Health & Happiness and Jedi Mind Tricks

Last week I talked about getting out with the camera more often to help gain confidence in shooting street photography.

Having recently seen comments from photographers on social network sites, saying they're not confident enough to get close to their subject, this week I’m going to share some photos I captured over the last 7 days, explain how I got the shots, and how I used my camera to get them. Hopefully this will help, and maybe give an idea of how to utilise a camera's features to your advantage.

If you didn't already know, I use an Olympus O-MD E-M1 camera, which has so many features and options of customisation; I would have to write a book to list them all! Fortunately, there are good books available already, so I'm going to mention the touch focus and take a picture (TF-TAP) feature, which I like to use and actually used to capture this image on Wednesday, which is titled - Health & Happiness.

As soon as I saw this man in the window I thought, Wow! What a character, and even though I normally steer clear of people eating, I felt this man was too good a character to miss out on.

Knowing he wasn’t going anywhere fast, I knew I had plenty of time to get myself into a good position, flip my LCD screen to face upwards (allowing me to shoot from the hip), and then frame the shot correctly. Now I just had to wait for him to make eye contact with me, and be ready to TF-TAP. In this case I used this feature to focus on his face. Within a few seconds of waiting, tap! This was the first shot.

A split second later he pulls another face; tap! I then got the 2nd (and last shot) that you see in the black and white image above. I think you can see why I prefer the second shot out of the two.

For me, the TF-TAP feature is perfect for shooting from the hip, and especially suits people like myself that have used a touch screen smart phone for years. Like I said last week, as a photographer you need to find a style that suits you personally, and utilising this feature to my advantage helps me get the shots that I’m trying to capture.

In this next image I also captured Wednesday, I used a technique of disguising my point of capture, which I pretend is a type of Jedi mind trick. When walking passed this coffee shop on Brick Lane, Shoreditch, I made eye contact with the girl that you see in the window. Realising the potential of this shot I knew I had to be quick. Again I got into position, and then disguised my point of capture by looking a few feet above where the woman was sat, making sure I did not make eye contact with her again. As she had seen I was taking a shot right in front of her, the eye contact was instant. I then pressed the shutter and captured this one and only shot. It's titled - Pretty Cuppa Cake


Once I had taken the photo, I pulled the camera away from my face and made sure to look at the exact same point as I did before. This is the "These aren't the polaroids you're looking for" moment. Which then gives me enough time to be on my way, while they're still wondering if I took their photo or not. This technique is especially useful if you’re very close to your subject and have to be quick. The trick is to look at a point beyond your subject before you put the viewfinder to your eye, so they don’t feel they’re being observed, then frame and take the shot. Once you’ve got the photo, look at the exact same point beyond them, it works every time. If it gives you more confidence, or you’re Jedi powers aren’t as strong, you can take a picture of what you’re looking at beyond the person, that way you can show them a picture that looks like they’re just in the way of an amateur shot.

The last technique I use is based purely on patience. It’s about finding a spot and sticking around until the last element arrives to complete your image. On Sunday I was close to Trafalgar Square, and walked into Whitcomb Street, where I saw this wall with a bright yellow triangle for the first time. (How did I miss this before!) With the black squares inside the yellow triangle I thought this would make an excellent background for a walk-by shot. All that was needed to complete the image, was somebody wearing a yellow coloured item of clothing, or possibly carrying a yellow umbrella or bag. In England an umbrella is often needed, and as I consider myself a lucky person I decided I was going to wait! It wasn’t long before the first person to have potential arrived. It was no umbrella; but a man in a beige mac was good enough for now. As he approached I made sure I had my camera hidden from view, as I didn’t want him to change his direction of travel upon seeing it. Once he was close enough I moved into the position I had already decided would be best to shoot from. I waited for him to enter the second black square and then took a few shots in my pre-prepared sequence shooting mode. This image is the one that had potential, but still wasn’t the final piece I was looking for.

Another 10 minutes pass and I start to get distracted by someone walking behind me in the opposite direction to the yellow triangle wall. I start looking at the potential of this person walking away from me, and start to compose a shot. As I go to take a shot, I hear someone walking behind me again; which now of course is the side that has the yellow triangle. As I turn around, I can’t believe how lucky I am, when I see a guy wearing a bright yellow gilet. Squinting due to the brightness, I quickly run into the centre of the road to get myself close enough to the original position as before, I shoot 5 frames before he walks out of the black frame and the moment has gone. Out of those 5 frames, I liked this one the most, and it is titled - I Took a Photo for You and It Was All Yellow.

So there were a few ways in how I capture my shots, and how I use my camera to capture them. I hope this has been some help in giving inspiration to getting closer to a subject, utilising a particular feature of a camera, or patiently waiting at a good location.

If you have a certain way to capture your shots, it'd be good to hear from you, so I may try them out myself.

Have a great weekend,