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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Shooting Manual with 35mm Film

Marlborough Sounds, NZ
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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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5 Pieces of Street Photography Advice You Should Ignore.

Street Photographers are not known for their reserve. We are happy to give advice on gear, framing and technique. But I believe the best photographers are those who also seek advice and look to learn from others. But not all advice is equal, and some ideas are outdated, narrow minded, or just plan wrong. In this article I am going to go question some of the advice that has almost become folklore in Street Photography, and pose the question, is it time to move on?

Colour or Black and White?
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Angalamman Festival

A Festival of Pain

The Angalamman Festival is held Kaveripattinam, a smalll town in Tamil Nadu. On the day after Maha Shivratri, the festival sees tens of thousands of people from the town converge to worship the deity Angalamman. Obviously, this was not a festival to be missed, and I knew from the start it would be a special event to photograph. Shiva had one night to sleep, and things were going to get wild when he awoke.

Extreme body piercings are one way to offer pain sacrifices.
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Portrait Competition

This month LensCulture is running a portrait photography competition. There are only a few ‘pay to play’ photo competitions I will participate in, but LensCulture is one of the best. At $35 for 5 photo entries, I thought it would be worth delving into the archives and selecting my strongest images. For a photo to be a winner, it really needs to be a little quirky and have that something extra. Today I am going to share the images I shall be entering, and discuss a little of the back story behind each photograph.

The Cobbler

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Three New Years Resolutions…

… you may wish to ignore

The booze has worn off and it’s back to work. At this time of year we start thinking about improving our lives and our photography. Once again I find myself promising to eat less and exercise more. But what photography resolutions are there to be made? There is a plethora of advise available on what to do in 2020, but I remain sceptical on some of the ideas published.

I have added three photos to this post, all taken during my last photo walk of 2019.

When life gives you lemons, sell lemons.
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My Favourite Street Photo’s of 2019

Without further ado and very few words, here are my favourite Street Photos of 2019…

Captured in a fishing village (Mumbai).
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Photographic Marinade

Incase you have not noticed, Christmas is approaching fast. This is the time of year when it is good to take a look at the photos captured over the previous 12 months. This task involves deleting an awful lot of rubbish, but also helps uncover a few forgotten, or overlooked gems. This year’s annual cull started over the weekend and I found a batch of photos that had not been published. The images accompanying this article were all captured around the Bangla Road area of Phuket, and yes, I had forgotten about them!

Bangla Road, Phuket
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KR Market Re Visited

KR Market in Bangalore remains one of my favourite local photography locations. At first glance, the market appears an area of complete chaos. However, scratch under the surface and there is a structure that supports multiple industries, individuals and businesses. Many of my photographs are headshots, but recently I have been working on creating images that tell a bigger picture.

Smile!
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