So we’ve covered the basics! Congratulations on getting to Day 5🏅
Now lets get into some more of those juicy advanced techniques that will help any budding street photographer take their photos to the next level.
First, let’s cover some tools of the trade that I like to use when I’m out street shooting.
Special Effects Lens Filters
Lens filters can be a great way to not only elevate but completely change the mood and style of your photos. While there are a lot of them we’ll concentrate on the ones that can be used more effectively in a street environment especially for night photography.
*PRO TIP : when starting to buy filters you'll notice they can get expensive. Always buy filters that will fit your largest lens diameter (in my case 82mm) and use step up rings to fit your smaller lens. You can always step down but if you step up you will risk vignetting.
Star/Cross Screen Effect Filter
These produce starburst light beam effects when used at night and most commonly bought with 4 point, 6 point or 8 point. I personally use a 6 point filter to great effect at night. Be careful not to overdo it though as the scene can get really busy if there are a lot of light sources.
Black Pro-Mist Filter
This is one I use quite regularly. It can definitely be used during the day but I think the best effect comes at night. It reduces highlights creating a soft quality of light that is said to take the edge off of modern digital cameras. I think it adds a completely dreamy look to your night photography. This can be purchased at 1/8 (what I use for a more subtle effect) all the way up to 2 but I think this is far too high for practical purposes. I use 1/4 quite a bit!
Flare FX Filters
Something I added to my arsenal more recently but I really love the effect these give. A blue flare camera filter creates a blue streak flare on images, emulating the look of the type of lens flare produced by anamorphic cinema lenses. You can also get gold however I use this a little more sparingly.
Prisms are another great way to add interesting dimensionality to your photos.
They are essentially refracting light through a piece of glass that is held in front of your lens. This can be used in a very obvious or very subtle manner. I love to use a hand held prism again mostly at night to subtly reflect light sources that are out of frame back into my camera lens. This not only adds nice pops of colour but also has the advantage of hiding things on the edges of your composition that you might not like or are just not interesting.
Reflective surfaces can be used to great effect to add an otherworldly dimension to your photo at both day and night. Windows would be the most obvious source and some of the worlds greatest street photographers utilized this technique to great effect. Google “Vivian Maier self portrait” you’ll find her favourite way of obtaining a “selfie,” by capturing her reflection in a mirror or practically any other reflective object. By using windows we can invite a completely new world into the one we are standing in front of to create compelling images.
You can also use glass to create symmetry by placing your camera on the surface of the glass to get a mirrored effect.
At night I routinely use the tops of post boxes or any other metal shiny surfaces to place my lens on top of. The light reflects off of the metal and back into my lens filling up the bottom frame with some very interesting effects and colours.
Rain and more so puddles are another great element to use to bring reflections into your shots. Here are some tips.
Get low to the ground and try different angles. Every angle of a puddle reveals something new.
Look for symmetry
Look for bright city lights after dark
Use your maximum aperture for a nice bokeh effect.
Usually works best with a wider lens
This is great when we have a still subject and we want to show motion surrounding them. Mind you, you might need a tripod for longer exposures you can get some great shots using this technique with shutter speeds around 1/30 handheld in fast moving environments. This also works great with flash if you like that style.
Finally I want to talk about position and when I say position I mean you as the photographer. It’s vital to add variety to your photography and an easy way to do so is to not always shoot at eye or hip level. This is the way we all see the world and our aim as a photographer is to show the viewer a perspective that they might not see everyday or are used to. As I always tell my students phone cameras are so good these days and everyone has one in their pocket. If you live in a city as beautiful as mine then pointing your phone lazily at eye level towards a scene will make you look like every other amateur. We want to have intent in what we do by showing a perspective that is uncommon and unique. Something that makes the viewer stop and look at our work because we are showing them a world they don't normally see.
Get so low your camera touches the ground and shoot upwards.
Or find a position where you can elevate yourself, maybe from a nearby ledge or stairs and shoot down. Try getting really close to your subjects, like macro close (always being respectful of others space). The key is to play around with your perspective and try different view points.
There are of course a lot more techniques and tricks to use out on the field but what we talked about here, when used with intent, will definitely get you moving in the right direction and take your photos from amateur to pro looking.
Thanks always for reading and if you are in the Tokyo area and looking 1 on 1 time with me as a guide and/or photography teacher you can book my Street Photography Workshop here.