something to fall back on, you'll get no pictures and be rather peeved. It doesn't happen often, but why take that chance?
If you want portraits with off-camera lighting you should ask them whether they're capable of providing that before it comes to the big day.
How are they going to provide me with my pictures?
This varies quite a bit from photographer to photographer. Some photographers are perfectly happy to hand over printable digital files on a USB stick or DVD as part of their package (this is what I do), whilst others might hold back their digital files as an added extra. If you get digital files of your wedding coverage and intend to print them, ask the photographer if they will be in a hi-res 300dpi format. If they aren't you will struggle to print them any larger than a beermat.
Likewise, if you intend to print them you should ensure that your photographer will provide you with a print license. You might think that you can just pop down to Boots and get photos printed however you like, but with wedding photos the staff will sometimes ask you to provide proof that you're legally entitled to print the pictures you want. This is because by copyright law, photographers retain all rights to the images they make, even when working for a client.
Other photographers will prefer to give you a printed product after your wedding, an album for example (I do this as well!), with additional prints/canvases/wall art available to buy direct from the photographer. This has its pros in that photographers who are willing to sell you prints after will often charge less to cover a wedding in the first place, and the quality will be higher as we have access to professional print labs and suppliers. The cons of this model is that photographers will expect you to buy something and therefore be very keen in selling to you.
Some photographers will not provide digital files at all, some photographers will only provide digital files, make sure you know which one you want before you commit to a deposit.
Those are my five questions couples need to ask themselves when it comes to booking a photographer for their wedding. I hope they prove useful to you when it comes to making this difficult decision, and makes planning your wedding just a little bit easier.
If you have any questions for me, please don't hesitate to drop me a line at email@example.com or call 07413 008100
Yesterday we had a stall at the Peterborough Wedding Fair at the Marriott Hotel, we had such a great time! It's such a pleasure to meet such wonderful fellow vendors and so many delightful brides and grooms.
Also, check out that old Routemaster bus! How cool is that?!
A big thank you to Amanda Orchard Events for arranging the day, we will definitely be back!
2016 has been a year full of all kinds of new and wonderful experiences. I've met so many wonderful people and had such a great time doing it, it all reminds me why I love this job! Below are some of my favourite photographs from this year, selected from weddings, side-projects, and miscellaneous personal work.
Here's to 2017, I hope it brings you peace and plenty.
This past week I had the great opportunity to try my hand at something I've always been interested in, set photography on a film. One of my photographic heroes is Helen Sloan, who takes such incredible photos on the Game of Thrones set every year. Getting a chance to try out the way in which she works was too great an opportunity to pass up!
It's hard to describe how much fun it is to be a part of something like a film crew, a concerted group effort of very bright and talented people striving together for the sake of art alone. The film is expected to be ready at the end of January and I can't wait to see it!
On the set I took a combination of behind the scenes candid photos of the crew, and some character portraits of the cast, here are some of them:
All in all, I had a great time on the set, even with the long hours and general exhaustion that follows. I'd love to work with these great people again in the future.
One of the most frustrating and inhibitive parts of being involved in photography is gear. It is our bane and our joy, a source of endless aggravation and a focus of insatiable lust. The manufacturers know this, of course, they're well aware that you'd commando crawl over hot coals to get your eager hands on their latest fancy offering. We all know deep down that keeping up with Joneses is a mug's game and yet we throw ourselves into it without even realising it. I am thoroughly guilty of all of these problems, but I like to think I have some measure of self-awareness about it.
At least a part of this relentless desire towards acquiring 'better' equipment is a quixotic search for a magic bullet. I have lost count of the number of times I've thought to myself, in some quiet and darkened corner of my mind, “If only I had <x>, then my photography would really move to another level.” A new lens (I don't have *that* focal length yet!), a better body (this one shoots at 6fps rather than 5.5!), lights (JoeyL uses these ones!), modifiers, studio gear, accessories (this SD card says it's for professionals so I need that one). It is a ravenous money pit that has no end, no matter how much of your hard-earned currency you toss into its gaping maw, it's still hungry.
