24 August

Iceland, Abbotsford and Beyond!

Here at oopoomoo HQ we are getting set for a busy season of teaching, talking and taking (photos of course).

First up, we are thrilled to be part of a photo print exhibition on September 8 at Resolve Photo in Calgary. The print show is called RAÐLJÓST and the show features the work of fifteen local photographers who’ve traveled to — and fallen in love with — Iceland. Inspired by the Icelandic word “raðljóst” (which translates to “enough light to navigate”) the photographs seek to show Iceland interpreted creatively by each artist. Sam and I got a sneak peak at some of the prints going into the show and we are thrilled to report that you’ll discover an Iceland unlike anything you’ve seen before. And seeing these finely crafted prints in person reminds us that a key aspect of photography is not only posting photos to the web but also the tangible pleasure of viewing them as works of art in the form of prints. Some may even argue that the pinnacle in photography is a finely created print! Rather than show off the works here on the website we encourage you to come in person and enjoy the surprising views and luscious nature of fine art photographic prints of Iceland. For more information please check out this link.

©Darwin Wiggett - Mývatn Lake, Iceland

©Darwin Wiggett – Mývatn Lake, Iceland

Second, speaking of creative vision and personal expression, we want to remind you that oopoomoo will be in Abbotsford BC on October 22 to present our new show, “The Visionary Photographer”. In this show we’ll cover topics designed to take you into the realm of photographic artistry:

  • The Confident Artist and The Art of Visual Perception
  • Creative Lens Choice and Camera Controls for Visionary Photographers
  • Advanced Compositional Patterns for the Visionary Photographer
  • Personal Style and Creative Vision: The Metamorphosis of an Artist

Early bird pricing on this show ends August 31, so be sure to register soon if you plan to go. Plus we’d love to reconnect and meet BC friends old and new.

Whaling Station Remains, Whaler's Bay, Antarctica ©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett

And finally, you may have noticed the fine work coming from students completing our 7/365 – The Mentored Photo Project eCourse. We are thrilled with the inspiring work of our students and have shared their July results. Watch for more awesome projects from our August students coming soon to the blog! If you have a photo project in you bursting to be seen, we have four private mentorships available this September.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

14 July

The Results of the Creative Crops Assignment

Each month we have a creative assignment in our monthly newsletter (to sign up go here and get our free Born Creative eBook). For June the assignment was #creativecrops. Below are our choice picks of the photos submitted. The theme was open to the photographer’s interpretation.

Be sure to check out the oopoomoo Creatives Facebook page to see ongoing assignment postings.

©Anita Vermaak

©Anita Vermaak

©Anita Vermaak

©Anita Vermaak

©April Henrikson Daly

©April Henrikson Daly

©Carolina Bhering

©Carolina Bhering

©Chris Bone

©Chris Bone

©Connie Quinton

©Connie Quinton

©Cynthia Hinson

©Cynthia Hinson

©George Clayton

©George Clayton

©John Fujimagari

©John Fujimagari

©Kyle McIntosh

©Kyle McIntosh

©Liz Forrester

©Liz Forrester

©Lynn Smith

©Lynn Smith

©Michelle Barclay

©Michelle Barclay

©Phyllis Fitzsimons

©Phyllis Fitzsimons

©Riana Vermaak

©Riana Vermaak

©Sharon Rynsburger Peters

©Sharon Rynsburger Peters

©Shaun Conarroe

©Shaun Conarroe

©Vince Ready

©Vince Ready

28 June

Photo Doodles – A Summer Project

Have you ever noticed that creative people are constantly recording their inspirations and ideas? Painters have sketch books they take with them to tinker with visual ideas. Writers sit in coffee shops, with a notebook or moleskin handy, ready to record snippets of conversations or observations for a character. Musicians used to carry small recorders to sample musical ideas. These days the smart phone is the handy recorder of choice for musicians. And with cameras built into smart phones, this back-pocket visual recorder has become the new sketch pad for photographers. And we have seen an explosion of creativity emerge simply because photographers now always have a camera with them in the form of their smart phone. The problem with smart phones is that they can be as much of a distraction as a creative tool. Instead of concentrating on making visual sketches, the photographer is also checking email, watching his Instagram feed and following the latest episode of his favourite Youtube channel. Meanwhile visual gifts flow by unnoticed.

