I have not been in to layers in my Street photography over the last forty years. I almost reserved the layers for landscape, so I don’t have a single great layer image. I guess its not as easy in Street as we would like to think.
My style of Street is all about being invisible and allowing the layers to hide me so then using layers takes a lot of thought.
When I am not teaching or talking I like to just go out and see what I can capture, the ever elusive decisive moment just slips away time after time if I am not in the correct state of mind so adding layers can be an added distraction.
It’s an area I need to work on and add back in to my Street style. I can work it into my events so just need to squeeze it into my Street.
Layers sounds so simple. All you have to do is include something that grabs the viewers attention in the front, middle and background, but its not as easy as it sounds. Too many subjects and you get confused, not enough and it just won’t work.
To start a layer you need a foreground subject that draws you into the frame. It could just be a hand, afoot or partly obscured face, something to anchor you to the front layer whilst your eyes start to search for the next anchor point. This is the hard part for a candid shooter because you have to wait, out on the streets for your subjects to align and this means stopping and standing still. My style is to keep moving! Some adjustments need to be made to my style to achieve better layers.
Some people like to layer with a huge depth of field, others like to layer with a thin depth of field and lots of out of focus areas. I think I am in the middle and my tastes change week in week out. I know the key is to use a wide depth of field to get lots of information onto the sensor or film but I just love narrow bands of focus. I think the way forward is to use at least three different subjects spread out in the frame from front to rear. Making great layers from our cluttered world is not easy but it can be done. Simple layering does not make it a great Street image it can just make it a layered image.
In a way the more subjects you have the better it is in layering unless you have some perfectly spaced single people groups of people which work very well. Perspective plays a big part with the person closest to you huge in the frame and the people in the distance very small. It’s all then down to spacing, shapes and symmetry.
This workers even better if the closest person in the frame complements some of the subjects throughout the frame or stands out like a sore thumb. Look for the unusual interesting subject, the person in a pink cowboy hat with a yellow thong or that odd pair of legs or arms sticking out at a strange angle or even better some element of humor.
I am always on the lookout for great layers and one of the best tips I can give is to gain some height and shoot down or get low and shoot up. This creates different levels making the layers stand out. People at different levels also work well.
It’s something I must think about more in my own work and if you are out shooting layers why not enter them in the second stage of the Clifton Cameras #streetlife competition and win yourself a Fujifilm X100T and possibly even a day trip to Paris with me.