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David Sark

Sydney based photographer capturing moody moments from around the world.

Street photography process: 02

Street photography process: 02

This is the second instalment on the topic of my street photography process.

But if you missed the first part click here. Previously I talked about lighting conditions, the kind of subjects I look for, locations and composition. In this part I will discuss a few technical and function aspects of my process.

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05: Colour pop

If you are familiar with my Instagram account you can clearly see that I’m not afraid of a bit of colour. I’m not talking about a full blown rainbow explosion but rather a strong highlight colour that contrasts with the background to catch the eye of the viewer. I find that a pop of colour can really bring to life an otherwise non-descript scene that may result in a visually pleasing composition.

I’m always on the lookout for colours that catch my eye and I love dark rainy days. It’s a perfect time to head out and look for colour as there is always an abundance of brightly coloured umbrellas that visually pop against the neutral tones of buildings or dark wet roads.

Tip: Draw the eye with a contrasting highlight colour.

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06: Why make it harder?

I will be the first to admit that I’m not a very technical person when it comes to my camera kit. I don’t always have access to the latest and greatest release camera gear and as such I just try and make to most of what I have. Ideally, I want things to be simple enough to not get in the way of taking photos. That’s not to say I’m set to full auto. I still like to have a little control but I don’t want to be constantly changing settings and potentially missing shots if I’m set to full manual. 

As I wander through the city streets the lighting conditions are constantly changing so a few auto settings help my exposure in those situations. More often than not my camera is set to aperture priority (I choose the aperture and the camera chooses the shutter speed for the correct exposure) as I want to be in control of my depth of field and what I want to have in focus. Recently I have been shooting with a wide open aperture (f2.8) so I can create a look that isolates my subject from the background. I find that increasing the ISO also allows me to shoot at a faster shutter speed with helps me freeze moving subjects in place.

At the end of the day if you are photographing great moments it doesn’t matter what camera modes you are using, as long it works for you. Saying that, I think it’s still important to understand the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, ISO settings) and how they relate to each other to help achieve the kind of photos you want to capture.

Tip: Use the camera mode that best helps you take the kind of pictures you want.

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07: A pain in the neck (and back)

When I’m out for the day the last thing I want to deal with is a big heavy backpack filled with a bunch of different lenses and equipment I will most likely never use. I prefer to go out with as little equipment as possible, namely my camera body, one lens, an extra battery and an extra memory card. That’s it. I learnt quite early on that its a pain to constantly change lenses and I was always debating in my mind which lens would be best for this location instead of focussing on what was going on around me. I also see it as a challenge to go out with a single lens and try to make photos work within the constraints of the focal length. Recently I have been using a 70-200mm zoom lens but to mix it up and push myself to change my approach I also shoot with primes such as 50mm and 85mm.

Tip: Challenge yourself by restricting your lens selection and focal length.

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08: The finishing touches

The final stage of my process takes place at home on the computer. Normally I would download my images, forget about them for a few days and come back with fresh set of eyes to see if there are any photos I thought were good enough to edit and post to the world. From a being out shooting for a few hours I would find maybe 4-5 great frames that I would be totally happy to post and perhaps another 6-8 images that I could use for a blog post or something else.  It doesn’t sound like a great return from a session of shooting but from experience I have learnt to be quite decisive when it comes to selecting the best images to post on my social media. I’d rather be happy with a few killer shots rather than so-so with a whole bunch of average ‘filler’ shots.

When it comes to editing my selected photos, I use Lightroom for my colour and tone corrections and Photoshop for final finishing and retouching adjustments. In lightroom I use a base adjustment preset which applies an initial s tone curve, lens correction and white balance adjustment. After that I make all adjustments manually based on the individual image. I really enjoy the process of fine tuning adjustments and exploring different colour adjustment variations to create different kinds of feelings with my photos.

Tip: Take the time to find your own post processing style

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If there’s one common theme that runs through my street photography process, it’s that nothing great comes easy. It’s not an easy genre of photography to attempt and get results straight away. It takes time, patience and commitment to keep working at it to find those unplanned moments and to develop your own style. To this day I’m still learning new things and I hope to continue to grow by trying new shooting techniques and experimenting with different focal lengths and editing methods. But always keeping my eyes open.

As a result of searching for moments to shoot I have found myself observing more and engaging with things around me even when I don’t have my camera with me. These days my phone remains firmly in my pocket when I am out and I now think to myself how many moments did I miss in those days when my eyes were glazed over staring at my phone?

I hope these final thoughts gave you a little insight into how I approach shooting on the street. I’m looking forward to writing about some more street photography related topics in the near future so stay tuned.

All images captured using Canon 5D MkIII and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM Lens.

Check out my Instagram for more captured moments. Let me know what you think!

Street photography process: 01

Street photography process: 01