When I am out and about doing errands and daily tasks I constantly see cool little visual vignettes that I wished I had recorded. We don’t own a smart phone and if we are not ‘on a photo shoot’ we leave the cameras at home so these little scenes are just ephemerally enjoyed in the moment – which is fine but sometimes I wish I could revisit those moments.

For my summer project I resolve to take a camera with me everywhere I go so I can capture the visual treats that present themselves constantly. These little ‘photo doodles’ I plan to put in a scrapbook along with my thoughts and impressions of each moment. Often I find that this type of visual journal is a springboard to launch larger projects. I’ll share the results of this Photo Doodle project on the blog and on the project page. Below are some recent doodles from the last few days. By the way, if you’re interested in trying out your own photo project but need help along the way our new eCourse 7/365 – The Mentored Photo Project might just be the ticket to kick start your creativity (we even have special pricing for those who commit before June 30th). Happy doodles!

©Darwin Wiggett - The shadow of the whistle spout of a kettle on the stove.

©Darwin Wiggett – The shadow of the whistle spout of a kettle on the stove.

©Darwin Wiggett - The shadow of a freshly drained wine glass by the kitchen sink.

©Darwin Wiggett – The shadow of a freshly drained wine glass by the kitchen sink.

©Darwin Wiggett - Pizza slice crumbs on a cutting board.

©Darwin Wiggett – Pizza slice crumbs on a cutting board.

©Darwin Wiggett - Cloud abstract

©Darwin Wiggett – Cloud abstract.

©Darwin Wiggett - Street lights and a stormy sky.

©Darwin Wiggett – Street lights and a stormy sky.

©Darwin Wiggett - The suburban crow.

©Darwin Wiggett – The suburban crow.

©Darwin Wiggett - An evening walk.

©Darwin Wiggett – An evening walk.

©Darwin Wiggett - Beets and the remains of the day.

©Darwin Wiggett – Beets and the remains of the day.

 

17 June

Growing Creatively Through Small Mentored Projects

In our last blog post, Samantha talked about recent ‘mini-mentorship’ projects that we gave each other. Sam’s project was about personalized tree portraits, mine was about discovering artful design in nature and capturing that design in-camera. For me, the mentorship was incredibly valuable because it helped me recognize and articulate where I was and where I wanted to go as an artist. Once that was clear, the world opened up to infinite possible further project ideas. One of the main reasons that many photographers get in a visual rut and are not inspired is because they simply do not know who they are creatively. Knowing what your inner voice wants to say frees you from external constraints that hold you back.

Photo 1

Photo 2

As a mentor I learned to see the biases and expectations and self-doubt on the part of the mentee. Making assignments that addressed these issues  forced the mentee to face the roadblocks to her creativity. Through teaching another you learn just as much about yourself and your own creative roadblocks. For both of us we emerged from the small mentored project with stronger artistic voices and renewed creative drive. Plus, we liked the results of our fun little projects! And now we just want to do more, both as mentors and as mentored artists.

Photo 3

Photo 4

10 June

Fabulous Film Fridays Walkabout – June 17, 2016

Free Fabulous Film Friday Walkabout!

Calling all analogue die-hards and film-curious photogs! We are hosting a free walk in Cochrane, Alberta – all you need is a film camera (any type, any format). Actually, you don’t even need that as we’ll have some filmy stuff on hand for you to play with in case you don’t own a film camera. And we might even have a roll or two of 35mm film we can spare as well.

Who: all levels (max. 12 people. Email info@oopoomoo.com to register)
What: a two-hour meander with friends and a chance to shoot some film and feel retro (bell-bottoms optional)
When: June 17, 7 to 9pm – on a Friday of course!
Where: Mitford Park in Cochrane, Alberta (meet in the parking lot by the stage)
After the walk, we are heading over for refreshments at a new espresso and wine bar in Cochrane called The Gentry. Join us for a snack and chance to shoot the breeze with colleagues on all things film, photography and fun.

Can’t make it out? Organize your own Film Friday Walkabout in your local area. Make sure you show and share your images Fridays in the oopoomoo Creatives Facebook group (hashtag #fabulousfilmfridays).

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1 June

The Best of #CreativeClouds

Every month here at oopoomoo we send out our newsletter with a themed photography assignment. For the month of May our assignment was “Creative Clouds” open to any interpretation. We had a lot of great entries over on our oopoomoo Creatives Facebook page. Thanks everyone for your participation!

