Candid Street Photography

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I am a candid Street photographer, there I said it and have been saying it for two years, but how did that happen? I am not even sure myself to be honest. It’s just how people started referring to my work, it’s not a name I gave to myself its just happened over night I can’t even remember how it started.

I have been shooting Street photography in one way or another for all of my life and started about 8 years old with a camera given to me by my parents. I was born Dyslexic and photography was my welcome release from life, school and my own head as I tried to grow up with learning difficulties.

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I was not great at photography so had to teach myself and made lots of mistakes along the way.  I did all the normal things you do as a kid, shoot long exposures and light trails from cars on roads as well as smoke and water drops, all the photography related things we shoot as we try to learn then people became more interesting.

I started shooting weddings and events at an early age and then glamour. In my spare time my hobby as such was always shooting people, due to the fact I shot people at weddings and people at events and spent my time posing them or talking to them I preferred to shoot my street in a candid way.

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I did not read many  books as reading was such a slow process for me in my early years so I just found out the more time I spent with a camera and the more time I spent in the dark room, the more I found out about photography. I did get a few photography books but they were all about the images and not the text.

I learnt very early on how to critique my own work, I am my worst critic. I shot the odd landscape and had wonky horizons for years until I started to look at my work in a more critical way. The funny thing is finding out for yourself,  can’t even get an horizon straight, now that makes you look more deeply at your work. If you can’t notice something as simple as that what else was I missing.

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I had a house fire many years ago and lost everything in my house from my vinyl collection to all my photos and negatives! Quite a few survived but mostly family images, it stopped me in my tracks for years and I also lost my cameras and the insurance was out of date by a few weeks. Shame we did not have email reminders in those days.

So I have only recently started to show my Street work again but to this day I still shoot film but keep that to myself and don’t post my film images on social media that often.

I have to admit to not knowing anything about Street photography and not looking at any of the masters of Street or even reading up on Street until about eighteen months ago when I met Steve Coleman. Street Frame Steve and I became friends through our love of Photography and Street. I also had not read a book on Street until this year as I just don’t have time to read and very rarely buy books. A friend of mine Elaine was given some books for Christmas 2014 and two were the same. As a coincidence I was given two copies of Martin Parr’s book so we did a swap. Elaine said I would love the book by David Gibson  (The Street Photographer Manual) as it’s exactly the way I teach and shoot street. As soon as she said that I was interested and decided to read it and managed to read it in a week, the speed I read that was fast!

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I was so shocked to read that after all these years I was shooting Street almost exactly the way the manual says it should be done. Not that I am one for too many rules in photography but Street to me is my passion.

I have seen so many YouTube videos of people arguing with people in the street about their rights to shoot on public property after upsetting someone with their camera it was quite refreshing to read a book that was telling it how it is!

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My philosophy on Street is so simple. I want to be able to go out and shoot Street in a candid way so as not interrupt any ones day. I want to keep it real and not ask for a portrait or change the dynamic of the scene. I want  to capture life as it happens and not pose one single element. I have been shooting this way for over 40 years and no one has ever stopped me let alone had an argument with me. The people I have spoken to on the street have all been very nice and it’s amazing what a smile can do.

I always said I would not teach Photography and never Street but now find myself doing it. Part of that was an age thing, I reached 50 and decided to just go for it and teach, do talks and workshops. In all honesty I did not think I was that interesting.

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Some of the main reasons for teaching were that people were asking me to teach them and show them not just Street but black and white editing and all other types of photography.

I was getting asked so many questions that were so hard to answer online; I can’t type that fast and being Dyslexic all my work has to be checked by my girlfriend Jane so writing is a nightmare for me. Workshops were the only answer and I quickly found that I loved the workshops and learnt so much from them myself. So many of the people that have been on my workshops have been Teachers and that has opened my eyes to some of my early failures. I used to say to everyone what is the point in a workshop, you won’t learn much and some of the teachers are not great. I was wrong and I admit it. I wish I had taken a few workshops in my younger years that way I would have not had wonky horizons for 8 years!  I now say workshops are good, go find a workshop with a photographer at the top of his or her game or even someone whose work you admire that way your photography will progress so much more quickly.

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Some of the guys that have been on my Street workshops have come more than once and come to different city’s all over the UK. There work is getting better and better. They ask me more and more questions gaining confidence all the time. Not only that but they can shoot around some of these cities in the safety of a group.  Some single people who are into photography and whose friends are not,  just love to be able to shoot Street with like minded people and its great fun.

