Step outside into your town, city or village, and there’s a wealth of images waiting to be captured, most of which involves our everyday lives.
Street Photography, as the name suggests, captures our urban lives in a snapshot and is a great way to capture and record a moment in time, with almost limitless opportunities.
We recently sat down with UK photographer Robin Sinha who describes his photography as ‘people-led’, working within the portraiture, street and documentary realm, to get his top tips for those looking to get started in photography. We hope you find his thoughts helpful for your own photography.
What fascinates me most about street photography is its unpredictable nature. Of course, you can get familiar with the streets and eventually begin to see patterns in the way life unfolds, but ultimately there is so much out of the photographer’s control. The characters that present themselves, the gestures, actions, interactions, the quality of light etc. With experience you learn how to play the odds in your favour, however being open to those unpredictable moments is what brings the most enjoyment for me.
Robin's top tips for getting started in street photography:
No matter what camera you’re using, know it like the back of your hand. Invest in the best possible prime lens you can afford and use it religiously until you know your working distances before even raising the camera to your eye. I’ve personally always favoured a 35mm lens for street. The distance you are from your subject is always approximately the width of your frame and therefore framing your subject matter becomes more simplified. Ultimately, I think lens choice is a very personal decision so try various focal lengths before committing if you can.
Research photographers and photography that inspires you. These days I feel we have an over reliance on discovering imagery on social media. I would encourage you visit your nearest photography book shop and view photography in its printed form. Finding photography that you can relate to will undoubtedly bring fresh ideas.
Having run numerous street workshops, there always seems to be one main objective; learning how to get close to people without causing alarm. Working with a 35mm lens, or similar, means shooting in a relatively close distance to your subject so there are certainly techniques to implement to ensure you don’t talk yourself out of taking the shot! I would suggest building your confidence in a busy environment. If there’s fast footfall people are unlikely to pay attention to you. Act confidently even if you’re feeling nervous on the inside (yes, easier said than done!). You need to appear that you’re doing your photography with purpose rather than being hesitant and looking sheepish. You’ll discover that working with a wide-angle lens is a very honest way to work as your placing yourself in the environment. Always have an explanation in mind in case someone asks what you’re doing. You could say something along the lines of “I’m shooting a project about the neighbourhood” or “I’m doing a street photography workshop” etc. Being willing to engage with your subjects means you’re unlikely to encounter any problems. I’m also always willing to send my images to my subjects should they spot me taking them.
I’d strongly recommend allocating time for your photography and nothing else. You need dedicated time to practice your craft without distractions. Even if it’s just once a week on a lunchbreak, repetition is key. I usually find I need to be shooting for at least two hours until I gradually begin to relax and become more aware of my surroundings.
I’ll always remember Alex Webb saying “street photography is 99% about failure!”. This certainly resonated with me! The key thing is not to get dejected when you have a bad day and remember even the best photographers have bad days!
About Robin Sinha:
Born in Aberdeen and growing up in Newcastle, Robin Sinha moved to London in 2003. After completing a BA in Photography at the London College of Communication (UAL), Robin began assisting at London’s Big Sky Studios, working alongside some of the biggest names in the industry. His personal freelance photography career began soon after.
Robin describes his photography as ‘people-led’, working within the portraiture, street and documentary realm.
In 2009, Robin joined Leica UK where he works part-time as an Akademie Tutor.
In 2018 Robin was shortlisted for two prestigious photography awards: The Portrait of Britain and the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize.
In 2020 Robin’s lockdown portrait project “All dressed up and nowhere to go” featured in The Guardian, Il Corriere della Sera and on the BBC news website, and his project, exploring life post lockdown by the River Lea in Hackney Marshes, featured on the LFI website.
Most recently Robin was once again shortlisted for the 2021 Portrait of Britain Award.
By Park Cameras on 27/07/2022
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