Below is a selection of our favourite images submitted. Stay tuned for our June newsletter which will be sent out in a day or two with June’s photo assignment. To sign up for our newsletter click here and get our Born Creative eBook for free.

©Barb Kreutter

©Barb Kreutter

©Brenda Hudson

©Brenda Hudson

©Christy Nielsen

©Christy Nielsen

©David Klautt

©David Klautt

©Gary Galger

©Gary Galger

©Gerry Ambury

©Gerry Ambury

©Ingrid VanderGaag

©Ingrid VanderGaag

©Ingrid VanderGaag

©Jim Harris

©John Andersen

©John Andersen

©Keith Walker

©Keith Walker

©Keith Walker

©Keith Walker

©Lynda McKay

©Lynda McKay

©Mark Jinks

©Mark Jinks

©Michelle Barclay

©Michelle Barclay

©Mike Perkins

©Mike Perkins

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Pam Jenks

©Rachel Bilodeau

©Rachel Bilodeau

©Ralph A. Croning

©Ralph A. Croning

©Robert Skoye

©Robert Skoye

©Russ Smith

©Russ Smith

©Sherry Christensen

©Sherry Christensen

©Sherry Christensen

©Sherry Christensen

©Veronica Reist

©Veronica Reist

©Vicki Brown

©Vicki Brown

 

2 May

Raw plus JPEG: A More Efficient Image Workflow?

It seems photographers fall into two camps; those who shoot Raw and those who shoot JPEGS. Few photographers shoot both. Raw shooters want to capture the most data possible from their cameras so they have the most information available to tweak in post-production. In the film days the negative was the analog data base used to make expressive prints in the darkroom; in the digital era the Raw file is the equivalent to the film negative. Raw shooters generally want to take control and expressive processing is as important (and sometimes more important) than image capture.

A Raw file with minimal processing.

A Raw file with minimal processing.

©Darwin Wiggett - the same image from above but 'expressively' processed.

©Darwin Wiggett – The same image as above but ‘expressively’ processed.

Photographing with JPEGS is like photographing with slide film. With slide film, the images did not go into the darkroom, the slide (the positive) was the finished product to be projected or published. Slides shooters were photographers first; they were not darkroom artists. Digital photographers who shoot JPEG need to get it right in the field because the image is processed and finished in camera. Any further processing in the computer will degrade the image information plus defeats the purpose of finishing the image in camera. JPEG shooters either don’t want or need (or are allowed) to do post-processing or are under tight deadlines and don’t have the luxury of post-production.

©Darwin Wiggett - An in-Camera multiple exposure JPEG.

©Darwin Wiggett – An in-Camera multiple exposure JPEG.

Why not have the best of both worlds? Until recently the main reason that photographers did not shoot both is that Raw and JPEG required different approaches in image capture that often were incompatible. Raw shooters want the most data possible and to get that data requires ‘exposing to the right‘ to capture more pixel information. Essentially this means ‘over-exposing’ the image without clipping important detail to have more pixel information to massage in post-production. Superficially these images look washed out and pale on the LCD and Raw shooters use their histograms to judge appropriate exposure and not the look of the image on the camera display. The final image density is set later in the computer. JPEG shooters, on the other hand, want images that are finished in-camera looking appropriately exposed for the photographer’s taste. As well, JPEG shooters must decide on the appropriate picture style (vivid, standard, monochrome etc), colour space and white balance to set on their cameras before pressing the shutter. With Raw, you just capture the data; camera settings like white balance, colour space and picture style have no effect on the information captured. And so shooting Raw or shooting JPEG often meant two different shooting mindsets. Photographing with both at the same time didn’t really work well for most people.

©Darwin Wiggett - The image on the left is an 'exposed to the right' Raw capture while the image on the right is a JPEG with exposure, white balance, and picture style chosen for a finished result in the camera.

©Darwin Wiggett – The image on the left is an ‘exposed to the right’ Raw capture while the image on the right is a JPEG with exposure, white balance, and picture style chosen for a finished result in the camera.

In the last five years or so, improvements in camera sensors have made the need to ‘expose to the right’ to get high quality data more a matter of theory and less a matter of necessity. If you’re really anal and a pixel peeper you may see small quality differences in files processed from ‘expose right’ versus ‘exposed to taste’ Raw files. But really, the differences are now so small that for practical applications exposing right just doesn’t matter that much anymore. And so now we could shoot Raw plus JPEG and have the best of both worlds… but why bother?

