Street Photography faq

black and white street photography by Markus Hartel, New York

what is street photography?
basically, the photographer documents slices of every day life. You can read my take on it here

how do you take pictures of strangers in the street?
It’s important to be prepared for the right moment or to have the patience to wait for the right moment.

How do you find your subjects?
Oftentimes I wander the streets for hours, looking for anything interesting, let it be a juxtaposition or something out of the ordinary.

How do you get so close to your subjects?
I think it has to do with attitude, oftentimes I blend in the scenery and catch a moment where people are so involved with what they’re doing, that they don’t notice me and my camera. Sometimes the photographer needs to be pretty ballsy, or simply quicker than the subject. It happens on occasion that my subjects are asking me not to photograph them, when I took the shot already.

did you ever offend anybody?
it happened once or twice in the past two years that people got offended, usually I fit right into the scene and people don’t notice me and my camera.

how do you get the shot?
I carefully watch the scene and try to stick around for a while, oftentimes it’s anticipation, sometimes it’s luck – if time allows me to, I take several frames of my subjects. In any case, my gear is set up for the actual lighting conditions and pre-focused.

what is hip-shooting?
a hipshot is using the camera without the viewfinder

how do you focus a manual camera without the viewfinder?
I either guess the distance and set the lens according the distance scale, or I zone-focus.

what is zone-focusing?
the photographer pre-sets the focusing scale of the lens to his working distance and lets the depth of field take care of the rest. My camera is usually set to 2.5 meters (8 feet) and I adjust from there if necessary.On a side note: I love the focusing tab on my 35mm Leica lens

do you use your cameras in auto-mode?
no, I prefer to have total control and use any camera in manual mode.

how do you set the exposure that quickly?
my camera is always set according to the actual conditions, most of the time I guess the exposure according to the sunny 16 rule and use the camera meter to confirm my settings.

how do you carry your camera?
always ready, with the strap around my wrist – my index is finger always on the shutter release or ready for the speed dial. The Leica grip gives the M6 the perfect handling.

what kind of camera do you use?
I use several kinds of cameras, but prefer a Leica Rangefinder for it’s quiet operation. currently in use: Olympus Stylus Epic, Canon AE-1, Rolleiflex 3.5 E, Horizon 202, Leica M6 TTL, Canon 10D. EOS 5D, Ricoh GRD, Leica M4, Hasselblad XPan.

do you carry multiple cameras?
most of the time I carry one body with one lens and stuff my pockets with film

what kind of lenses do you use?
I use prime lenses with focal lengths from 24mm to 50mm, a 35mm Summicron (f2) the 28mm being being my favorite focal length

why don’t you use a telephoto lens?
I like to use a short focal length to get close to my subjects and to give my images an intimate feel. A long lens compresses the image and detaches the viewer from the subject.

do you use a digital camera?
I use digital cameras (Canon 5D and Ricoh GR-D) but favor the look of film

what kind of film do you use?
anything will do, my favorite is Kodak Tri-X

do you use a flash?
sometimes I’d use a flash with an off-camera cord, but usually I work with available light and use fast film at ISO 1600 or ISO 3200 if necessary and a fast f2 lens.

how many rolls do you shoot on average?
it really depends on what I photograph, sometimes as many as 8-10 rolls a day, but on average 2-3 rolls per week.

what kind of lab do you use?
I develop black and white myself and take color film to the lab around the corner

what is push processing?
to push film allows to photograph at faster shutter speeds, basically it’s underexposing the film and compensating for the underexposure during development.
I expose Tri-X 400 at ISO 1600 all the time

what kind of developer do you use?
Ilford DD-X for normal and 1 stop push processing, Diafine for faster films, Tri-X @1600 being my every-day film

how do you process your negatives?
I scan my negatives in RAW mode and edit them in Photoshop
what kind of scanner do you use?
a Minolta Dimage Dual IV Nikon Super Coolscan 5000 for 35mm and an Epson 3170 for medium format and prints

do you still work in the darkroom?
sometimes, if I find the time. Frankly, Nope, I prefer to use the computer

why do you photograph mostly in b/w?
I think black and white has qualities of it’s own. Color oftentimes distracts the viewer from the subject, the color becomes more important than the content. I like to use color film on sunny days.

can I buy a print?
contact me for fine art prints

do you photograph for hire?
Yes – feel free to inquire about my rates.

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4 Replies to “Street Photography faq”

  1. wow. i love your work.
    idk how i found this site but im glad i did.
    me, well im just 16,
    but i love photography.
    i want to be one, but i hear its hard.
    but i’ll do it anyways.
    thanks for all your info on the camera you use, and how you manage it.

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