One of the questions I have been asked most this year is, when is it Street and when is it a Portrait ? The answer is simple but there is a grey area. If you just shoot someone in the street without them knowing its Candid Street. If you ask for a portrait it’s a Street Portrait. If you look at them and point to your camera and gesture and they nod then because permission has been asked for and granted it is a portrait! So if you are shooting and waiting for eye contact it’s still Street as long as they don’t smile!! If they smile that is the grey area because the smile can be taken as an agreement to have a portrait taken! I try to capture all my Street subjects’ candid but if I push for eye contact I aim to press the shutter before they smile. I would never post a portrait or smile shot in a Street group, unless they allow Street portraits! So if you wonder why your images get removed from Street groups that could be a reason.

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There is also a lot of debate about shooting the homeless or disadvantaged people. This is a taboo subject in most Street groups and I don’t encourage it on my workshops. A good street image is telling a story and should say something to you as well as the viewer if you view it in a group. ‘Homeless person in a doorway’ or ‘on a bench’ is an easy target for people starting out into Street and they always try to justify their images with a verbal reason. If the images can’t talk for themselves they fail, so give it a lot of thought before you fall into that trap. I also understand that if we don’t shoot homeless and disadvantaged people there will be a big gap in future images so a good story needs to be told.

I was on a photo walk when a friend of mine Dave K Piper said to me “ I get it now “ I said “get what” he said “ I create my work in a studio and you go out and find yours.”  He was spot on and one of the lessons I try and teach is that you don’t always find it !

Too many people are going out and shooting Street like I did with Landscapes as a kid and not looking at their work. There are still wonky horizons in Street but so much Street now has no thought put in to it. I am in some great Street groups and even some of the groups are not helping. People have short attention spans on social media and click ‘like’ far too easily and that gives a Street photographer the wrong idea.

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Some of my images have quite a lot of thought put into them and there is a story there or emotion, but its missed by so many. Someone said the other week that window shots have been done to death and they are easy ! Far from it but so many window shots are just window shots !

Martin Parr and Bruce Guilden ( Thanks Steve ) have some great YouTube videos on Critique and they are well worth watching. I have only just started to look into the masters of Street and to be honest I don’t get some Street but fully get the style I find myself shooting.

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One very important thing for me is that everyone needs to treat people on the street as they would like to be treated themselves so that we can carry on shooting Street in the future and not have the general public turn on photographers for being rude and pushy!

I am a member of the f50 collective an international collective of Street photographers and we have some amazing debates on Street over a coffee in Liverpool but the one thing that is always apparent is our passion for Street.

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I teach Street workshops and I spend all day out on the street with my groups and only have groups of 6 people as that is just about the right amount to take around any city. Shooting candid is an art in its self so group size is very important to me. I also have FREE photowalks in the UK that are planned with Fujifilm UK or Fujiholics to get Photographers together for a great social event not just for Street but for networking or any other style of photography.

My workshops are designed for any level of photography, and I carry out one to one courses anywhere in the UK. I was not sure about starting the workshops as trying to teach people how to shoot Candid street in a group I thought was going to be an issue but its turning out to be a lot of fun.

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People come on my courses and have that light bulb moment and realize it’s not as hard as they thought. Once they have that light bulb moment and start shooting the way I teach, they go from strength to strength. One guy came on one of my very first workshops and said Street is not for him and he was not going to do it again. I was shooting in Liverpool a few weeks back and he was out on his own shooting Street and his work is getting better and better as he gets closer and closer. Not only that but he had confidence issues as well. He now finds a great release and calmness in shooting Street the same as I did when I was a young lad.

I have taken my workshops on the road now and with the help of Fujifilm UK can also offer loan cameras and lenses for my workshops if notice is given. I have some exciting places for 2015 and they all give a different aspect to Street photography: Brighton for example has its relaxing vibrant culture, London for the fast paced action and chaotic city life, Edinburgh for the most relaxed people in the UK and just up the road Glasgow for some of the best characters, Liverpool and Manchester for the amazing styles of the men and women, Hull for the amazing people, Cardiff for the Christmas markets. and Chester for historic backgrounds and so many more that I have not had time to plan yet.

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So, why not join me in a city near you or have a weekend break in a city far away ? With my new early bird prices and advanced train fairs at an all time low it’s a great way to spend a weekend in an interesting city exploring it by day with like minded people and some candid Street.