The biggest problem with shooting Raw is the fact that it’s easy to make images in the field but the real work and time involved is in post-processing. Almost all the photographers I know that shoot Raw have years of back-logged images that are not processed and this backlog constantly haunts and taunts them. You can’t print, email or publish unprocessed Raw images; they need to be run through a Raw image convertor, even if minimally processed, before they can be used. Piles of unprocessed files languishing on hard drives are more than just an inconvenience they are a liability.  Years later, looking at backlog of Raw images, you may have forgotten your initial creative vision for a particular image. Maybe you initially envisioned  the finished image as a high contrast B+W but now looking at the pale milky looking Raw file you wonder why you even took the photo in the first place.

©Darwin Wiggett - When I saw this bridge I thought of a high contrast B+W that was in a 4:3 aspect ratio. I set my camera picture style and aspect ratio to suit my creative vision. This final JPEG reminds me of where I was going with the image at the time I shot it.

©Darwin Wiggett – When I saw this bridge I envioned a high contrast B+W in a 4:3 aspect ratio. I set my camera picture style and aspect ratio to suit my creative vision and made this in-camera JPEG.

Here is how the Raw file of the photo above appeared in my image browser. Would I have remembered my creative vision for the image if I did not process it right away?

Here is how the Raw file of the photo above appears in my image browser. If I waited months or years later to process the image would I have remembered my original creative vision?

To solve both problems (the image backlog and remembering your creative vision) why not shoot Raw plus JPEG? Photograph with appropriate white balance, colour settings, exposure, aspect ratio and picture style to honour and represent want you want the final image to look like. These settings will be recorded on the JPEG as a final processed image that you can catalog and share right away.  The RAW version of the file will serve as the negative for that JPEG and is always available should you want to tweak the image later or try a different treatment. Using this system gets your images into your catalog faster, allows you to see a rough representation of what you had in mind for your finished image and still provides you with a Raw image to manipulate if you need it. Also shooting JPEG will make you a better photographer because you’ll have to think in advance about what you want the final image to look like. You actually have to visualize and that’s what good artists do! They don’t just take a Raw file and wiggle sliders until something ‘cool’ emerges. If you worried about hard drive space, then just shoot small JPEGS with your Raws since the former is really only used as a visual reference of your digital negatives.

The Raw plus JPEG workflow is not for everyone. If you shoot lots of HDR imagery, focus-stacking, or multi-image panoramas then you might as well stick with Raw because you’ll need to process your images anyway. If you have a camera older than 5-years old you might also want to stick to Raw as well for quality reasons. But if you mostly shoot single in-camera images and have a newer camera with a great sensor,  then maybe the Raw plus JPEG workflow might work for you. Try it and let us know what you think.

©Darwin Wiggett - A finished JPEG ready to catalog and share; the RAW 'negative' gets the same catalog number is is always available for other processing options.

©Darwin Wiggett – A finished JPEG ready to catalog and share; the RAW ‘negative’ gets the same catalog number and is always available for other processing options.

18 March

Who Are You Creatively?

This article was first published in Outdoor Photography Canada just over a year ago, to get these articles fresh from the press be sure to subscribe to the magazine!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Who Are you Creatively?

Why do you make photographs? Some people will answer that they make photographs because they want to document their travels or important events in their lives. Others are inspired by nature and want to capture this inspiration. And many use photography as a positive escape from the hectic rat race of life (a kind of meditation or mental yoga). But if we dig even deeper I think there is a universal desire, if not a need, for creativity. As kids we are all naturally curious and creative. Unfortunately, these traits get sapped out of us early on as we are taught the ‘values’ of practical education, work, consumption, and conformity. Many of us picked photography as a creative antidote for the homogenous pressures put on us by society.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

But as we learn and practice photography, the ‘ought tos’ start to rear their ugly heads. We are taught about subjects we ought to photograph, locations we ought to visit, compositional rules we ought to follow. In short, over time, the very hobby we took up to express our creativity is stuffed into a box and turned into formula. We suppress our creativity and shoot just what others deem acceptable.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Every so often we need a reset, a reminder to get in touch with who we are and what our inner voice wants to say but that gets drowned out by the yelling of the outside world. Lately, I was feeling out of touch with my creative voice and felt that I was just repeating photographic formulas. My partner, Samantha suggested a little exercise for me to do that would help me determine who I am creatively. She showed me a variety of visual arts from painting to collage. She asked me to pick out pieces that I really liked and then had me write out answers to these questions about each piece:

