Experimenting with a bit of Street Photography

About a year ago, I had a go at a bit of candid Street Photography, shooting with my iPhone as I carried it around with my arms by my side, and came out with a few fairly rubbishy shots like these.

Experiments in shooting from the hip
Oh, look, people shopping. 

Experiments in shooting from the hip An old lady. Interesting.

And then I stopped. But lately I’ve been wanting to have another go. Apart from family stuff, I don’t take many photos of people. There were no portraits in my portfolio – just abstracts and details. But when I see the sort of things others achieve, I feel I want to branch out. Stuff like these two, from Eric Kim in Los Angeles.


But he doesn’t go around with a discrete little hand held camera tucked away. No, he’s just out there approaching strangers in the street and taking their photos. You can see his approach in this video, where he was filming from his camera the whole time.

Well, I’m not about to start going around like that yet. At least not in Stevenage. But I’ve recently started doing the whole “shooting from the hip with my iPhone” thing again. Oh, and trying to learn a bit of Black and White post-processing work. Here’s a few I took last week.

This one was actually taken behind me

Alright mate
Slightly spoiled by my shadow falling right on the subject. I watch out for that now.

And this one has my reflection in. Doesn’t spoil it, though.

Can I afford it?

I’ll continue to experiment. Another chap who’s blogging about his photography has done some similar experiments recently. I like some of his results, but he’s not sure about the ethics. Neither am I yet.

What do you think?



5 thoughts on “Experimenting with a bit of Street Photography

  1. Rob

    These are some nice shots. The B&W really helps hide the sometimes off-colour of the iPhone’s camera. For faces I find it also helps bring out the details more.

    As far as I understand it, taking a photo of someone in a public place is completely legal, although continued photographing of the same person could be construed as harassment. Ethically, I guess it is polite to ask permission before taking photos of strangers, but in reality I’ve never done that. I tend to use longer lenses with my SLR and stay back, rather than get closer with a more inconspicuous iPhone camera.

    Oh yes, and be careful not to photograph a police officer, which would most likely be in violation of various anti-terror laws!

    1. Trevor Post author

      Thanks Rob. I’m really glad you’ve commented because it’s reminded me that I intended to mention you as one of my inspirations. (I’ll save that for another post.)

      Yes, I’m familiar with the legalities: as you say, as long as your in a public place there are very few restrictions on what you’re legally allowed to photograph. (I’m talking UK here, folks; laws vary considerably around the world.) There’s a brilliant and very thorough guide here: http://www.sirimo.co.uk/2009/05/14/uk-photographers-rights-v2/ and I once found a handy credit-card sized summary that I keep with me just in case I’m questioned. (Can’t find it online just now.)

      But legalities are not the same thing as ethics. How would I feel if I found that some complete stranger had photographed me while I was going about my daily business and put it on his blog? I don’t think I’d mind (probably be quite proud!) but there are many who’d feel affronted. My wife included.

      It’s an interesting debate.

      1. Rob

        It can really vary by person to person, and potentially, when asked people who might not otherwise mind night be more inclined to say no, just because they’re being asked. And if you ask first, shoot later, the subject will know they’re being photographed, which could very easily spoil a shot when you often want to catch someone in a natural pose.

        As I am also a very shy person and not all that comfortably talking to strangers, I tend to take the ‘unless they object’ route – since I usually use a DSLR I think it’s reasonably obvious I’m taking a picture, so unless someone complains I assume they’re okay with it. I suppose it’s also different as an amateur when your photo is going to be viewed by a few hundred people, as opposed to a professional where that shot could be seen around the world.

  2. Pingback: Instagram #10 « Creative Splurges

  3. Ru_Anderson

    Maybe its just me being a middelaged makle – but…
    Isnt it nice to be noticed occasionally?..!

    Ethics of it If its a shot from a public place then I think legally and ethically there is no issue. There was a famous shot of a smoky train platform with lots of soldiers and a couple kissing, which Athena subsequently sold may copies of. There was some kerfufel when the by now older lady recognised her self an wanted to know by whos permission the photo had been sold.
    It raises a few questions
    1) As it was taken on a train platform did the railway have rights to the photo?
    2) Was it ethical to intrude on an intensly personal moment for commercial gain or even for artistic exploration of the human condition?
    3) Had the woman turned out to be an axe murderer who brutally dismembersd returning solidiers and she publicised this – would athena the poster company have any moral right to redress because of a fall in sales?
    I personally feel that while 1) is the only case that has legal merit none of the three have any grounds for ethical complaint. The train company can claim and bully what they like in court – but its used for transportation and any asserted rights on the creation of a photograph or video which is a seperate act over which they have no control or significant contribution is nothing more than a commercially cynical “land grab” and from my perspective they have no rights to the photo.
    2) The woman kisssed in public and while it may be an owned and restricted access land she acted as she did in plain view and so has no right to expect privacy any more than if she was captured in the artists minds eye and subsequently drawn in a picture. Or if she was in distress reading a letter saying the soldier was dead or simply doing her shopping – in principal I would hold there is no difference.
    as for section 3) I think this proves the point – the street photo is in the same genre as the “found art” where by a cup placed out of context is converted to a work of art rather than littering. Ditto the street photo, its a neuanced representation of the photographers observation. As nothing the woman dose before or after bears any relation to the image captured at that moment in time. From the perspective of the photo she is not an individual but the abstract concept of one, can we therefore say the inverse is true- that the photo must be irrelivant to the woman and her bo in which cse there is no ethical dilema in taking the shot? ?


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