5 Mistakes when Editing Street Photography

We are all guilty of occasionally over-processing our images. Street photography can be subjective, and we have all experimented with our pictures. However, traditional Street Photography involves minimal processing and is a genre steeped in tradition. Going overboard on processing creates an unrealistic image that fails to reflect reality, which is the essence of any strong street photograph. Here are my 5 editing hates.

Selective blur

I have started seeing this more often and find it incredibly ugly. I am guessing that it could be done well in Photoshop, but even then, why do it at all? Street photography is about seeing the whole scene; this is why ‘f8 and be there’ is so widely referenced. If you do want to highlight a subject, then use a shallow depth of field. This technique is often applied when taking Street Portraits. The image below was shot at f1.8. The background would be quite distracting if I did not throw it out of focus. If you want the background blurred, then it is usually best to get it right in camera!

Image taken at f1.8

Over-sharpened images

Ever seen an image that has been sharpened so much your eyes feel punctured just looking at it. Sharpening, clarity, and texture are all tools that can help your image pop by adding contrast around the lines within a photo. Too much sharpening introduces problems, including digital noise, haloing, and an unreal look to the final image.

Selective colour

Screen grab: Schindler’s List

I have tried to find some examples where this is done well. However, it just is not my cup of tea. Steven Spielberg got away with it in Schindler’s List. Colour grade, by all means, but a red balloon in a B+W image had been done to death.

Too much contrast

Two different edits. I’m hoping most people will prefer the image on the right! The black and white version loses detail in both the highlights and the blacks.

High contrast black and white can look fantastic, but using the technique will not turn a bad photograph into a fantastic image. Cameras can capture incredible detail, sometime you need to embrace the grey areas and leave the details in. Make sure you do not blow the highlights of the whites in an image.

Not getting it right in camera

Photos are often over-processed to try and camouflage a poorly captured image. This rarely works, instead try to think of editing as a process through which the strengths of an image can be highlighted. Work on improving your craft through practice and study. Try to take a leaf from a documentary photographers book, a genre that allows for very little editing of an image. Lastly, look at some of the Masters of Street Photography, and observe how they have processed their images. The image below is not a documentary photo and would not be accepted by many as Street Photography. I used Photoshop to remove the front end of a white van from the bottom left hand corner. Steve McCurry came under fire for doing this with some of his most famous images.

A ‘Cheating’ photo?

Apps

There are dozens of programs available to edit a photo, and there are even more apps available for our phones. Processes which required technical editing skills with Photoshop are can now be applied with a finger swipe, and it easy overdo an edit. Look at building a support network of friends who will give you honest feedback, don’t feel that getting a dozen likes verifies editing choices!

Of course, feel free to disagree, or to add your own pet hate.

Take care and keep clicking, Chris.

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How To See.

I photograph to see what the world looks like photographed. Garry Winogrand

There is a great little book called ‘How To See’, written by Thich Nhat Nanh. It centres around the art of mindfulness. Eric Kim has also written an article called ‘Learn to See’. I’ve always thought this concept was a little daft. We all have eyes and we use them all the time. Recently I feel that I’ve been learning to see once again. Maybe this is influenced by my growing interest in meditation, or maybe it is because I am finding myself in an unfamiliar environment.

Landscape Photography

This is meant to be a street and travel photography blog. I’m soon going to have to add landscape photography to my working title. But seriously, that’s all there is near my current home in New Zealand! I’m finding my feet here. Fortunately for my health, landscape photography still requires a lot of walking with the positive flip side of there being healthier air than in the cities! With Street Photography I know where I stand, but now my creativity is being challenged. Here are two recent photos I am fairly happy with.

Queen Charlotte Sounds No1
Queen Charlotte Sounds No2

The Negatives

I’m not terribly happy with how the sea looks in either of these photos. Moving on, I will try and shoot at a slower shutter speed, and set the camera up on a tripod. This should make the sea a little smoother and less noisy. I do like the sky, so maybe I need to experiment with blending multiple exposures of the same image. The next issue is the time of day. I love early mornings, but at the moment I’m working online till late in the evenings. I lose my teaching job very soon, but one positive spin on this financial setback will be more time to shoot in the mornings!

The Positives

With respect to landscape photography, I have yet to develop a ‘style’ of my own. However, the current method I am playing with involves using the end of the zoom, and this has the effect of compressing the layers together, and making a flat looking image. Landscape photography is much more demanding on post production, and my Photoshop subscription is starting to earn its keep!