  1. What do you think this picture is about?
  2. What do you respond to or find interesting in the picture? Why?
  3. Looking at the shape, line, form, texture and colour etc. used by the artist, how do these compositional and material choices help convey the essence of the picture?
©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

Together we looked at my art choices and my detailed answers to her questions. We began to notice some themes, ideas, visual elements and even colours common to each piece. Sam suggested that these commonalities were the seeds of my creative voice. Frankly, I was surprised by the results because the imagery I liked was very different than the images I have become known for. But when I looked at my most recent work, there were little hints of this new voice trying to emerge; I was already beginning to use the themes, ideas and visual design elements that I had chosen in Sam’s exercise. It became obvious that I no longer knew myself creatively. Indeed, I had changed significantly but was still trying to force myself to shoot in my old ‘style’. No wonder photography was feeling strained lately. Now that I have discovered with Sam’s help who I am as a creative, the world has opened up for me again. Photography is a playground and I have given myself permission to play once again.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

So if you are feeling a bit lost with your photography, try Sam’s exercise and share and discuss the results with a good friend or fellow photographer. Better yet use the exercise on each other. Often someone else can see easier patterns in your choices that you may subconsciously deny or that you may not want to see. What often emerges from this exercise is the discovery of who you are as a visual creative. That is a powerful revelation. Now go discover your creative voice.

For those wanting more direction on creativity be sure to download our free Born Creative eBook or better yet get our 5 eBook Creative Photography Bundle! Happy shooting!

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

3 March

The Power of Play for Creative Expression

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

Many photographers have an agenda when they go out to photograph. Whether it’s to capture a portrait, a destination or a representation of a specific subject we often have a preconceived result in mind before we even press the shutter. We know exactly what we hope to capture and what we want the final result to look like. This is not necessarily good or bad; many of history’s best images came as a result of the photographer seeing the photo in their mind’s eye before the camera was ever lifted to the eye. When I look at my own favourite images, a significant portion were visualized in advance and my job was to make that visualization a reality on film or the digital sensor. But just as many of my favourite photos came about from serendipitous discovery and the most creative and refreshing of those discoveries came when I was just goofing around and playing with the camera, when I was experimenting with no serious intent in mind. I think many of us would benefit from not taking photography too seriously and just going out open-minded and ready to have fun. My best results at photographic play have happened when I leave the ‘serious’ gear behind and just respond with a point-n-shoot or small dSLR. I also abandon all the ‘should do’ photographic rules and techniques and just respond organically. It’s so freeing. Many times I just get junk photos, but just as often a gem emerges. I have no expectations either way but simply go out in the world in joyful play. Let me give a couple of examples.

©Samantha Chrysanthou - oopoomoo.com

©Samantha Chrysanthou – oopoomoo.com

Sam and I used to lead photographic workshops and tours in the Canadian Rockies based out of the Kootenay Plains and Abraham Lake. In the early years most photographers were just happy to be in this amazing locale and make photos of all the things that inspired them. Later on, images of the methane bubbles on Abraham Lake started to circulate on the internet and all of a sudden making images of the bubbles was on the bucket list of most photographers. Our job then became one of leading photographers to the bubbles in sunrise and sunset light so that they could achieve their preconceived result. Amazing images resulted but frankly they all looked pretty much the same. There was a sudden loss of desire to explore the area for all the other visual delights there.  Instead there was a fixation on getting bubble images. I also kept repeating the successful bubble formula images because it helped sell workshops.

©Darwin Wiggett - The image that started the bubble craze.

©Darwin Wiggett – The award-winning image that started the bubble craze.

One day in between winter workshops I went out for a mid-afternoon walk with just a camera and a zoom lens slung over my shoulder. I remember walking the shoreline of Abraham Lake just chilling. I was beach-combing, picking up stones, pieces of ice and pine cones just like a kid. I spent some time balancing myself on one leg on big stones and then rock-hopping stone to stone. In short, I was in goofing-off mode. I was not even remotely thinking about making pictures. In fact, I wanted to escape ‘having to make photos’. I saw some fins of ice along the shoreline and wondered if I could squeeze my way under them. I managed to get under the plate-like slabs of ice and just lay there looking up fascinated with the texture of the ice. Every slight move of my head revealed a new kaleidoscope of wavy distortions. It was mesmerizing. I must have spent twenty minutes just jostling my head around before it dawned on me that I had a camera. A couple of snapshots later and I had some of my favourite images I ever made of Abraham Lake ice. The power of play revealed its creative power.

