Learning Photographing… Thoughts/Questions – Part 4

First, I would like to inform you that I am taking 7 days off starting tomorrow. I recently found several of my college classmates living in LA, so we will have a small reunion. We haven’t seen or talked to each other for more than 40 years. (How fast we’ve aged!) I intend to keep reading your blogs when I am in LA, but I am not sure I will be able to comment or post.

Since Learning Photographing… Thoughts/Questions was posted, I have learned a lot. Thanks to all wonderful bloggers: Some have encouraged me, some provided the feedback I needed, and many showed me how good photos should look like. Every little bit of help is appreciated. The result is that I feel quite comfortable calling myself a photographer now 😉

Street Photography
Lynne (sixdegreesphotography) recommended Otto’s (In Flow) “Finding Your Photographic Voice” e-workshop. I thought it was a good idea. But at the same time, I worried not be able to find my voice during workshop (how embarrassing would that be? ;-). So, I decided to do some homework before the workshop. My goal was to “almost” find my voice before the beginning of the workshop.

To my surprise, after seeing everyone’s photo for many days, I began understanding who I really am as a photographer, and what I know what I want to do.

Street photography excites me because every moment you catch is different. Also, I like connecting to people. In a quiet way, that is.

I tried street photographing a couple of times in the past two weeks and compared my photo with those I admired. I found out several things:

(1) Many street photographers that I admire often have bold, strong image (I love that), but I, on the other hand, usually catch the soft side of things (or people). I think this is OK. I can continue doing what I am doing, while enjoy other photographers’ photos.

(2) I seldom see color photos; most are B&W. Every photo I took, I would convert it to B&W and compare it with the original color one. I have to admit that 90% of the time, I do like B&W better. My guess is that without getting distracted by colors, I am able to focus on what I want to focus, like people’s face expression… etc. But there must be times, colors can add more to a street photo. I am still trying to figure this one out.

(3) I see how good contrast could really enhance the photo. But how much contrast is a good amount? I haven’t figured out that yet. I usually stop increasing contrast when I think I like the photo. But I wonder if the photo can be further improved if more contrast has been applied.

(4) What to do with all those street photographs I am taking? I posted this question on Jeremy’s blog (Perception), and have received good answers from both Jeremy and Paul (Instants Out of Time). E-book, photo book, display on some website… there are many options. I have this concern because only posting it on my blog doesn’t seem satisfying me. I like to show those magic moments to general public, so they can enjoy them too – I like to contribute to people, you may say. I also like to give the photo to the person herself/himself, but that is not always possible. Thanks to Jeremy and Paul. As far as I’m concern, this is solved.

In general, I find myself becoming more observing: I notice more things when I walk on the street; sometime I can tell what kind of post processing have been applied to a certain photo; and sometime I can identify HDR photos.

I need to pay more attention to the background when I take photos, instead of totally focusing on people’s expression. Of course, I should learn more about my camera and take better photos.

I hope I didn’t bore you to death. Wish you a happy 4th of July and have a wonderful week. I will leave you with some street photos I took. I appreciate it if you care to let me know how to improve them. One thing I particularly interested to find out is: Should contrast be increased or reduced?

couple with a dog

couple with a dog

family in Rochester fest

family in Rochester fest

old man in Red Wing

old man in Red Wing

siblings in Red Wing

siblings watching a singing band in Red Wing

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About Helen C

A retired computer programmer who loves writing and photographing, and has managed to publish a YA novel "Jin-Ling’s Two Left".
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22 Responses to Learning Photographing… Thoughts/Questions – Part 4

  1. Cee Neuner says:

    These are marvelous photos. You are most definitely finding your eye. Have fun this next week. See you upon your return.

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  2. Mother Hen says:

    Helen, these are wonderful photos! You photographer you…

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  3. sonyavdg says:

    Those are great photos. You don’t need to doubt that you are well on the path to finding your voice as a photographer

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    • Helen C says:

      Yes, I no longer have any doubt. I think the problem is that I didn’t have formal training on photographing, so I wasn’t sure if I was good enough. Now I am confident. Thank you so much for your encouragement. It means a lot to me.