Nothing But flowers

At the moment the beach is brimming with flowers. I’m really trying to avoid becoming a flower photographer, but the pull is there. Help me someone – I need to get to a city soon! One moment I’m enjoying a brisk walk out in the open, and the next I’m on my belly flower arranging. However, I am really quite pleased with the photo below. I wish that I had carried out a little gardening and removed the pine needles that are in the middle of the leaves.

I have no idea what kind of flower this is!

The Future’s Uncertain

There is no doubt about it, this hippy dippy flower and landscape work may come to an end. At some point a new job will (hopefully) start and I will be heading to one of New Zealand’s bubbling cities. The most likely location for my next adventure will be Auckland, Christchurch, or Wellington. On the flip side, China is now opening up now they have Covid under control. In the meantime, I will adjust my photography to what is around me, and once again, ‘learn to see’… Right, I’m off to crawl in the grass whilst looking for flowers!

Keep Clicking, Chris

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Pagespics v AI

I realise that it has been a while since I posted. What can I say, life has been a rollercoaster! Suffice to say my photos of India are probably at an end for the foreseeable future. However, New Zealand offers new and spectacular opportunities. Last weekend I headed of in my new car (yup – I’m mobile again, so lots of new photo locations to explore) to Kaikoura, which I believe means ‘To Eat Crayfish’ in the Maori tongue. This was a social trip, so I did not take heaps of photos, but at the end of the day, the light was spectacular. Before heading off along the majestic Highway 1, I managed to snap this beauty.

This morning I edited the photo using two different tools. One version was editing using Lumiar 4’s artificial intelligence filter. One version was edited using Lightroom and Photoshop. My Photoshop skills are very mediocre to say the least. Have a look at the two edits of the same photo, posted below. Which one do you prefer, I would love to know your choice!

Auto Edit using Artificial Intelligence
My Efforts in Photoshop!

Coming up…

At the moment I prefer my Photoshop edit, but this may be because I invested more time on the computer. I’m also finding my Wacom tablet extremely useful. Watch out for a full review of this gadget! In the meantime you may have noticed some rather odd signs and symbols appearing on my Instagram feed. Don’t panic, I have not gone crazy and am just having a little fun.

Keep Clicking, Chris

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re-discovering your vision

Recently my photography has started to turn a corner. Leaving India in the dead of night came as a shock, and it’s taking a while for me to re-discover my photographic vision whilst in New Zealand. This is partly due to what I suspect has been some low-level depression, combined with high-level anxiety. I am sure there are many others in the same boat, and given the circumstances it is unsurprising. Photography is of course a wonderful anti-depressant, and capturing a decent photo provides a natural rush of endorphins! As with any changes in life, there are both positives and negatives.

New Zealand

The Challenge

India is arguably one of the greatest places in the world for photography. The diversity of the population lends itself to colourful images of people and places. Most of the population appear happy to be photographed, making Street Photography a pleasure. The heavy pollution found in most of the large cities creates a soft diffused light, creating etherial pictures at dusk and dawn, whilst softening the harshness of the midday sun. With India’s current Covid numbers at over 2 Million, the country is going to be off the Travel Photographers radar for a while yet. Even when I return, I cannot envisage walking around in the crowds like I once did.

New Zealand

New Zealand has a population of roughly five million. There are more sheep than people. Unsurprisingly, most of the population are used to their space, and an in-your-face Bruce Gilden approach of photography is likely to lead to conflict. This has lead me to try different approaches to what I am doing. As with any transition, my ‘style’ is a little ad-hoc. However, I have now been here for three months, and a collection of ideas has started to grow. Here are some of my ideas for inspiration.

Light Leaks

Light Leaks #1

The suburbs of NZ are dark at night. I like this photo, the scarcity of light creates opportunities for minimalism. While in India I viewed a project where photographers explored Bangalore at night, looking for locations where light escaped. As with all creations, I am pinching the idea and making it my own.

Still Life

Dragon’s Foot

Still life photos can make the ordinary extraordinary. I have spent a couple of Sunday afternoons trying to capture NZ’s streets, which are often devoid of life. Time to roll in some creative ideas. Quite often I will touch these photos up, using a 35mm film preset to give the images a bit of grain. Crystal clear digital images can often look quite boring. After all, who want to see reality as it really is?