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett

Here is another example of the power of play. I am a huge fan of dogs and so as a photographer it was not a big stretch for me to end up photographing ‘man’s best friend’. Anyone who has photographed dogs knows it can be tough unless you have an obedience-trained dog that will take your directed commands. Most dogs are not well trained which says more about the owners than the dogs, but that’s another story. I had some early success with my own dogs that had basic obedience training and, when people saw the images, some of them asked me to photograph their dogs. My expectations of how a dog photo session should go, well orchestrated with trained dogs, went out the window fast. I was frustrated, the dog was stressed and the owner was not happy with the results. The whole thing was not fun. The solution to the problem came when I dropped expectations, and just started playing with the dogs. Forget the damn camera! I worked fun back into my time with the dogs. And then I tried something unorthodox. I put the camera on program mode, turned on the auto-focus and the motor drive and just pointed the camera in the general direction of the dog while we played together. Most of the results were terrible but occasionally magic happened! In the film days this was an expensive experiment, but once digital came along, the fun was cheap and I could play even more. Samantha and I refined this ‘play with the dogs’ photographic approach into a more predictably successful technique which we discuss in our dog photography eBook, Sit, Stay & Smile. In the end it was play and the loss of expectations that resulted in fresh imagery of the dogs.

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Darwin Wiggett

©Samantha Chrysanthou - The making of the previous image.

©Samantha Chrysanthou – The making of the previous image.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett – oopoomoo.com

So… the moral is not to take yourself and your photography too seriously. Make room for play and go out and act like a kid. If you want more exercises in play and in creative discovery be sure to check out our Learning to See Workbook and free Born Creative eBook.

©Darwin Wiggett - oopoomoo.com

©Darwin Wiggett

Darwin jumps in a puddle

©Samantha Chrysanthou

25 February

Ethics in Street Photography – A Guest Column

Street photography, rural Alberta style!

Street photography, rural Alberta style!

In our last blog post, Samantha tackled building a code of ethics in photography. In the end, we here at oopoomoo decided that the principle to promote the well-being of the things we photograph was a good guide to keep us on the right track ethically. If we are not promoting the well-being of our subjects then ethically we are wading into dark waters. Samantha compiled an extensive checklist of positive actions we could each take to keep on the ethical path. One of those positive actions was to ask permission before photographing an identifiable person. This statement had a number of photographers up in arms suggesting that to do so would kill the art of street and documentary photography. On the contrary, we think keeping the guiding principle of promote the well-being in mind will easily guide you as to whether you should push the shutter button or not. For example, we recently featured the work of documentary photographer Larry Louie and he always asks permission before photographing identifiable people and his photos are all the more powerful in veracity because he engaged with the people he photographs. In some rare cases not asking permission is OK if it promotes the well-being of the subject. Potential situations where this might apply might be war journalism where the need to document might outweigh the privacy of an individual. Our suggested positive actions were guidelines not commandments for you to blindly follow – we always encourage you to question and think for yourself. We hope our guiding principle of promote the well-being is useful to you in your journeys as an ethical photographer.

©Dave Williamson - An ethically misbehaving photographer?

©Dave Williamson – An ethically misbehaving photographer?

OK, so that’s our perspective. For a slightly different view on the ethics of street photography we present the guest column below by Amruta Mohod of PhotoWhoa. We would love to hear your feedback on this contentious topic in photography. Please note that the opinions and any errors or omissions in the article below are the sole responsibility of the author and PhotoWhoa.

Ethics In Street Photography; The Black, White And The Grey Of It

by Amruta Mohod

Photographer Joel Goodman’s striking photo of a Manchester street on New Year’s Eve was recently dubbed a ‘perfect picture’ with its painting compositions and conformity to the Fibonacci Spiral that the likes of Lenoardo Da Vinci employed while creating masterpieces.

Did Goodman seek permission from any of the subjects?

©Joel Goodman

©Joel Goodman

Image courtesy The Guardian

Or when Alfred Eisenstaedt clicked the iconic picture The Kiss, did he say ‘Hey, is it okay if I snap a picture while you, you know do the deed?’

(Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc./Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Image Courtesy Time Life

(*note from oopoomoo – this photo is mired in controversy about sexual assault)

Ethically speaking, street photography is the most controversial branch of photography. Since the subject largely consists of people who are mostly shot candid, the question of ethnicity ubiquitously plagues photographers everywhere.