Don’t confuse my Workshops with the Free photowalks I have this year as they are completely different. I can’t teach 200 people on a walk I can only talk to people on the route and hand out hints and tips. If you don’t make it to my workshops follow my facebook page or twitter feed to find the Free walks and competitions. Who knows, you might win a Fuji X100T or a trip to Paris to shoot Street with me !

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17 thoughts on “Candid Street Photography

    Keith Goldstein said:
    May 6, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Wonderful article Matthew!

      matt6t6 responded:
      May 6, 2015 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks Keith, glad you liked it. Takes me long enough to write these things ! 🙂

    dirtyrockuk said:
    May 6, 2015 at 11:58 pm

    Great down to earth article. One thing I am finding at the moment is that when i go out with my camera, i do not actually go out with the view that I have to come back with a picture. Some days i get enjoyment just walking about and people watching.

    When i started out i was just taking randon pictures of people, not even people with any character. Im still developing my street work by first finding someone with character before trying to combine that with a enviroment that tells a story.

    Workshops were never for me, but i was glad i attended one of your courses just going on a street course instantly changed the way i look at people in an enviroment and made me change my approach to street before i got stuck in the same rountine.

    Most times i go home with head chopped off, just a arm in shot or slightly out of focused subjects but where as i used to be depressed I actually enjoy it as I have gone out there and done it. I dont have to worry about the so called ‘rules of photography’ with street and each may be the same street but its a different story.

      matt6t6 responded:
      May 7, 2015 at 6:40 am

      Thanks, glad you had a good day on the course. I think even going out every day I would be lucky to get one interesting image a month and one very interesting image a year. Not sure I have taken one I love yet !

      I cut off heads and feet every day but it’s all part of the process ! You can’t make an omlete without breaking a few eggs 🙂

    Graham Worley said:
    May 7, 2015 at 6:56 am

    Hi Matt I found your work recent, and just love it! Quality Black and white thought provoking just what I want to be doing, I love to catch candid prefer this to posed shots. I have just moved to Fuji Xt1 from heavy Nikon D3s and loving it. That is how I happened on your work reading all blogs and info on Fuji. I hope to join you very soon for a few days out on the street. Great article thanks for the inspiration, Graham

      matt6t6 responded:
      May 7, 2015 at 7:00 am

      Hi Graham, thanks buddy, glad you are loving the X-T1 great choice. It’s amazing how a small mirrorless camera can change the way you shoot and bring back the passion for photography ! You made the right move believe me. Look forward to meeting you in the future.

    lefey said:
    May 7, 2015 at 8:47 am

    great article Matt.. I am pleased you pointed out that quality counts in street photography.. it is more than just pointing and shooting any random passerby ..

    Victor Bezrukov, photographer said:
    May 7, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Interesting throughout even i dont agree with a few points here. But also have no interest in discussions so just enjoyed your way.

      matt6t6 responded:
      May 7, 2015 at 2:10 pm

      Cheers buddy, its what makes us all different the world would be a boring place if we all agreed. Its always a good thing to agree to disagree.
      Thanks

        Victor Bezrukov, photographer said:
        May 7, 2015 at 3:51 pm

        I’m going to read your article about film. Just later cos short in time right now. Have a nice time of the day and be in touch !

        matt6t6 responded:
        May 7, 2015 at 4:13 pm

        I hardly get time to read anything any more just to busy. I don’t even get on G+ that much to look around. Yes take care and have a greet weekend.

    Andrew said:
    May 9, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Great post. I bet this resonates with a lot of people. I do shoot much less these days. I did a couple of workshops. Enjoyed one, not the other but both taught me things. Self criticism is the best and the toughest. If you are in this area with workshops or walks I’ll be there. You have a great story.

      matt6t6 responded:
      May 9, 2015 at 5:22 pm

      Very true buddy, I am all over the UK this year and next but less so in 2017 might slow it down a bit.

        matt6t6 responded:
        July 11, 2015 at 11:19 am

        Thank you for your comment.

    Vincent de Groot said:
    July 10, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Wonderful story about your impressive work!

    Have a nice weekend,
    Vinc

    Francois said:
    August 31, 2015 at 10:25 am

    “Who knows, you might win a Fuji X100T or a trip to Paris to shoot Street with me !”

    Hi Matt. Any workshop in Paris ?
    I’m living in France, around 100 km far from Paris. Would be great to join you someday and have a course in Paris. Please let me know if it’s in your plans.
    Thanks for all.

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