During the 1960's there was a breed of photographer called "street photographers" that roamed the streets of big cities (most notably New York) taking very impromptu and hyper-realistic images of city life. Their style of photography was to shoot from the hip, rarely (if ever) using the viewfinder and instead, just pre-focusing on an area, using a small aperture to get lots of depth of field, and then wading into crowds and capturing whatever the camera saw. Though their work might have seemed casual and random, in fact, these photographers were really street journalists who learned the very difficult skill of being able to photograph strangers without being noticed and thereby creating extremely honest and unfiltered photographs.
I often try to imitate that style of photography when I'm traveling. Rather than carefully composing well-balanced scenes of street life, I prefer to put on a wide-angle lens, set a small aperture (using the aperture-priority exposure mode) and then shoot without looking through the viewfinder or LCD. I shot the photo here, for example, while sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Paris and I really just wanted an honest shot of the locals sitting around me. So rather than bring the camera up to my eye and draw attention to myself (and my camera), I just casually held the camera at my side and fired several shots. It's possible someone noticed what I was doing, but I doubt it. When you are holding a camera at your side, no one thinks you're taking pictures with it. I love the authenticity of this shot, the very casual nature of Parisians at lunch.
Next time you're out in the city (or even at a holiday party), try your "street" shooting skills out. Just put the camera on auto, use a wide-angle zoom setting and shoot. Don't worry about composition and framing, the fun and un-posed nature of the shots will more than make up for a few crooked frames or out-of-focus areas. And by the way, if you'd like to know more about street photography, check out Mason Resnick's very interesting site. Mason is a great street photographer and also teaches a course in street shooting at the (online) Perfect Picture School of Photography. You might also want to look at Joel Meyerowitz's fantastic street work. Joel is one of the originators of street photography, one of my heroes in photography, and his work is amazing.
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