We all know deep-down that none of this is truly necessary and that what we have is just fine for our purposes. Yet still the thoughts and lust occupies that corner of our mind that deals with hedonist desire. Speaking of hedonism, there is a principle known as the 'cycle of hedonism' that serves as a good explanation for why we behave this way.
When you first buy a 'luxury' (for whatever value of luxury) product, it's the best thing ever. It's better than anything you've ever experienced, you can't believe you were lucky enough to acquire this amazing, beautiful thing. As a few weeks pass and you become accustomed to it, it's still a pretty good thing, and you're very happy with it. Perhaps not as ecstatic as you were when you got it, but you still like it a lot. Months down the line and the thing is just your thing, you don't feel any strong emotions about it one way or another, it just is, and then your eye starts to wander to the newest thing. This thing does things your thing could never do, it's a colour you really like, it's not that much more expensive than the thing you already have but it's so much better. Eventually you crumble and get the new thing and the cycle repeats itself once again.
I constantly battle against the drive in a self-destructive sort of way. I know that I'm prone to wanting to buy things and yet I read gear reviews and watch funny camera review videos anyway. I know that I chose Nikon over Canon by the universal randomness of a coin-flip seven years ago, and yet I still feel the home-team loyalty swell when I read of Nikon getting one over on Canon. Lately I've been eyeing a Fujifilm XT-1/X100T with a glazed over look in my eye. It's stupid, they're expensive, I don't need one, it's a completely different system to the camera I already own, and yet, here I am quietly muttering to myself when no-one can hear “Oh those files look so good, wow, they're incredible, mirrorless is the future!”
Photography is an art-form (though there are some Guardian art commentators who dispute that) but many of its adherents treat it more like golf. Go on a photography forum and you probably won't have to click more than twice before you stumble into it. Men (and it is always men) of a certain age comparing their equipment and arguing the merits of their particular purchases over their associates', when you read you get the sinking feeling that it's not so much photography as golf-players who spend all their time debating which driver is best rather than perfecting their swing. Photographers disdainful of this practise derisively label these folk 'All the gear, but no idea', they spend so much time arguing about camera equipment that they forget why they wanted to do photography in the first place. Don't be like that. Artists don't spend their days arguing with one another about whose brush has the most bristles or who among them has the sharpest chisel. Don't waste your precious time on this planet arguing about cameras on the internet.
The worst part of this is that it doesn't matter, not even a little bit. There is no magic bullet, no 'essential purchase that'll make your photography amazing with no effort expended'. Once you pass a certain threshold of gear, that of acquiring a 'decent' beginners camera, the only ways to get better are through practise and study. Experiment with your camera and see what it can do. Take risks and embrace your failures, encounter each failure as an opportunity to learn and improve. Learn how to take control and process your images in your computer. Read and watch lots of tutorials and absorb the knowledge of those who came before you. Look at the photographs of photographers you admire (and those that you don't) and try to identify what makes them 'good' and then attempt to incoporate the elements you like into your own shooting.
Henri Cartier-Bresson famously said “Your first ten thousand photographs are your worst.” Don't you think it's time you got started?
Street photography has a long and storied history, sitting as it does at the intersection of journalism and art. My interest was drawn to it by the figure that has inspired many budding street shooters, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Probably the most broadly influential street photographer in the medium's history, Cartier-Bresson was an advocate of stealth and discretion. He would famously use only small Leica cameras painted black to avoid drawing attention to himself.
Other street photographers use different methods and equipment but the intention usually remained constant: to discretely find and catch people off-guard, wherein the oft-discussed 'decisive moment' makes itself known.
The ethical considerations of the medium are one of its most controversial aspects.
Defenders of the form often fall into arguing that people have no right to expectation of privacy in a public place, and that street photography is legal. The fault with this reasoning is that just because something is legal doesn't make it particularly ethical. As my friend Phoebe put it: “Legality is pretty much the minimum of human behaviour. That's right at the baseline.” No-one wants to feel harrassed or as though a shifty-looking stranger is surveilling them on the street. In fact, a year or two ago I stumbled upon a photographer sharing his street work on Facebook, all seemingly distant photos taken voyeuristically from a car with a cheap camera. Needless to say, the response to the anonymous photographer's attempt to be creative was not positive.