People

Photographing the human condition is one of the most rewarding form of photography. I may take inspiration from Magnum’s Alec Soth, and start seeking characters to photograph. Discrete candid photography also remains an option. My attitude to seeking permission to take an image has changed over the last few years. Five years ago I would have argued that a photo taken with permission cannot be a ‘street photo’. Now I am not so sure, or maybe just do not care.

Film

35mm Film

Photographers can be very divisive when discussing film. Sure, it is a pain in the arse, expensive, unreliable and limiting in terms of the number of shots you take. I’m not going to be ditching digital any time soon. But I do enjoy playing with analogue technology. I also prefer listening to a vinyl records than to streaming devices! At some point I will try to develop my own film, just because I will be able to lock myself in a dark room and pretend I’m Ansel Adams. And yes – film does look better.

Portraits

Portraits

Portraits are a wonderful way to connect with people. The image above was taken during quarantine in NZ. Annie Liebovitz states that she is a portrait photographer because people expected her to adhere to a genre. Portrait photography may be a path into commercial work, and with a world-wide recession looming that may not be a bad idea. However, I suspect many portrait photographers are going to be struggling throughout the rest of 2020.

Nature

I’m a bit of a city boy when it comes to photography. Having beautiful nature on my doorstep is opening a whole new world. Definitely finding my feet in terms of style. One tool that is very useful at the moment is Luminar 4, the landscape profiles provide a great starting point for editing an image. In addition I have just purchased a WACOM pen and tablet, but I will save that for another blog!

Take care and keep clicking, Chris

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An Apology to Landscape Photographers!

It’s an odd thing, how we can mentally beat ourselves up over something we said ages ago, and certain words come back to haunt us. My latest mental rumination comes from a comment I said about landscape photography. I said it was easy. In fact I went further than this, stating that if you lived somewhere that looked good, all you had to do was step outside your door and take a photo. Now I’m in New Zealand, and my current accommodation is a stones throw from some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. I’m talking about a misty township set amongst rolling green fields, and rows of grape vines leading to snow-capped mountains. It should be easy. It’s not…. Landscape photographers, I am sorry and I was wrong. It turns out landscape photography is quite a challenge!

Wither Hills, Blenheim

Why Landscape Photography?

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. I am currently recording my time spent in New Zealand’s South Island, and will continue for however long this may be. This ‘project’ will hopefully cover travel, street, and portrait photography. In addition it will inevitably include close family. To document NZ without recording the majestic ‘Lord of the Rings’ landscapes, would surely be remiss. I am also getting pulled towards this genre by Thomas Heaton’s excellent Youtube channel (google it – you will be entertained and informed!).

So it’s Harder than it Looks?

My most recent attempt at landscape photography took me up the Wither Hills, which are situated about 1km away. I got there on my mountain bike and proceeded to peddle up the hill. Actually I ended up pushing the bike. Here is the first problem, getting to a spot that looks good can take a lot of work! As with all genres of photography, lighting makes or breaks a photo, hence my early-morning start. Note to self: spectacular sunrises do not always happen, and I seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time for the shot I had planned! The third challenge is post-processing. There is a LOT of post processing undertaken with the landscaping crowd, far more than with the conservative approach of Street Photography. Shooting RAW means that some level of post processing will always be needed, but I am still finding my feet when it comes to developing a ‘style’. Luminar 4 is one programme that helps bring the most out of even the poorest landscape photos. However, this genre is sure to stretch my photoshop skills.

Vineyard (Stitched Panorama)

Try it Yourself

Landscape photography definitely provides something new to try, and studying this genre will make me a better photographer. Any time spent studying light is time well spent! If you do try this yourself, you will probably need a tripod, particularly if you aim to shoot in low light. In common with street photographers – a strong pair of shoes will also come in handy!

If you do have tips or resources on landscape photography please let me know below. I’m learning!

Wither Hills, Blenheim

What Next?

Documenting a quieter place is a challenge. The anonymity of a city is lost, and the candid snapshot feels more of a threat. Asking permission and seeking interesting characters may be a way forward. On a wider scale, the opportunities for far-flung travel photography appear to be receding, or at least becoming a greater challenge. Photography on the doorstep is to be one current path forward. Either way, a day spent with a camera in-hand is sure to bring some peace and joy.

Peace, and take care wherever you are taking photos, Chris.

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Shooting Manual with 35mm Film

Marlborough Sounds, NZ
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escaping the slump

“When you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done.”