However, note that not every street photograph features a person in the picture or even have to have a street in view.

The idea is to have – as Wikipedia puts it – a human presence.

Another question often asked in connection with street photography is whether or not it should be candid. A lot of times your subject would be aware and even posing for a click. Does that then qualify it to be termed a street photograph?

There are different thoughts on this. While Matt Hart, UK-based street photographer and educator believes in going completely candid so as to not disrupt the natural composition of an image and keep it real, New York street photographer Michael Comeau feels he wouldn’t just startle his subjects if he doesn’t seek permission but might not even get the desired shot.

What’s right and what’s wrong?

Street photography blurs the line between the two, and it’s amply justified.

When it comes to ethics in street photography, every expert has his personal opinion, and swears by the implementation of the same in creating pictures the way they see it.

Like Ansel Adams said “You don’t take a photograph, you make it“, a picture – street or otherwise – says a lot about the photographer too. It’s his perception, thoughts, beliefs and ideologies all seeping to his work, which is why the concept of ethics varies too.

Come to think of it this way, just like ethics in general are extremely subjective, so it is with ethics in street photography. What might be right for one would be horribly wrong for the other and the other way round.

For instance William Klein’s pictures are primarily up close and personal shot with wide angled lenses.

He quotes I photograph what I see in front of me, I move in close to see better and use a wide-angle lens to get as much as possible in the frame”.

He’s one of the legends in the field of street photograph and has given us some rather compelling clicks. A notable attribute in most of his work is that it tunes the viewer in. It’s like the viewer becomes part of the picture rather than being an onlooker.

True to his words, Klein had always gone for it. Clicked when he saw something that held a sense of a story, a palpable sense of identity and relation and overall a surprising yet perplexing perception of something banal. Like his May Day picture of an old lady surrounded by a small but eclectic group of different nationalities.

©William Klein

©William Klein

Image courtesy https://www.artsy.net/artist/william-klein

Echoing the same thought, is ace street photographer Thomas Leuthard who not only has made his mark with his street portraiture in a short time but is also eager to share his vast wealth of street photography related tips and tricks.

In his free e-book titled Street Faces he gives insights into the approach. He emphasizes on the right approach and how it can make or break your capture.

He also says that the average person doesn’t interest him, he’s always looking for that one face that stands out of the crowd, based on any parameter. But it has to be something captivating, a face that speaks without opening the mouth.

©Thomas Leuthard

©Thomas Leuthard

Image courtesy Street Faces

Most might call his approach unethical and even illegal but he sticks to it when it comes to street portraiture.

I never look them into their eyes, never ever (only through the viewfinder). I point my camera to the persons face before he turns his head. I press the button halfway down to pre-focus. When the person turns around, I press the button down and make 3-4 frames in a series. After 3-4 shots I turn around and walk away. Don’t talk, don’t look, I don’t do anything else…

And even legendary Garry Winogrand who is renowned for his artistic perception of the cacophony of American life, was famous for not seeking permission before a click.

To this date, the prolific Winogrand remains an inspiration for a multitude of photographers skewing towards street photography in particular, despite his evident dislike for the term ‘street photography’. But while he could have gotten away with his ‘don’t hesitate, just click’ attitude in the patriarchal 20th century, today his beliefs are not just more likely to be reproachful and angering but it can also pose a threat to a person’s privacy.

Changing Technology and Ethics in Street Photography

There are tons of websites that feature random ‘street photographs’ of people caught unawares. And given how Smartphones have made a photographer out of each one of us, it takes only a few minutes to click, upload and taint a person’s reputation.

This is the area where ethics in street photography need to be discussed closely. The question of consent and the question of intention both determine whether an image is fit to be called a candid and honest street photograph that the public would smile and say thank you for one or that would get you sued or at least beaten up.

Street photographers (majority of them) agree that what they are doing is fine because what they’ve set out to do is create art.

But cut to today’s time when people are not just more wary of getting a picture clicked without their consent (for all the justified reasons) but they are also constantly captured and monitored through surveillance cameras.

So how do you find the middle ground in such contradictions?

Are you clicking that beautiful red-haired lady with a squealing newborn in one arm to show the realities of motherhood or do you intend to put it up in a dark space on the internet for the faceless chorus to go MILF?

The onus of clicking candid is always on the photographer, ethically that is. The legal viewpoint might differ depending on which country you are in.