With the explosion of online photo-sharing and the creeping growth of sites encouraging people to photograph strangers to shame them for their behaviour (remember Women Who Eat On Tubes?) or to objectify and demean them, public sentiment against street photography seems to be slipping even further into the negative. Although voyeurism and shaming are nothing to do with street photography itself, benign street photographers have by-and-large been embarrassingly unsuccessful in preventing the predators from claiming the justification of 'art' for themselves.
I used to be a voracious street photographer. I'd roam around town for hours trying to find something interesting happening, eagerly hunting down that decisive moment. When I got the chance to go to New York for a day a few years ago I dove in head-first and spent the day hunting around for things to photograph. In such a rich ground it felt like there was something happening everywhere I looked. Unfortunately it feels as though those days have slipped into the past. More and more when I'm out on the street with a camera, for each shot I manage to take I can feel myself 'miss' ten others. The growing anxiety at potentially causing upset, potentially being thought a creep or pervert causes me to hesitate, and in that hesitation the opportunity passes by. I've lost my nerve, and I'm not sure I'll ever get it back.
"How was the first photo ever taken? What's the magic behind it?"
The first photograph that still survives until the present day is widely accepted to be Nicéphore Niépce's “View From The Window at Le Gras” (above), which was taken in either 1826 or 1827. Nicéphore's called this invention the “Heliographic process” presumably because the only light source with enough muscle to make a mark was the Sun.
It was a rather clumsy process by any standard, metal plates were coated with a chemical known as “Bitumen of Judea” and then placed in a light-tight box with a lens. As the light fell onto the plate the chemical responded to the light by hardening depending on how intense the arriving light was. After washing the plate with lavender oil the non-hardened material came away and only the hardened area remained. After this prints were made in the typical fashion for an engraving, application of ink to the plate and then pressure against paper.
Forget taking photographs of anyone using this method though, the bitumen was so insensitive that the estimates for the exposure length of View From The Window at Le Gras are at least eight hours, possibly several days, even the best models can only hold a pose for so long! Niépce collaborated with Louis Daguerre (who'll become very important) on a more sensitive process but while their efforts yielded some fruit, the new process still took several hours to make an exposure. Still no good for people.
After Niépce's death in 1833 Daguerre forged on alone, focussing on replacing the Bitumen process with a new process using silver halide emulsions. Daguerre was wildly successful and his new “Daguerreotype” process drastically cut exposure times from hours to mere minutes, allowing the first successful capture of a human in a photograph in 1838. This momentous occurrence happened while Daguerre was taking a photograph of a Paris street out of his window, the traffic on the street was moving much too quickly to have any effect on the photographic plates but one man having his shoes shined was stationary long enough to appear, and history was made (Click to enlarge the image on the left and see if you can spot him).
After further developments the required exposure time was reduced further and portrait photography was possible for the first time. Daguerreotypes were far from perfect (they showed a positive image on a piece of metal and copies could only be made by taking a photograph of the finished article) but they mark an important milestone in early photography.
Towards the end of the 19th century chemists and photographers developed methods to apply light sensitive emulsions to thin plastic films. These emulsions contained microscopic particles of silver halide suspended in a gelatin, allowing still greater sensitivity, the ease of use of film and the ability to print as many copies of a photograph as you like made photography considerably more accessible. The quest for increased sensitivity without loss of quality has been a driving force behind the development photographic technology since the beginning and continues now. Film photo prints work in a different way to both Niépce and Daguerre's processes.
When light touches hits the film surface it excites the silver halide which is subsequently turned into metallic silver during the chemical wizardry of the development process. This silver metal blocks light from passing through and appears black on the photo negative. To get a print a light is shone through the negative (and through an enlarger) onto a piece of paper treated with yet more of those ever-so-useful silver halides. The black portions of the negative prevent the light from passing through and therefore the black parts of the image are rendered on the print as the white of the paper. This process can be manipulated by blocking or applying more light to change contrast and tone allowing developers to produce amazing images like this one.