Dr Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

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#Blacklivesmatter

Like many people, I have been moved by recent images of Black people being murdered by White people in America, and I am not so ignorant as to think that racism is just an American problem. Pagespics supports the #blacklivesmatter campaign. I have used my White Privilege to roam the world with my camera freely, and am rarely questioned about what I am doing. It is questionable as to whether a Black person would have the same degree of freedom in many parts of the world, and perhaps this is why there are apparently so few Black Street Photographers. Alternatively, it may be that Black Street/ Documentary photographers are poorly represented (they are). This is my attempt at amplifying the issue of racism. Ironically, we are looking at a very well known street photo that was taken by a white guy.

Photo by Garry Winogrand
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Site Update, more gear, and another poem

As Covid 19 restrictions start to lift, we are hopefully getting back to some Street Photography! While my Sony is off being repaired I am going to be shooting with my trusty Olympus Em5ii AND a new camera…. sort of. I have been loaned a manual Cosina CT1G, which means I am going to be playing with film again. The camera is matched with a 50mm 1:7 Pentax prime lens, a favourite focal length of mine. Apparently this lens works best around f4, so we will see how it goes!

This week I have been dipping into the Annie Leibovitz ‘Teaches Photography’ course. I’m going to look at two salient issues discussed during this Masterclass. The first is the importance of photographing family and friends. Family tend to have more patience than strangers. They also get used to you and forget that you are there, providing the opportunity for a candid frame. As usual, I like to edit my family pics in black and white, just so they differ from my other work. Some of the most iconic photo projects have come from studies of family and friends, and here I am thinking of Sally Man’s ‘Immediate Family’ and Nan Golding’s, ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’. Both great books that should hold a place on any photographers shelf.

Candid Family Shot – Taken during quarantine.
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Fleeing India, Luminar 4 and shooting flowers (and potatoes).

This post is being writing from New Zealand whilst under ‘supervised lockdown’. This comes from the NZ Government’s superbly planned emergency exit from India. Supervised lockdown is turning out to be a life of luxury in a very nice hotel in Christchurch. The meals are so good I am considering taking up food photography. Freedom is limited for the next two weeks, putting street and travel photography well out of reach, so brace yourself for photos of an empty carpark!

On fleeing India, I did manage to take a few snaps of the airport, deserted streets, and Covid 19 signs. I also managed to bust the focus joystick on my Sony A7iii. This trip is going to be expensive.

An Empty Airport
Mumbai Street Signs…
Only One Plane Leaving Mumbai…

Luminar 4

If you look carefully at the photo of the Covid 19 sign, you may see something is not quite right. The photo is a ‘cheat’ as I changed the sky. I have also done this in the photo below. Changing the sky is a difficult task in Photoshop, and something I am unlikely to try. But this task is a breeze when using Luminar 4. Doing this feels like cheating, and is not something I intend to make part of my everyday workflow. For the two photos included in this post (the second image is posted below), the skies used are not even my photos. I guess for travel photography I may start collecting fantastic images of skies for use with Luminar 4, we will see. However, I can’t see this practice as something that can be undertaken for Street Photography. At the moment the juries out on how I feel about replacing skies. But it is a fun tool to play with whilst under lockdown!

Bus ride to Mumbai. Sky replaced in Luminar 4! You will probably see this sky in many other photos that are posted online.. I think the software loses something around the electricity pylon.

Nothing But Flowers (and Potatoes)

Well to round of this extremely exciting blog post I will fill you in with my current project. Flowers. Not normally a flowers guy, but I’m walking round a garden everyday and that is what I see, so that is what I will shoot. There are people, but there is an odd atmosphere around the place and I have not yet become courageous enough to ask the people guarding the facility for a snapshot!

One competition that has caught my eye is the Potato Photographer of the Year Award. This is judged by non-other than Magnum’s Martin Parr. The competition raises money for the Trussell Trust Charity and costs a fiver to enter, so a bit of a bargain. There is also a chance to win a camera, which would be useful since I bust mine on the journey to NZ!

A Flower on PagesPics?! Don’t get used to it. Here I am playing with some Lightroom Presets, curtesy of Trey Ratcliff.

Well that may well be the first and last photo of a flower you will see on this blog, but who knows, everything is changing at the moment! Next week I may have a photo of a potato to share. While you are here, please take the opportunity to support this blog through ‘buy me a coffee‘, a platform that helps support artists and bloggers. Details at the end of this post.

That is all for now folks, now I’m off to find a potato.

Keep Clicking, Chris

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