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  4. purpleviolas says:

    I Love your street photography photos. This is a part of photography which fascinates me and you inspire me to try my hand at it .

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  5. Hi Helen
    Yes all good photos. I think you should follow your own vision. increasing contrast till the photo looks right to YOU is the best guide. I myself like high contrast a lot of the time. For example in the family at Rochester Fair pic it looks a bit “flat” to me. If you increase the contrast the tattoo on the woman would stand out better. Mind you, TOO much contrast and you end up with dark shadows and really bright areas and loss of detail. It’s a fine balancing act Often if you lower the exposure a bit then try to up the contrast it works. I think it could work in this one. though that sky is pretty bright..try lowering the highlights
    The couple with the dog is great..framed just right in my opinion with that empty seat and the eye contact is good too. Never let anyone tell you that candid means that people don’t see you. I have written about this in my blog. so have a read please lol
    The siblings is a good example of what you say about watching backgrounds That dark area on the right side distracts. On the other hand, it is a lovely photo and sometimes it is better to get the photo even if the b/ground is not ideal.
    Your photos show a real humanist approach. by this I mean they are a lovely celebration of humanity going about their “ordinary lives”..not that any life or any moment for that matter is every ordinary.
    About the color vs B/W thing. I think it’s a photo by photo thing. Sometimes a photo looks good in either but it will depend on how you feel and what you think the “message” of the photo is. or I should say,what to YOU is the most important thing you want to the photo to say. For me I get very tempted by color sometimes (I’m in Malaysia now and the colors of the materials and clothes here is amazing…I have to be strong LOL) but try to resist and go with my feeling about the image
    Phew..that’s enough for now! Hope the reunion is great fun!!

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  6. Wonderful voice you have Helen and can’t wait to :hear/see” more of it. Upon your return I have a really great treat for you..
    Let me know when you are back online 🙂

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    • Helen C says:

      Hello Lynne, I came back last night; played 9 holes this morning and busy catching up. I saw your colorful photo (and liked it)… I am still thinking of it. You are so good with colors!
      Can’t wait for the e-workshop ;-(

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  7. I love how you find your own answers here. It’s an open and honest evaluation of your own photographic understanding that I believe many others could learn from. Like Paul says, you should follow your own way. If you shoot “soft” street photos, then don’t worry about others shooting bold and strong images. Just keep doing what you do and be honest with yourself. A few comments to your other points. 2) Colour is great in street photos, but more difficult, because you have to understand how colours work together and be able to notice and work around the colours that are. B&W correctly helps to hide the distraction of colours, but when you are able to handle that extra variable, it can work wonderfully. Just look at some images by the late Ernst Haas. 3) How much contrast is partly subjective and partly experience. Part of the clue here is also knowing that you may change the contrast locally in a give picture. Finally I just want to say that your street images accompanying this post are all vivid and full of life. Great images.

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    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Otto. Your comments means a lot to me. I just read a couple of your posts and learned that I should also consider including the environment by using wide angle, so my photo would have more depth in it. It makes a lot of sense! Thank you so much!

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  8. rommel says:

    I like the first photo. If only the guy didn’t look, it might have had a different effect. The focus went to the guy instead of the the people looking forward and applauding. I love all the touches, but yeah, I’m gravitated more towards the first one. B&W really makes a photo ‘pop’. It works so well with street photography for the effects.

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    • Helen C says:

      Thanks, Rommel. I agree with you. At first, I didn’t know why. I just thought I need to add something for the last two photos. After reading Otto’s one post: Wide Angle for People, it became clear to me that environment is important too, not just the faces. 😉 Thanks.

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  9. pambrittain says:

    The last one is precious, but I’m with rommel. That man is one grouchy man, and you caught his mood perfectly. Happy vacation.

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