Consent is an important factor, but when you are going candid and the subject has no idea they’re getting clicked is that ethical or unethical?

And when you are clicking a larger group, do you take each person’s consent?

And there’s also the question of whether taking consent still qualifies it to be called street photography or does it then become a portrait.

Some photographers consider them to be two different areas while some consider portraiture to be a sub-sect of street photography

Weighing in on the ethics debate, some photographers believe that educating the general public more on the requirements of street photography would help. Like if they knew they’d consent automatically like they do in case of CCTV cameras.

But that’s a theoretical concept. Come to think of it logically, this might make them more resistant.

There’s no way to use the idea of surveillance camera to justify street photography, it’s absurd and rather does more harm. Since there is a question of safety involved in surveillance captures, people don’t object to it. The same cannot be said for street photography.

But to some degree, there is a need for that; for a decent understanding of and exposure to street photography. And also the backstage work, requirements, and consequences in general.

Street photography is a form of creating art, actually more like recognizing art. Like Duane Michals puts it:

Photography is essentially an act of recognition by street photographers, not an act of invention. Photographers might respond to an old man’s face, or an Arbus freak, or the way light hits a building—and then they move on. Whereas in all the other art forms, take William Blake, everything that came to that paper never existed before. It’s the idea of alchemy, of making something from nothing.

What could make a street photographer click is subjective, it’s what they see traces of art in. And this is why they opine differently than their peers on the ethics of clicking street photos.

Although this area of photography is affected a lot by the changing times, laws and perceptions, it is not going to be banned or so we hope. Should there be a type of explicit or implicit mandates governing street photography is still hard to say. Like art, photography cannot be contained.

You cannot direct a photographer to click a certain way, it’s something natural and to a degree innate too.

But then should you disrespect or worse derogate an unknown person in the name of art?

Some general no-nos of street photography

Here is an attempt to round up some of the general what-not-to-do(s) in street photography from an ethical point of view. Some of these points might not resonate with some street photographers, well to each his own, but from a general point of view it’s better to not do any of these:

Take pictures of the subject in a compromising position – There’s only so much you can do in the name of art. When it comes to street photography, which is already polarizing, it is best to not take pictures of your subject which they would definitely not consent to.

This is especially important if you are clicking candid of kids. Even when done with the right intention, it would somewhere evoke the wrong response. Therefore, the correct thing to do is to not do it.

It’s better to ask consent of parents when you click a child – You don’t want to have an angry father at your throat or a scared mother calling the cops. If the parent is nearby, ask them permission to shoot a picture of their kid. Most parents don’t mind if you ask them the correct way.

If they ask you to delete, you delete – So someone not just caught you clicking them candid, they marched over to you and demanded you delete their picture, which you absolutely should.

Not only that, if you are going to follow the approach that William Klein or Bruce Gilden took – that of getting right in the face while shooting – then the chances of this happening is all the more. People don’t like their personal spaces tampered with, while some would give you a quizzical ‘what the hell bro’ look, some might actually create a ruckus.

So even after tackling the situation with tact, if they ask you to delete the picture, you have to absolutely do it.

Don’t interrupt their moment – If you think this is irrelevant when you’re shooting candid then you’re wrong. Just because a person isn’t directly aware of you shooting them, doesn’t mean he is completely in the dark. Take for instance what Leuthard does, he waits for an eye contact before clicking candid.

It’s rude and distasteful to interrupt and spoil someone’s moment just because you feel you’d get an amazing shot from that. Some subjects might make the shot better when they know a camera is on them but most would close up.

When we say ethics we mean morals that are accepted by a large group of people. Street photographers the world over believe that there is nothing unethical in their work but there’s no set consensus when it comes to ethics in street photography.

Click a picture with the wrong intention – There was some mention of intentions earlier, the talk of ethics become more prominent in situations where the intention had always been to defame or demean.

And that’s not art.

The question of ‘decency’ and consent make up for most of the ethics debate in street photography, but the only thing that can be said is if it feels right in your heart, click it!

Author Bio

Amruta , PhotoWhoa Team
I love writing about photography and keep it as simple as possible. When not writing about photography I can be seen watching TV and petting all the possible dogs in the society. (My husband dosen’t let me own one) and looking for new places to eat and review them. I also love to connect with new people across the globe hence you can always find me online on Skype. You can find me on Twitter here @amruta_mohod

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